he 33rd class was made up of BON JOVI, THE CARS, DIRE STRAITS, THE MOODY BLUES, NINA SIMONE, and SISTER ROSETTA THARPE. Now you're probably thinking one of three things: like me, you might be thinking, "Really, they weren't already in?" or your blood pressure might be steadily going up as you're thinking "Why them and not___?" fill in the blank as you see fit, or possibly you're thinking "Well that's exactly who I would've picked." Although, I'm betting few of you are saying the latter.
Look, I get it. We all have our opinions about who does and does not deserve to be in the venerable ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME. We also have our opinions on just about everything having to do with the Hall. After all it hasn't exactly been an establishment free of controversy. Regardless of whether you hate JANN WENNER, can't understand why IRON MAIDEN haven't been inducted yet, think it should have called Memphis it's home, disagree with the nominating committee's non-transparent policies, or believe THE MONKEES have gotten the shaft, you more than likely have strong feelings about the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME.
Now I am not defending the Hall or its practices, nor am I in any way saying that I don't have my own list of artists that I feel should already have been inducted. I must admit however, that every single inductee deserves their place in the Hall. Maybe not when they got there, but they certainly deserve to be there. The 2018 class is no different.
THE ARTiCLE WiLL CONTiNUE
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In fact, the only question about the 2018 class is why weren't they already inducted? When I first heard the list of inductees back in December, I was stunned. Not at the selection, but that the artists were not already inducted. Better late than never, I suppose. I wasn't alone with my feelings as evidenced by a homemade banner that some fans had hung with a single word scrawled across it, "FINALLY".
That would be the underlining theme of the night.
Probably the most shocking artist to only be inducted this year was SISTER ROSETTA THARPE, the godmother of rock-n-roll, who was inducted as an "Early Influence" by BRITTANY HOWARD of ALABAMA SHAKES.
Calling her an early influence is about as profound as stating that water is wet. SISTER ROSETTA THARPE influenced artists like JOHNNY CASH, CARL PERKINS, CHUCK BERRY, ELVIS PRESLEY, and JERRY LEE LEWIS, not to mention she was the first person to have LITTLE RICHARD perform onstage. Her electric guitar playing made her a role model and one of the first ever crossover artists, appealing to gospel fans and blues and R & B fans alike. She was even responsible for many British artists becoming musicians after spending a fair amount of time in England in the early 1960's. HOWARD called her "an inspiration" and said that "she was one of the greatest artists of all time" HOWARD and guitarist FELICIA COLLINS paid the most impressive tribute of the night by playing THARPE's THAT'S ALL and STRANGE THINGS HAPPENING EVERYDAY respectively and backed by PAUL SHAFFER on piano and the ROOTS' QUESTLOVE on drums.
As far as second most shocking artist to only be inducted this year, I must call it a draw between NINA SIMONE and THE MOODY BLUES. Both artists certainly deserved to be inducted far earlier than 2018. But it was the tribute to NINA SIMONE that surely will stick with all who witnessed it.
SIMONE was inducted by the incomparable MARY J. BLIGE who gave a heartfelt and moving speech about the impact that the "High Priestess of Soul" has had on music as well as civil rights. Unfortunately, her induction speech was likely overshadowed for many by the semi-coherent fifteen-minute diatribe of an acceptance speech delivered by SIMONE's brother, SAM WAYMON. Far be it from me to try to interpret what Mr. WAYMON's meaning was, but I think he was trying to convey to young people to follow their dreams, not letting anyone tell them they cannot do something. I'll let you decide by this snippet from WAYMON's speech: "I'm gonna say this to all my black young girls: If you want to be a queen you are a queen," WAYMON emphatically spoke, "If you think you're a king, you're are a king. If you want to be like my sister and you have a dream, don't let anything stop you from your quest." Eventually MARY J. BLIGE stepped in and elegantly took WAYMON by the arm and guided him offstage, allowing for the extraordinary tribute performed by ANDRA DAY with The ROOTS serving as the backing band as DAY sang I WISH I KNEW HOW IT WOULD FEEL TO BE FREE, and SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS' song I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, which SIMONE famously covered. Just as the audience was picking their jaws back up off the floor following DAY's performance, surprise performer MS. LAURYN HILL took the stage and delivered a sung-rapped showstopper of NE ME QUITTE PAS, BLACK IS THE COLOR OF MY TRUE LOVE'S HAIR and FEELING GOOD. HILL's tribute to SIMONE could not have been better with Hill being the embodiment of so much SIMONE had sung about from her heart.
