Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 induction a real Rush
It was an emotional roller-coaster at the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday night in Los Angeles, even more so than usual for the annual event.
Consider disco queen Donna Summer, whose husband and three daughters accepted the award for her posthumously, 11 months after the singer and songwriter lost her battle with cancer. Or 80-year-old producer Quincy Jones -- the most nominated Grammy Award winner ever -- who said his induction into the Rock Hall made him feel “that finally, I have arrived.”
Also enduring a long wait for recognition was Heart, whose founding sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson were finally admitted to what’s historically been the boys’ club of hard rock music after a decade of eligibility.
Then there was veteran social and political activist Harry Belafonte, who used part of his time at the microphone while inducting rap group Public Enemy to decry the disproportionate percentage of blacks in the U.S. prison population.
Yet nothing in those first four hours of the nearly five-hour ceremony yielded a more voluminous outpouring of emotion from the audience of 7,000 at the Nokia Theatre than the induction of Canadian progressive-rock trio Rush into the Rock Hall.
“Thank you so, so much,” bassist and lead singer Geddy Lee said following the group’s performance and induction speeches. The latter was capped by guitarist Alex Lifeson’s nearly three-minute recitation of the phrase “Blah blah blah” in every possible way of expressing it, perhaps his answer to the many critics who have lambasted the group over its four-decade career for taking itself too seriously.
Drummer Neil Peart drew more generously from the dictionary in his remarks, but demonstrated a similar sense of good spirits, as did Nirvana/Foo Fighters founding member Dave Grohl in welcoming the band into the hallowed Hall that’s long been excoriated by Rush fans for the group’s omission.
“The world is full of mysteries,” Grohl said. “Robert Johnson and the deal he made with the devil at midnight; Paul McCartney’s death in 1966 and his replacement by an exact double; Elvis sightings, Jim Morrison sightings, Axl Rose sightings.
“But there’s one mystery that has eclipsed them all,” Grohl said, drawing hearty cheers from the crowd for the punch line about Rush’s absence from the Rock Hall.
Long viewed as an affront to the whole prog-rock community, Rush’s 13 years of failing to make the cut among Rock Hall voters since it became eligible in 1999 played into the round of catcalls and boos that greeted Rolling Stone publisher and Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner when he took the stage to deliver his opening remarks. The booing abruptly shifted to cheering when he name-checked Rush at the end of the list of 2013 inductees.
There also was a strong Heart contingent among the crowd, and the Wilson sisters appeared deeply moved by their induction. “When I leave this Earth,” singer Ann Wilson said, “I will look back with great love because I got to sing.”
Even the usually sardonic Randy Newman, rarely at a loss for a quip, said on his induction by Eagles founder Don Henley, “This means a lot. Don’s speech means a lot. I wasn’t sure who he was talking about for a while…. It’s hard for me to express a genuine emotion—as you can tell by my songwriting.”
It took Public Enemy rapper Chuck D. to elucidate the commonality among a widely disparate group of honorees that also included blues guitarist and singer Albert King and non-performers Jones and veteran music executive Lou Adler.
After saluting Public Enemy’s predictable influences, such as Grandmaster Flash &; the Furious Five and Run-DMC, and a few less-than expected ones, including KISS, Deep Purple and Rush, Chuck D noted the variety of musical eras and genres represented on Thursday and said, “All this music goes back to the blues.”
That point was demonstrated during the closing all-star jam on Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” performed in British super-group Cream’s amped-up 1960s revision by Rush, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Chuck D., Grohl and fellow Foo Fighters member Taylor Hawkins, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, John Fogerty, Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and several others.
“You couldn’t have scripted a nuttier night,” John Chernesky, 42, of Valencia said as the show drew to a close, pointing out the surreal sight a few minutes earlier of seeing Public Enemy’s Flava Flav happily flailing his arms and rocking out from his table near the stage while Rush delivered its prog-rock classic ";Tom Sawyer.”;
Earlier in the ceremony Flava Flav, the most cartoonish member of the band, delivered a long, rambling, egocentric acceptance speech, drawing vocal complaints from the audience.
Rage Against the Machine and Nightwatchman guitarist Morello also commented on the spectrum of styles represented in the 2013 class of inductees, dismissing comments from different corners of the music world that have variously criticized the Hall for including hip-hop, disco and other non-rock-centric performers.
“There should only be one Hall of Fame, and everyone should be there,” Morello said on his way into the theater. “Rock ‘n’ roll is a big umbrella. When Rage Against the Machine was getting going, you could like metal or you could like hip-hop—not both. Now every 14-year-old has everything on their iPods.”
Among the other performers, John Mayer and Clark played a tribute to Albert King, who died in 1992 and Jennifer Hudson—minus a previously announced Christina Aguilera—sang “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance” on behalf of Summer. Usher flashed his Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves while singing Jackson’s “Rock With You” in the musical segment honoring Jones, who produced Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” albums as well as the 1985 all-star “We Are the World” humanitarian single.
Public Enemy handled its own performance segment, during which they spun records by some of the other inductees before launching an explosive rendition of their signature hit “Fight the Power,” which filmmaker Spike Lee, sharing the induction speech with Belafonte, said became the anthem for social justice he needed for his 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”
Highlights from the ceremony, which took place in Los Angeles only for the second time, will air beginning May 18 on HBO.
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2
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