Last night, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hosted its annual induction ceremony at Brooklyn, NY’s Barclays Center. The evening featured a string of heartfelt toasts by famous fans, star-studded reunion performances, and touching speeches by this years inductees, including Seattle rock titans Pearl Jam, legendary West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, British prog-rock pioneers Yes, socially conscious 60’s folkie Joan Baez, English symphonic pop stars Electric Light Orchestra, and 80’s glam rock hit makers Journey. In addition, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers was recognized as the recipient of the Award for Musical Excellence, Lenny Kravitz played a tribute to Prince, ELO opened the show with a tribute to the late Chuck Berry, and much, much more.
You can watch the induction ceremony yourself when it airs on HBO on April 29th. Until then, here’s a recap of what went down at the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Brooklyn:
The Seattle grunge pioneers were inducted this year in their first year of eligibility. They celebrated the occasion with live performances of “Alive”, “Given to Fly”, “Better Man”, and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”. For “Alive”, Pearl Jam reunited with original drummer Dave Krusen, while members of Journey, Yes, and Rush, joined the band for a show-closing rendition of “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young, who was originally slated to deliver the band’s induction speech.
One of the evening’s more touching moments came courtesy of Young’s replacement, retired late night TV host David Letterman, who summed up the sentiment of the evening’s festivities. “When I came here to rehearsal and heard live music again I was reminded, oh my God what a gift live music is…Never take the opportunity for live music for granted…That’s the message I can bring you folks tonight. It’s a delight to be back here for this.” He also showed his personal connection to the Seattle rockers, telling a story about the final time the band played his show before his retirement and gave him a guitar for his son, with a note from Eddie Vedder: “My name is Eddie Vedder and I’m a friend of your dad’s. I wanted you to have this small guitar to start with. Try it out, make a little noise, I’ll make you a deal. If you learn even one song on this guitar I’ll get you a nicer, bigger one for your birthday. Maybe an electric one. You let me know.” Letterman expressed his gratitude for the genuine act of kindness, noting “There are quite a few reasons why these people are in the Hall of Fame, but forgive me if this personally is the most important reason.” You can read Letterman’s full induction speech here.
While there is always some controversy over whether or not hip hop artists should be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there is no denying that Tupac Shakur is deserving of recognition among rap’s greatest talents. Shakur’s friend and collaborator Snoop Dogg accepted the induction on the fallen rapper’s behalf, delivering a heartfelt speech about his friend’s philosophical influence, explaining “Pac proved we ain’t just a character out of someone else’s story book. To be human is to be many things at once.” You can read the full speech here. In a powerful musical tribute to the late artist, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, YG, and T.I. contributed to a fantastic medley of classic Tupac tracks.
After nearly two decades of eligibility, Yes finally got the “yes” from the Hall of Fame in 2017. Rush‘s Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson delivered the band’s induction speech, which you can read in its entirety here. After their induction, the surviving members of Yes took the stage together since the early ’90’s, after years of strained band relations and touring with competing “Yes” projects. The band delivered a hilariously graphic acceptance speech including anecdotal gems like the advice he once got from his Elvis-impersonator father: “‘Son,’ he said, ‘Don’t go to any of those really cheap, dirty, nasty, sleazy strip clubs because if you do, you’ll see something you shouldn’t.’ So, of course I went. And I saw my dad.” You can read the full speech here. Members of Yes also took the stage to perform two of their biggest hit singles, “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” with help from Lee on bass in one of the evenings most exciting live performances.
After a nearly 60-year career in the music business, folk legend Joan Baez was inducted in 2017 by friend and collaborator Jackson Browne. He spoke to her accomplishments as both a musician and a social activist, giving a deeply personal speech about Baez that traced her involvement in his own musical upbringing and greater contribution to humanity Explained Browne, “To track Joan Baez’s involvement in human rights and social justice is to chart the evolution of our own moral awakening.” You can read Browne’s full speech here.
When Baez finally took the stage, she began on a light-heartedly self-deprecating note: “I’m aware that I’m speaking to many young people who, without this induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, would have no clue who I am. [Laughter] My granddaughter had no clue who I was. [Laughter] Until I took her backstage at the Taylor Swift concert where she got a selfie, an autograph, a T-shirt and newfound respect for her grandmother.”
However, she characteristically transitioned into more serious subject matter. “My voice is my greatest gift.” she explained” I can speak freely about the uniqueness of it precisely because it’s just that. A gift. The second greatest gift was the desire to use it the way I have since I was 16 and became a student and practitioner of nonviolence, both in my personal life and as a way of fighting for social change. [Applause.] Thank you. It has given my life deep meaning and unending pleasure, has been to use my voice in the battle of injustice. It has brought me in touch with people of every background. With open, generous, hardworking, fun-loving people here in this country and around the world. It has brought me in touch with the wealthy, the ones who are stuck in selfishness and the ones who give their generosity of their time and resources to benefit the less fortunate and light the way for others to do the same.” She continued by appealing to our nation’s collective conscience to make a change for the better, imploring the audience, “Let us together repeal and replace brutality and make them passionate priorities. Together, let us build a bridge, a great bridge, a beautiful bridge to once again welcome the tired and the poor. And we will pay for that bridge with our commitment. We, the people, must speak truth to power and be ready to make sacrifices. We, the people, are the only ones who can create change. I’m ready. I hope you are, too.” You can read Joan’s full speech here.
Electric Light Orchestra:
Jeff Lynne, Richard Tandy, and Roy Wood made appearances at Barclay’s Center to accept their Hall of Fame induction (founding drummer Bev Bevan was unable to attend due to previously booked engagements). Joining in the festivities on their induction day, Electric Light Orchestra led a tribute to recently departed rock and roll icon Chuck Berry to open the ceremony. With help from a slew of artists, ELO delivered their cheeky cover of “Roll Over Beethoven,” opening with the strings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 before quickly pushing their classical leanings to the side for a ripping run-through of the sneering rock classic.
Dhani Harrison, son of late Beatles guitarist George Harrison, delivered the induction speech for ELO, explaining, “Tonight is about celebrating that Big Bang … when we welcomed ELO … a musical galaxy right between Chuck Berry and Beethoven.” Dhani spoke about growing up around Lynne, who produced his father’s 1987 solo album Cloud Nine, played with him in the Traveling Wilburys, and remained close with him in the years that followed. He also spoke about how ELO was his first ever rock concert, and waxed nostalgic about the excitement of watching his dad jump onstage with them to perform Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” You can read his full speech here.
One of the most anticipated moments of the ceremony came when former Journey vocalist Steve Perry appeared alongside his ex-bandmates for the first time since a 2005 Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. Although he didn’t sing with them (and hasn’t since a one-off event in 1991), Perry did stand with them at the podium to help deliver their induction speech. If this moment didn’t lead to an true reunion performance, it’s hard to imagine that one will ever come to pass. But even without Perry, Journey is still able to pack arenas all over the world, largely due to their current singer, Arnel Pineda. You can read a full transcript of Journey’s speech here.
We offer our most sincere congratulations to all those who were recognized this year! Thank you for the joy that your music has brought to the world!
[Cover photo via Kevin Mazur]
[h/t – Rolling Stone]