Lost icons loom large
Last year saw some big losses in the music world, but none loomed larger over the ceremony than the absence of Tom Petty, who was inducted in 2002, and Chris Cornell, the singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave. The Killers kicked off the show with a tribute to Tom Petty, performing a faithful rendition of “American Girl” that transitioned into “Free Fallin.” Brandon Flowers, who later inducted the Cars, wore a maroon suit embellished with gold flames. Cornell was also given a somber moment of tribute when Heart's Ann Wilson and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains performed Soundgarden's timeless “Black Hole Sun.” “I think at this point it’s time to focus on the fact of the type of man he was and the type of human being and the type of artist,” said Cantrell. “He was incredible. He had incredible depth. I had so many laughs with that guy jamming all the time. So I’m going to miss him immensely, but I also celebrate his life and his life’s work.”
A 'Key' contribution
For the first time publicly, Rock Hall president Greg Harris announced a $10 million donation from Key Bank, part of the the Museum and Hall of Fame’s continual addition of programs and updates to the facility. Harris also expressed excitement about the new Hall of Fame wing of the museum, which opened this weekend. The exhibit takes visitors behind the selection process and features plaques for each inductee. Harris also hyped the Rock Hall’s participation in the major InCuya Music Festival Aug. 25 and 26 at Mall B and Mall C downtown.
More cringe than shock
While Bon Jovi’s induction was the highlight of the night for many fans, presenter Howard Stern’s induction speech was more cringe than shock jock humor. In an attempt to provide context for the band’s 350 million records sold—really the only compliment he could find for the influential band other than the impressive size of certain body parts—Stern compared the number to the number deaths caused by the bubonic plague, the atomic bomb and the AIDS epidemic. Aside from the questionable thesis that commercial sales somehow equate quality, Stern’s speech, which also discussed sexual acts and bodily fluids, didn’t depart from the radio personality’s typical schtick and did a disservice to Bon Jovi's long career — which was unfortunate.
Jon Bon Jovi's epic speech—and epic reunion
Jon Bon Jovi was thankful the Rock Hall didn’t have the cut-off music cued up last night. While comments were supposed to last about three minutes per band member, the frontman’s speech stretched to more than 15 minutes — by far the longest of the night. However, with a monologue that followed the “Living on a Prayer” singer’s career path from the clubs of New Jersey to his group's late-career hits, such as “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” it’s possible the person on the button was too enthralled to hit play on the “Your Speech Is Too Long” fanfare. “I’ve been writing the speech since I first strummed a broom at the top of my steps,” Bon Jovi said. “Sometimes it was the ‘thank you’ speech. Sometimes it was the f--- you speech.” While he didn’t say which we heard that night, the journey certainly wasn’t filled with as much debauchery as expected from rock 'n’ roll superstardom — as much as Howard Stern might have liked. “One thing I did have was laser beam focus,” Bon Jovi said. “Nothing was going to distract me.”
Once a hair band, always a hair band
While the wavy, sun-kissed locks of his '80s prime have gone short and grey, Jon Bon Jovi still took a moment to kneel down and fix his hair in the kick drum’s reflection just before kicking in to a rollicking rendition of “Living on a Prayer.”
Radio star reunion
In the midst of their press room interviews, Jon Bon Jovi took a very special question. The hair metal singer was surprised by two DJs from New York’s WAPP 103.5 FM, one of which was Chip Hobart, who Bon Jovi had just thanked onstage in his speech for being the first to agree to play first hit “Runaway.” The two DJs climbed onstage for a heartfelt embrace with the frontman. “I knew the loneliest guy in music was the DJ,” Bon Jovi said. “I’m just happy these guys these guys were so small at the time that they didn’t have a receptionist.” The singer then known as John Bongiovi strolled right in to the DJ booth and convinced the pair to listen to “Runaway.” The rest, as they say, is… oh you know.
