Article 1999-03-15 New York City, NY

Springsteen, Joel and Others Enter Ranks of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

After years as a participant at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies — praising his idols, jamming with the band — Bruce Springsteen joined the club himself last night. At the 14th annual induction, held at the Waldorf-Astoria, Mr. Springsteen said, ''I stood on this stage and inducted Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival,'' he said. ''I hope my music served my audience half as well.''

Mr. Springsteen thanked his mother, who got him his first guitar, and then his father. ''Without him what would I have written about?'' he said. ''If we had gotten along it would have been a disaster, I would have just written happy songs.''

Later, with his longtime comrades in the E Street Band, Mr. Springsteen played ''Promised Land,'' ''Backstreets'' and ''Tenth Avenue Freezeout,'' then traded soul growls and big smiles with Wilson Pickett as they belted out ''In the Midnight Hour.''

Along with Mr. Springsteen, the hall inducted Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Dusty Springfield, Curtis Mayfield, Del Shannon and the Staple Singers. Mr. McCartney and Mr. Mayfield are repeat members; they had already been recognized by the hall as members of the Beatles and the Impressions. Current stars — including Lauryn Hill, the winner of this year's Grammy Award for best album, as well as Sean (Puffy) Combs, Neil Young, Bono of U2, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Art Alexakis of Everclear — were on hand to induct the rockers whose music they grew up on.

Musicians not are eligible for the Hall of Fame until 25 years after their first recording, and this year's members include musicians with long blockbuster careers, like Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Joel, as well as those who spent only a few years at the top of the charts.

Although the Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, all but one of the annual ceremonies have been held in music-business capitals like New York and Los Angeles. Like rock-and-roll itself, the annual event been transformed from a loosely organized party into a media event: This year's induction ceremony is to be broadcast on Wednesday at 9 P.M., on the VH-1 cable channel.

Gently mocking the notion of becoming a rock-and-roll elder statesman, before a room full of music-industry figures in black-tie who had paid $1,500 to $2,500 per seat, Mr. Joel opened the ceremony with ''Only the Good Die Young.''

Accepting his award from Ray Charles, Mr. Joel said, ''I grew up in Levittown, not exactly the epicenter of soul in America. We found out later that they did not sell Levitt homes to African-American families. So where were we going to get soul? We got it from the radio, we got it from rock-and-roll.''

Mr. Joel praised rock's black pioneers, and teased his critics. ''I know I've been referred to as derivative,'' he said. ''I'm derivative as hell. If anybody that's derivative was excluded from this institution, it would mean there wouldn't be any white people here.''

Ms. Hill praised the Staple Singers, the soul-gospel group best remembered for ''I'll Take You There.'' She said the group had ''unmistakably proven that speaking of faith and spirituality and God is in accordance with being 'fly' and commercially acceptable.''

The hall also recognized two of rock's early influences. Bonnie Raitt paid tribute to Charles Brown, a suave and heartbroken urban blues singer who died in January. She praised ''a voice like brandy and molasses dripping down that laid-back sultry, laid-back groove.'' She told the industry executives at the Waldorf, ''If they sell the records, give them the money. If they can sing and play, put them on your shows.''

Bob Wills, whose Texas Playboys were the best-known band in Western swing, was also named as an early influence on rock; Western swing presaged rock-and-roll in its fusion of blues, country and jazz. ''If I was more talented, I would have ripped him off more,'' said the songwriter Chris Isaak as he inducted Mr. Wills.

The producer George Martin, best known for working with the Beatles, was honored, though he was not a performer. He said that the Beatles ''helped me to hear things my ears wouldn't think of.''

Mr. McCartney noted that he and John Lennon had both been inducted separately from the Beatles. ''What about George and Ringo?'' he asked.

Elton John paid homage to Dusty Springfield, who died on March 2. ''When I first heard that voice, I fell in love with that voice,'' he said. ''I think she's the greatest white singer that there ever has been.'' He added that when Ms. Springfield first came to America, hearing Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers had ''changed her life.''

Ms. Springfield's manager, Vicki Wickham, said, ''She was never really quite sure that people appreciated her or knew about her. This meant a lot.''

Mr. Alexakis said that hearing Shannon's ''Runaway'' while stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam had made him decide to write his own songs.

Mr. Mayfield, who was paralyzed in an accident in 1990, was too ill to attend. But he sent thanks to the hip-hop musicians who had sampled his songs over the last decade. ''I've probably sampled a few,'' Mr. Combs said.

The final jam session turned into a generation-crossing jubilee. Mr. McCartney sang Carl Perkins's ''Blue Suede Shoes.'' Mr. Joel revved up Mr. Charles's ''What'd I say.'' With Bono singing hallelujah, Mr. Mayfield's song ''People Get Ready'' became an all-star sing-along, a celebration and elegy for rockers past and present. Continuing the hymn-like mood, Mr. Joel tried to out-McCartney Mr. McCartney in ''Let It Be.'' Mr. McCartney took over, his falsetto soaring with tenderness and exaltation.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.

