Article 2011-03-14 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, NY

Rock ’n’ Rollers Salute Their Own

Raspy voices, girl groups and ghoulish spectacle were celebrated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its 27th annual induction ceremony on Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom.

It was a year of venerable rockers joining the hall: musicians in their 60s and early 70s with careers dating back as far as half a century. Video of the event will be presented on Sunday at 9 p.m. E.D.T. on the Fuse cable channel.

The raspy voices belonged to the songwriters Tom Waits, Dr. John and Neil Diamond. The girl-group catalog — with hits billed as the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and under her own name — belonged to Darlene Love. And the ghoulish, black-rimmed eyes belonged to a pioneer of rock spectacle, Alice Cooper, who had a boa constrictor draped over his shoulders as he accepted his award.

“We’ve always been a hard rock band,” said Mr. Cooper, praising the Kinks, the Who and the Yardbirds as his musical forebears. “We just wanted to decorate it a little differently.”

Mr. Cooper, whose 1970s stage shows had the shock value of guillotines, dead babies, dancing skeletons and naughty nurses, performed “School’s Out” with a group of schoolchildren and with Rob Zombie, who introduced the band, saying, “They were more than a band — they were more like a murderous gang of drag queens.”

Paul Simon paid tribute to Mr. Diamond, who wrote “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue,” “I’m a Believer” and other hits. He complained that Mr. Diamond had been eligible for the hall for two decades, adding, “What took so long?” Mr. Diamond, addressing a ballroom full of music-business figures, said, “Anybody here that I’ve worked with, will they admit it?”

Neil Young praised Mr. Waits — who growls poetic, picaresque songs full of lowlife characters and deep romance — as a performer, singer, actor, magician, spirit guide and changeling. “They say that I have no hits and I’m difficult to work with,” Mr. Waits said as he accepted the award, “and they say that like it’s a bad thing.” He added, “Songs are really just interesting things to be doing with the air.”

Ms. Love was introduced by Bette Midler, who said: “No voice drove me crazier than Darlene Love’s. From the moment I experienced the powerhouse that was Darlene, I was a goner.”

Ms. Love detailed her career as backup singer, movie actress, Broadway trouper and the lead singer for songs like “He’s a Rebel” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Although she has repeatedly sued Phil Spector, the producer behind her best-known songs, for royalties, she thanked him “for his recognition of my talent to be the main voice of his Wall of Sound.”

Dr. John, a patriarch of New Orleans funk and R&B, a widely recorded studio musician and one of his city’s great two-fisted pianists, noted that the piano wasn’t his main instrument; he had switched, from guitar, after he lost part of a finger to a gunshot. “I never learned how to play no piano,” he said.

Also joining the hall’s roster were two record company founders, Art Rupe of Specialty Records — the gospel label that released Little Richard’s groundbreaking hits — and Jac Holzman of Elektra Records, and, as a figure behind the scenes, the songwriter and keyboardist Leon Russell, whose keyboards backed, among many others, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector’s productions, the Byrds and Bob Dylan.

Elton John, who made an album last year with Mr. Russell, described him as his idol, and as looking like “something from outer space” when they first met in the 1970’s. Mr. Russell thanked Mr. John for their collaboration, saying he “found me in a ditch at the side of a highway of life and took me up to the high stages with big audiences, and treated me like a king.”

Mr. Holzman was introduced by John Densmore, the drummer for the Doors (who recorded for Elektra); he punctuated his speech with a hand drum. Mr. Densmore said that the night the Doors recorded “Light My Fire,” Jim Morrison returned to Sunset Studios and doused the place with a fire extinguisher; he thanked Mr. Holzman for paying for the damage and keeping the incident under wraps. Mr. Holzman said his philosophy was: “Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you.”

Unlike previous Hall of Fame inductions, this year's ceremony bunched most of its music at the end, after the awards had been handed out. That was when the all-star collaborations started mounting up. Mr. Young joined Mr. Waits and his band for "Get Behind the Mule." An exuberant John Legend traded verses and piano solos with Dr. John in "Such a Night." John Mayer played bluesy guitar with Mr. Russell, and Bruce Springsteen played a low, twangy guitar solo alongside Ms. Love in the Spector-ized arrangement of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"; Ms. Midler joined Ms. Love for "He's a Rebel." Six-fisted piano — Dr. John, Mr. Russell and Mr. John - -backed Lloyd Price in "Stagger Lee."

And for the finale, Ms. Love, Ms. Midler, Mr. John, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Diamond shared "Da Doo Ron Ron" — along with Mr. Russell on piano, as he was for the original 1963 release — to rebuild the Wall of Sound.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.
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