Article 2004-03-15 New York City, NY

Prince and Harrison Among Rock Hall of Fame Inductees

Prince started the 19th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards ceremony with a burst of funk, rock and soul last night at the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria. As he sang ''Let's Go Crazy,'' ''Sign 'o' the Times'' and ''Kiss,'' a music-business crowd in black tie got to its feet to dance. Accepting his award, Prince said, ''When I first started out in this music industry, I was most concerned with freedom: freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to.''

Prince returned three hours later to play a screaming, wailing solo in George Harrison's ''While My Guitar Gently Weeps,'' standing alongside Harrison's son, Dhani.

Prince, George Harrison, Traffic, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, the Dells and ZZ Top were welcomed into the Hall of Fame at the ceremony, where current hitmakers pay tribute to their heroes and longtime rockers seize the spotlight again. Dave Matthews, Kid Rock and Bruce Springsteen were on hand to praise Traffic, Mr. Seger and Mr. Browne.

The ceremony, which included a red-carpet entrance by the stars for the first time this year, was videotaped to be shown on the cable channel VH1 at 8 p.m. Sunday become eligible for the Hall of Fame 25 years after they release their first recordings. ''Rock isn't an age, it's an attitude,'' said Jim Capaldi of Traffic. The surviving members of Traffic didn't quite reunite; Dave Mason accepted an award but didn't perform with Mr. Capaldi and Steve Winwood. But Mr. Mason returned to lead an all-star jam on his song ''Feelin' Alright.''

Tom Petty who was a member of the Traveling Wilburys with Harrison, quoted Harrison as saying, ''Being in the Beatles has not been a hindrance to my solo career.''

Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison, quoting the poet Rabindrath Tagore, said,

''Blessed is he whose fame does not outshine his truth.''

''Despite his immense fame,'' she added, ''his truth will never be forgotten.''

Mr. Springsteen praised Mr. Browne's songs about love and politics, saying that if the Beach Boys painted California as paradise, Mr. Browne's songs offered California as paradise lost. He said that when he heard Mr. Browne, he first thought, ''Each song is a diamond,'' and then, ''I need less words.''

He described Mr. Browne as ''one of the first songwriters I met who demonstrated the value of thinking hard about what you were saying.''

Mr. Browne admitted, ''I can't even write a postcard without ripping it up.''

He added, ''Music is a force and a power for good in this world,'' and concluded: ''Music is a very empowering thing. I want to thank you for allowing me to put my personal politics in my songs.

This year's new hall members hail from the era before punk and hip-hop. But hip-hop was represented when the Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast, along with Alicia Keys, introduced Prince. All the new members of the hall are men; the last woman inducted was Brenda Lee in 2002.

The lineup this year reached back to the Dells, a vocal group that got started in high school in 1952, began recording in 1953 and has had the same five-man lineup since 1960. Before the group sang ''Oh, What a Night,'' Charles Barksdale of the Dells said: ''We had a lot of hit records. Most of them, we didn't get paid for. All of you out there that still owe us royalties, we're coming after you.''

Traffic released its debut album, ''Mr. Fantasy,'' in 1967, and Mr. Harrison became the first Beatle to release a solo album — the soundtrack music for ''Wonderwall'' — in 1968, the year Mr. Seger's ''Ramblin' Gamblin' Man'' became his first Top 20 hit.

''Bob Seger has paid more dues than all the artists in the current Top 40 combined,'' said Kid Rock, a fellow Detroit rocker.

Mr. Browne made his debut album in 1972, and ZZ Top, which turned Texas blues into arena rock, played its first shows in 1970 and released its debut album in 1973. Prince was eligible for the first time this year; his debut album was released in 1978.

Now that Mr. Harrison is a member of the Hall of Fame, Ringo Starr is the one Beatle who hasn't been recognized for his solo career.

The hall continues to give an award to non-performers, including songwriters and music-business executives. This year, it added a journalist: Jann S. Wenner, the editor and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, and a prime mover for the creation of the Hall of Fame. Before Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger said, ''Rock performers were treated as third-class fly-by-night citizens having a hard time to form one brain between them.''

The hall itself is part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, which opened in 1995.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.