The Boss, McCartney and Billy Joel Crowned Rock Gods

A Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, like rock & roll itself, is at its best when it’s not on its best behavior.

The moments that resonate the loudest are not the thank yous, the tributes and the all-star jam sessions. Rather, they’re the moments that sucker-punch, like the Kinks’ Ray Davies looking out at a black tie crowd in 1990 and slyly commenting, “Rock & roll has become respectable — what a bummer.”

At the Fourteenth Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Dinner held Monday (March 15) at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan, the defining rock & roll moment came when inductee Sir Paul McCartney invited his daughter Stella to the stage, and she stood beside him wearing a white tank top with the words “About Fucking Time” stenciled across her chest. It was a defiant soy bomb thrown in the face of not only VH-1, which was filming the ceremony for broadcast, but of a critical establishment that has often overlooked or even ridiculed her father, failing to induct him when he first became eligible three years ago. The delay, of course, robbed her late mother, Linda McCartney, the chance to share the joy. The shirt got one of the biggest cheers of the evening, and father and daughter clutched each other like true soul survivors — broken, sad and triumphant.

“This is brilliant for me, but it’s brilliant [and] sad, because I would like my baby to share this with me,” McCartney said, acknowledging his wife, who died of breast cancer last April. “She wanted this. But it’s beautiful, she’s beautiful, we’re all beautiful, and we’re cool.”

Joining McCartney in the ranks of the immortals this year were Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Curtis Mayfield, Del Shannon, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, the Staple Singers, uber-producer (and fellow Beatle knight) George Martin, and the recently departed Dusty Springfield and Charles Brown.

“It’s probably all going to hit me in a couple of weeks, because I’m still in a state of disbelief,” commented Joel backstage after his speech, seeming less in shock at the induction honor itself then the fact that his own idol Ray Charles did the inducting honors.

Elton John and Bonnie Raitt had the bittersweet honor of inducting Dusty Springfield and Charles Brown, respectively. “I love you Dusty,” said John, who claimed to have joined her official fanclub as a teen. “You’re enough to turn a gay boy straight.” After inducting Brown, an “uptown” style blues pianist and singer from Texas who came to prominence in the Forties, Raitt stressed her disappointment that his induction came too late for him to see it. “That’s something [for the Hall of Fame] to think about — people that are getting to be of that age, they don’t have a lot of time to wait around.”

Other presenters included Neil Young (for McCartney), Lauryn Hill (for the Staple Singers), Chris Isaak (for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys), Everclear’s Art Alexakis (for Del Shannon), Jimmy Iovine (for Sir George Martin), and Puff Daddy (for Curtis Mayfield, who as of last week had planned on attending but couldn’t because of his health). Any award for best speech, however, went hands down to the perennially spotlight-hungry Bono, who honored Springsteen with an epic dedication that lifted the Boss on a pedestal high above the peers who had gathered to honor him. “Credibility? You couldn’t have more unless you were dead,” the U2 singer said to somewhat stunned laughter. “But Bruce Springsteen you always knew was not going to die stupid. He didn’t buy the mythology that screwed so many people. Instead, he created an alternative mythology, one where ordinary lives became extraordinary and heroic.”

It was a tough act for the Boss himself to follow, but he succeeded by knocking himself down where Bono had built him up. “My dad, he passed away this year, but I have to thank him, because what could I have conceivably written about without him?” said Springsteen. “I mean, if everything had gone on great between us, it would have been a disaster. I would have written just happy songs, and I tried that in the early Nineties, and it didn’t work, the public didn’t like it.”

Springsteen was followed by McCartney, who, in addition to paying tribute to his wife, urged the Hall of Fame to hurry up and induct George Harrison and Ringo Starr for their respective solo careers. Then, at long last, it was time for the musical portion of the evening. Earlier, Melissa Etheridge had sung a Dusty song, and Eric Clapton and D’Angelo had paid tribute to Curtis Mayfield. But the act everyone had been waiting for was Springsteen’s performance with his full E-Street Band. If one can judge from the evening’s four performances — “Promised Land,” “Backstreets,” “10th Avenue Freeze Out” and “In the Midnight Hour,” with Wilson Pickett — the band’s rehearsals in Jersey for their upcoming reunion tour have been coming along very nicely, indeed. Springsteen’s rousing set was followed by the all-star jam session, highlighted by a Billy Joel-led run through Del Shannon’s classic “Runaway” and McCartney’s endearingly pub-worthy “Let It Be.”

“It’s time to go home,” pleaded a weary McCartney at the end, shooing the audience with his hands. Then he smiled. “This is a great night, ya?”

By Richard Skanse via Rolling Stone.
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