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Songwriter Waits is well-versed in blues, poetry and ballads, with songs rough and romantic. Several of his Hall of Fame predecessors have recorded his work, including Bruce Springsteen (“Jersey Girl”), the Ramones (“I Don’t Want to Grow Up”), Rod Stewart (“Downtown Train”) and Johnny Cash (“Down There By the Train”). Another California-based songwriter, Neil Young, said Waits is “undescribable and I have to describe him.”

Waits drew laughs with his induction speech. “They say that I have no hits and that I’m difficult to work with,” he said. “And they say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Russell’s long hair and beard gave him a distinctive look, but it’s the piano player’s songs _ particularly “Delta Lady” and “A Song for You” _ that made him memorable. His career has recently been revived through a collaboration with Elton John, who inducted him.

Russell walked on stage slowly with the help of a cane and told the crowd that John had found him in “a ditch beside the highway of life” earlier in the year. John described the experience of working with Russell as one of the best years of his life.

Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman and Specialty Records founder Art Rupe were to be inducted in the non-performer category.

The rock hall has slightly shifted its format this year, doing the inductions first then gathering artists for performances. In past years, the performances were interspersed throughout the night.