ZZ Top, Prince Rock Into Hall

Following a couple years of punk and New Wave inductees, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been creeping closer and closer to the MTV generation. Last night, high octane performances by Prince and ZZ Top, two acts that made their audio/visual marks in the Eighties, were among the most lively, and showy, in Rock Hall history, as the flamboyance indicative of that decade began to find its home in Cleveland.

Prince bookended last night’s festivities at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. He jazzed up the proceedings from the outset, beginning the night with “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Sign O’ the Times” and “Kiss.” His purple reign ran through the night, closing the evening’s entertainment, as he capped an all-star tribute to George Harrison — along with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others — with a blistering solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

The first artist to take the stage, Prince was also the first inducted. OutKast and Alicia Keys did the honors. “He’s so super bad,” Keys said, “that he makes you feel super good.” For the most part, Prince let the music do the talking for him, thanking Jehovah and, oddly enough Warner Bros. (the label he battled for years), offering a bit of career advice to up-and-coming artists and closing, “I wish all of you the best on this long, weird journey. It ain’t over yet.”

Steve Winwood finally made his way into the Rock Hall with the induction of Traffic, who took the stage without guitarist Dave Mason for a run through “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” Traffic’s performance was followed by the induction of Rolling Stone founder, editor and publisher, Jann S. Wenner, who launched the magazine thirty-seven years ago. “He embodies what we call fearless journalism,” said Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. “Then and now.” Ertegun was joined by Mick Jagger, who said, “Jann almost single-handedly pioneered the idea of rock & roll as a vibrant art form. [He] elevated our music to a place where it enjoys the status of other musical forms.” In his acceptance speech, Wenner said, “I wanted to tell the world about rock & roll. I believe it can soothe, heal and uplift.”

In contrast to some of the evening’s flash, Jackson Browne, the Dells and Bob Seger offered up three different styles of understatement. Of Browne’s work, Bruce Springsteen said, “Every song was like a diamond. My first thought: ‘Damn, he’s good.’ Second thought: ‘I need less words.'” Springsteen also expressed envy at Browne’s ability to captivate female fans (“Jackson drew more women than an Indigo Girls show”).

But amid the jest about Browne’s good looks, Springsteen honored his skill as a songwriter who was “quintessentially California. The Beach Boys gave us California as Paradise,” Springsteen continued. “Jackson Browne gave us Paradise Lost.” With the plainspoken approach that has served him for more than three decades, Browne then offered up “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty.”

The Dells were inducted by filmmaker/comedian Robert Townshend, who based his 1991 film The Five Heartbeats on the group. “Fifty years,” marveled Dells member Charles Barksdale. “It seems like fifty years too!” Barksdale also spoke out for future Rock Hall inclusion of some Dells disciples like the O’Jays and the Manhattans.

Kid Rock showered fellow Detroit rocker Bob Seger with a speech of superlatives that put some fire behind Seger’s soft-spoken manner, calling him “the most underrated singer-songwriter of our time … He taught me to be proud of where you come from. He had the voice of the working man and was living proof of the American Dream.” Seger best spoke for himself by singing. Despite being under the weather, he offered impassioned takes on “Turn the Page” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” with his long-running Silver Bullet Band.

The evening’s subtlety ended when Keith Richards’ brought out ZZ Top, the thirty-five-year-old Texas boogie band that offered up “La Grange” and “Tush,” following AC/DC’s lead from last year in reminding all in attendance that sex, cars and sex will always be rock & roll staples.

The evening’s final inductee was the late George Harrison, a man famous for being quiet but also capable of being heard, be it through his massive three-record debut, 1970’s All Things Must Pass, or his charity work organizing 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh. “He really filled a room,” Tom Petty said of Harrison. “He led by example. Years before Live Aid, George invented the idea of rock & roll giving back to the people.”

Harrison’s widow Olivia and son Dhani accepted for him, the latter admitting that years ago he accidentally broke the Rock Hall statuette Harrison received for being a member of the Beatles. “To everyone who’s ever liked his music,” Dhani said, “good on you. Cheers.” Dhani then joined Harrison’s fellow Traveling Wilburys Petty and Lynne in a performance of “Handle With Care.”

Rather than dust off a Fifties gem for a verse-swapping all-star finale, the evening’s performers made their last stand with the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” among Harrison’s flashier songs. Winwood played keys, Petty took lead vocals and Prince brought the night to a close with an electrifying guitar solo.

By Andrew Dansby via Rolling Stone.
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