How in the hell have THE MOODY BLUES not been inducted before now? They've been eligible since 1990 for fuck's sake!
ANN WILSON of HEART was on hand to deliver the induction speech, which was probably the most straight to the point of all the speeches. She succinctly told the crowd, "In 1967, The Moody Blues made a record that changed the face of popular music and influenced an entire generation of progressive musicians, including YES, GENESIS, ELO, many, many others," Wilson stated. "For the first time, mellotron was introduced to the rock and roll mainstream and rock married classic orchestra. There was no progressive showboating or self-indulgent, mathematical noodling; just great, classy music that expanded your mind, sang to your heart, took you inward and lifted you higher." Her next sentence said it all, "Let us not overlook the simple fact that the Moody Blues are and always have been a kick-ass rock band."
JUSTIN HAYWARD was humble in his speech, which he kept short, probably because of the ceremony already running well over its projected time. "We're just a bunch of British guys," he joked, "and it's quite hard explaining the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over on the other side of the Atlantic." GRAEME EDGE, on the other hand gave a bit more of an irreverent acceptance speech. He thanked his bandmates for putting up with him, and himself - for putting up with his bandmates - along with "all the people in the world who ever helped me," finally adding: "All the people in the world who haven't helped me, screw you." The legends took the stage, accompanied by a flautist and string arrangements performing three decades in four songs. The appropriate I'M JUST A SINGER (IN A ROCK N ROLL BAND), followed by YOUR WILDEST DREAMS, and the classic NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN. THE MOODY BLUES ended their set with their longtime encore RIDE MY SEE-SAW.
BRANDON FLOWERS played a significant role in the night. His band THE KILLERS paid tribute to the late TOM PETTY who passed away due to an accidental overdose last October, performing the songs AMWRICAN GIRL and FREE FALLING. BRANDON also had the honor of inducting THE CARS into the Hall.
His speech was genuine and reverential as he spoke of their influence on himself as a kid in Nowhere, Utah when his older brother would "rescue" him and take him out, introducing him to his music. "There were a lot of great bands," FLOWERS reminisced. "But THE CARS were the first band that I ever truly fell in love with...and you never forget your first." FLOWERS continued, listing hit after hit and pointed out that THE CARS also wrote the "best song in any movie scene that featured a girl slowly getting out of a pool and taking her top off." Pausing a moment to allow everyone to reflect on the PHOEBE CATES scene in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, FLOWERS said what everyone was thinking, "I'll take "Moving in Stereo" over the STAR WARS theme any day of the week." RIC OCASEK, ELLIOT EASTON, GREG HAWKES, and DAVID ROBINSON all spoke fondly of the late BENJAMIN ORR, who passed away in 2000 of pancreatic cancer. OCASEK joked that originally "when the band first started, BEN was supposed to be the lead singer, and I was supposed to be the good looking one in the band." When THE CARS took the stage, it was the first time since their 2011 reunion tour ended. Bassist SCOTT SHRINER of WEEZER was there in place of ORR and did a perfect job of filling ORR's shoes on the bass, but not trying to replace him. Giving an amazingly energetic performance, THE CARS sang MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL, YOU MIGHT THINK, MOVING IN STEREO and JUST WHAT I NEEDED. It was the best performance by an inductee of the night.
STEVEN VAN ZANDT introduced a new category for the Hall: Singles. These are songs that have helped shape rock and roll by artists that have not been inducted into the Hall. "Which is not to say they never will be, they just are not at this moment," Van Zandt clarified. He went on inducting the first six singles into the Hall: ROCKET 88 by JACKIE BRENSTON and HIS DELTA CATS, RUMBLE by LINK WRAY, THE TWIST by CHUBBY CHECKER, LOUIE, LOUIE by the KINGSMEN, A WHITER SHADE OF PALE by PROCOL HARUM and STEPPENWOLF'S BORN TO BE WILD
HOWARD STERN showed just how big of a BON JOVI fan he is by leaving his comfort zone and making the trek to Cleveland to induct the iconic band.
"FINALLY". Well, not really, more "perfect timing" if you ask me. Sure, they've been eligible for a few years, but compared with the others of the class, their induction seemed right on time.
