On a night when pop-music recluses Michael Jackson and the artist formerly known as Prince did step out in public, the 12th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner was caught off guard by a surprise no-show.
Neil Young was scheduled to be inducted into the hall Tuesday night as a member of the Buffalo Springfield, the influential Los Angeles rock group of the late '60s. Instead, Young, who was inducted in the hall in 1995 as a solo artist, boycotted the event.
Thirteen hundred people attended the black-tie event at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, paying up to $1,500 per seat. Besides the Buffalo Springfield, this year's inductees were the Jackson 5 (accounting for Jackson's presence); the Bee Gees; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Joni Mitchell; Parliament-Funkadelic (the former Prince was here to induct the group), and the Rascals.
In a letter to the Hall of Fame Foundation that was made public Tuesday by his record label, Young claimed the spirit of the dinner has been compromised by the decision to allow the ceremony to be shown on television. Induction highlights were broadcast for the first time in 1995 on MTV, and the Hall of Fame just entered a two year-deal with VH1, which will air a two-hour special on Tuesday's event this weekend.
"This presentation is in direct opposition to what I believe," wrote Young. "Although I accept the honor, in the name of Rock and Roll, I decline to take part in this TV presentation and be trotted out like some cheap awards show. There are already too many of these."
In a statement issued Tuesday, Suzan Evans, executive director of the Hall of Fame, said, "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Board along with other artists have expressed their desire to make the annual show more accessible to the public. . . . We understand Neil's desire to demonstrate his preference for an intimate, insider show without television. Our goals, however, are to promote the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and its programs to as many people as possible, and television is a great way to do that."
Mitchell also skipped the ceremony. She was working Tuesday in Vancouver, B.C. on a new album.