Those are some Dire Straits
We felt bad for the boys of Dire Straits. Not only did frontman and guitarist Mark Knopfler refuse to show up without much of an explanation and his brother and co-founder David Knopfler backed out at the last second because of travel fare negotiations, the Rock Hall didn't find anyone to induct the band that gave us hits such as “Walk of Life” and one of the most memorable riffs of all time in “Sultans of Swing!” Bassist Jon Illsley had to induct himself and his bandmates. The tribute to the band was heartfelt, but the whole ordeal felt downright awkward. “We didn’t have anybody to induct for a variety of reasons,” said Jon Illsey. “So I said what if we inducted ourselves? And (Guy Fletcher) said, ‘What a great idea.’” The bassist wrote the speech in 15 minutes the morning of the induction.
Sister Rosetta gets her due
Clevelanders are more familiar with Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s work than ever before, thanks to a thrilling run of Cleveland Play House’s production of musical Marie and Rosetta earlier this year. Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard continued the blues-and-guitar innovator’s legacy after she inducted Tharpe into the Hall of Fame as an Early Influence. Ripping into a bumping rendition of “That’s All,” Howard then transitioned into a performance of “Strange Things are Happening Every Day,” complete with boogie-woogie stylings and call-and-response vocals from Felicia Howard, Paul Shaffer and Questlove. “In my opinion, she's the one that created rock n roll, and everything that came after," Howard said later in the press room.
The Cars flaunt their Cleveland bona fides
The Cars may have fully formed in Boston, but at the Rock Hall induction, the new-wave pioneers were sure to highlight their Cleveland connection. A Maple Heights High School graduate, Ric Ocasek met Lakewood’s Benjamin Orr in Cleveland in the '60s. Ocasek played his very first show at a hootenanny near Case Western Reserve University because he was “try[ing] to find a place where no one really knew me.” Ocasek noted the poetic symmetry in being back in Cleveland so many years later for this honor. “I played the first time there, and now, I came up the block a bit and here I am, how many years later? That’s kind of a weird scene.” The absence of Orr, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2000, was keenly felt by the rest of the band. “Cleveland is Ben’s home town and they’ve always been every proud of him here,” guitarist Elliot Easton said during the group’s acceptance speech. “And I know that he’s very proud on this special occasion, and especially proud that it would occur here of all locations."
Ms. Lauryn Hill and Andra Day slay the stage for Nina Simone
Eligible since 1986, Nina Simone was celebrated in spectacular fashion for her (long-overdue) induction. Presenter Mary J. Blige highlighted the continued relevance of the icon’s work, noting that her '60s civil rights anthems could still soundtrack today’s Ferguson protests. Simone's brother, Dr. Samuel Waymon, accepted her award with a rallying cry for young artists: “If you wanna be a queen, you are a queen. If you wanna be a king, you are a king. If you admire my sister, and you wanna be like her, don’t let anything or anyone stop you from your quest.” Later, Andra Day ripped into an electrifying set, plucking long runs out of the air and crawling across the floor during “I Put A Spell On You” while backing band the Roots rose to a pounding crescendo. Ms. Lauryn Hill turned in an eclectic performance fitting for the innovator’s jazz, blues and soul fusion — scatting, rapping, crooning and belting her way through “Black Was the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” and “Feeling Good,” among other staples.
Super fan Ann Wilson gets to induct her Moody first inspiration
Heart vocalist and self-proclaimed “Moody” Ann Wilson specifically wrote the Rock Hall to request the honor of inducting the Moody Blues, and she got her wish. Her speech touched on the art-rock progenitors’ influence on aspiring creatives, remembering a group that for the first time paired sound with “substance.” As an art student in Seattle, Wilson was first inspired to write by the seminal Days of Future Passed, saying in the press room, “Justin Hayward’s songwriting is why I started songwriting.” Later, the Moody Blues thrilled the crowd, and Wilson, with a taut set including "Ride My See-Saw," "Nights In White Satin" and, of course, some epic flute-playing.