- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

NEW YORK - Minutes after being officially bumped up to legendary status — after a raucous, sentimental induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — U2 headed to the media room to answer questions about the band’s momentous honor.

Perhaps only a rock band fronted by Bono would first be asked about everything but music.

“Bono, what about the Nobel Peace Prize?” one reporter called out, asking whether his mission to eradicate Third World debt would get him the honor.

Another wondered whether he would assume the presidency of the World Bank, as the latest Bono-leadership rumor would suggest.

“Rock star is already having the cream of the cake,” Bono replied.

Over U2’s 30-year journey from the streets of Dublin, Ireland, to become one ofthe world’s most important rock bands, there have been times when Bono’s charisma, his charitable efforts — and now a clothing line — have eclipsed his collaborators and lifelong friends: guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

However, on Monday evening, their rock peers recognized the collaborative achievements of perhaps the most groundbreaking rock group of the past two decades.

On a night when the Pretenders, the O’Jays, Percy Sledge and blues legend Buddy Guy received keys to rock’s exclusive club, U2 clearly was the star attraction.

Although the band members weren’t inducted until after midnight, the ballroom was still packed. When they performed some of their biggest hits — including “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with an assist from Bruce Springsteen — everyone, from celebrities such as Catherine Zeta-Jones to grizzled industry folk, jumped out of seats to cheer them on.

“Uno, dos, tres, catorce,” Mr. Springsteen said, quoting the Spanish countdown in U2’s recent hit “Vertigo” as he inducted the band into the hall with a loving, humorous tribute.

“The translation is one, two, three, 14. That is the correct math for rock ‘n’ roll. The whole had better equal a lot more than the sum of its parts — or else you’re just rubbing two sticks together.”

Highlights of the induction ceremony will air Saturday on VH1. Hall of fame members are permanently enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Musicians, industry professionals and journalists vote on the inductees.

U2’s induction was hardly the evening’s only highlight.

Among the others:

• The O’Jays are best known for their work with Philadelphia soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but the gospel-styled singers actually are from Canton, Ohio. Their hits include “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train” and “For the Love of Money.”

They were inducted by Justin Timberlake. “Anyone who’s ever written, produced or performed something soulful stands in the shadows of these giants,” Mr. Timberlake said.

• If nothing else, Mr. Sledge’s voice has been the backdrop to countless romantic encounters. The Southern soul singer is best known for “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

Rod Stewart called it “one of the best performances I’ve ever heard and I’m sure you’ve ever heard.”

• The Pretenders come from the same rock generation as U2. Ohio native Chrissie Hynde was a tough but tender role model for women, singing “Brass in Pocket,” “Precious” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”

The band formed after Miss Hynde moved to London to be part of the city’s fertile music scene. She has soldiered on with drummer Martin Chambers after guitarists James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon died as drug casualties.

“They went through all the heartache that rock ‘n’ roll is built on — they lost two band members and they never gave up,” said Neil Young, who inducted the band and sat in for a ferocious performance of “My City Was Gone.”

Miss Hynde told the audience she knows the Pretenders have sounded like a tribute band for the past 20 years. “We are a tribute band,” she said. “We’re paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we would not have been here.”

• Mr. Guy dominated the Chicago blues guitar scene, and he was ushered into the hall by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Later, both joined Mr. Guy onstage for a rollicking rendition of “Let Me Love You Baby.”

Backstage, Mr. Guy noted: “My mother told me before she died … if you’ve got any flowers, give ‘em to me now, so I can smell ‘em. So y’all give this to me tonight, I can smell this, man.”

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