In typical HOWARD STERN fashion, he gave an induction speech that was funny and incredibly crude. Surprisingly to some I'm sure, Stern's speech was also heartfelt and moving. He traded off sincere appreciation with his usual foul-mouthed, coarse comedy. He spoke of the band's humility with genuine admiration, He made clear the staggering number of 130 million BON JOVI albums sold by making strange comparisons to the bubonic plague which having killed only 50 million people was "peanuts compared to 130 million BON JOVI albums!" In case anyone was still unsure of the magnitude of 130 million albums, Stern helped, telling the audience, "Try to look at it this way: The average amount of sperm in one ejaculation is only 100 million - Bon Jovi beats sperm, ladies, and gentlemen...LEONARD COHEN used to sit at home alone beating off at night thinking about selling three million albums, let alone a hundred million." STERN, later complimented RICHIE SAMBORA, who, I am sorry, is looking like a walking caricature of DONATELLA VERSACE. He looks like he and STEVEN TYLER are trying to save money by sharing the same blind stylist. It's not good RICHIE. Nonetheless, STERN, with a straight face, complimented SAMBORA for having the biggest penis in the band before leading the entire audience through a surprisingly in-tune version of WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE then announcing, "Eat shit, BOB DYLAN! Fuck you!"
The members of BON JOVI took turns giving lengthy acceptance speeches, but JON BON JOVI himself took the cake with a speech that was more like listening to an autobiography on tape. He told the audience that he had been writing his induction speech for years, clarifying "I've been writing this speech since I first strummed a broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my childhood home, I've actually written it many ways, many times. Some days I write a thank you speech and other days, I write the fuck you speech."
One couldn't help but wonder at the possibility of a BON JOVI reunion tour, as they took the stage, but once Jon began singing, it no longer seemed too devastating if it never happens. Frankly, it wasn't very good. It was strained; almost painful to watch JON BON JOVI's face which was contorted as he sang. I hope that maybe there was a flu or something still lingering that caused the poor singing performance, but I couldn't say with any certainty. Regardless, it was nice seeing the band reunited. They all seemed to be having a blast, and it felt as if they were old friends hanging out after years, not business associates going through the motions.
ANN WILSON and JERRY CANTRELL of ALICE IN CHAINS paid a touching tribute to the late CHRIS CORNELL, who hung himself almost a year ago. Performing BLACK HOLE SUN the duo of WILSON and CANTRELL looked to be giving it their all, but they sounded more like they were phoning it in. I have talked with colleagues that saw the performance, and many of them have said that I must have been drunk, so maybe I am just remembering it unfairly. Regardless of the quality, the homage was touching.
Despite recent controversy the final inductees DIRE STRAITS certainly deserve their place in the Hall. Regardless of the unfortunate use of an offensive slur in one of their most famous songs of the 1980's, DIRE STRAITS made their mark on Rock and Roll with some really great music. Unfortunately, however, neither MARK or DAVID KNOPFLER were in attendance, making a performance all but impossible. It was announced that DAVID had some dispute over expenses whatever the hell that means, but as for MARK, his reasons are unknown. As DIRE STRAITS bassist JOHN ILLSLEY remarked during his acceptance speech, "MARK's not here, but I can assure it's a personal thing." I think it was a wise choice by those in charge to not put together a performance with guest musicians, but you couldn't help but feel bad for the other members of the band, JOHN ILLSLEY, ALAN CLARK, and GUY FLETCHER who all missed the chance to perform at their induction to the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME. To add to it, JOHN ILLSLEY decided to handle the band's induction speech himself on Saturday morning, when it became apparent the Rock Hall hadn't found anybody to do it that night. Supposedly KEITH URBAN and NEIL YOUNG both declined when they were approached. "We didn't have anybody to induct us for all sorts of reasons," ILLSLEY said in the press room, "so I said, 'Would it be crazy if I did it?'" ILLSLEY added unapologetically, "I sort of wrote it about 15 minutes before we came down, so that why I had to read it out, because I couldn't remember what I had written down." So, because MARK KNOPFLER wanted to stay home, and pout and DAVID KNOPFLER couldn't put off his financial concerns until after the induction, the other three members lost out. It seemed a rotten thing to do. In fact, it WAS a rotten thing to do, just like when JOHNNY ROTTEN and the rest of THE SEX PISTOLS declined to show up for their induction in 2006. Maybe they had good reasons, but unless you're ERIC CLAPTON you don't get inducted to the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME very often.
Overall, it was one hell of a year for the Hall. Each of the inductees deserved their spots, "FINALLY." And the performances ranged from goddamn good to holy shit that was amazing. 2018, it was a very fine year.
The inductee's exhibit at the newly redesigned Hall of Fame is now open through fall 2018.