- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2017

BROOKLYN, N.Y. | The 2017 class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were honored for their contributions to the history of the music genre Friday evening during a celebratory concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. 

Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Joan Baez, Journey, Nile Rodgers, Yes, Tupac Shakur and Pearl Jam comprise this year’s honorees.

Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner opened the festivities. 

“Thirty-two years ago, the very first person inducted into the Hall of Fame was Chuck Berry,” Mr. Wenner said at the outset of the ceremony of the rock pioneer who died last month. “No one would be here tonight were it not for this man. He’s called the father of rock ‘n’ roll.

“So tonight we say farewell to the founding father,” Mr. Wenner said, before introducing a video montage honoring Berry, who was 90 when he died near his St. Louis home. Various classic rockers in the video, including Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, waxed on Berry’s influence. 

ELO’s “Roll Over Beethoven” then began, with members of the British band, including Jeff Lynne, performing in front of a giant screen cycling photos of Berry. Mr. Lynne and the band then performed a staple of their repertoire, “Evil Woman,” backed by a healthy and stirring string section, and “Mr. Blue Sky.” 

Mr. Lynne, a record producer in his own right, was also a member of The Traveling Willburys supergroup alongside Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.

Dhani Harrison, son of late Traveling Willburys member and former Beatle Harrison, officially inducted ELO into the Hall. 

“If my father were still with us here, I imagine he would be standing here right now, inducting ELO into the Hall,” Mr. Harrison said.

Mr. Harrison then introduced original ELO members Roy Wood and Mr. Lynne. 

Mr. Lynne recalled walking the streets with his father as a young man, and his father entreated his son to try echoing into a sewer pipe.

“That’s a chord. I felt I could do a chord,” Mr. Lynne said. 

A video of Miss Baez showed the singer as a young woman working with Mr. Dylan and walking arm-in-arm with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was those early experiences that she said made her interested in advocacy and social change. 

Jackson Browne was selected to induct Miss Baez. Mr. Browne spoke about her opposition to the Vietnam War and the women’s movement, “which could not have happened without the resurgence of folk music,” he said. 

Mr. Browne said folk music gave voice to immigrants and those who were brought to America as slaves. 

“The first record I ever bought with my own money was Joan Baez’s second album,” Mr. Browne said. “I saw this album with her picture on it, and she looked like the girls I’d grown up with in Highland Park in L.A. 

“It was for me completely new music,” he said. “Joan Baez empowered me and countless other kids like me to play music … and make the changes I wanted to see in the world.”

“Thank you for this slightly unlikely induction,” Miss Baez said upon accepting her honor. “My granddaughter had no idea who I was until I took her backstage at a Taylor Swift concert, and then I got respect from her.”

She touted the influence of Pete Seeger, which turned her on to activism. 

“Let us quadruple our efforts to empathize and give of our resources,” she said. “Let us replace brutality and make compassion a priority.”

The 76-year-old singer then performed the traditional spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” on an acoustic guitar. The Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter joined her on stage for “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos),” a song critical of America’s border policies. 

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Canadian band Rush were on hand to inaugurate Yes.

“And we thought we’d waited a long time,” singer/bassist Mr. Lee said of the long-delayed initiation of the English band Yes. (Rush was inducted in 2013.)

“The musical choices we make in our youth help to mold who we become,” Mr. Lifeson said. “Choose to stay out all night to see your favorite band. Choose the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And definitely choose Yes.”

Member Trevor Rabin, who has scored films like “Con Air” and “The 6th Day,” thanked his family from the podium. Members also offered tribute to founding member Chris Squire, who died in 2015.

“Does this thing go up?” member Rick Wakeman said of the microphone. “Story of my life.”

Mr. Wakeman then proceeded into a cheeky routine of jests about his age, including a colonoscopy. He also joked about his father telling him not to go to a certain business as a young man.

“Of course I went anyway and found my dad there,” he said of discovering his father at a strip club.

Messrs. Lifeson and Lee then joined Yes to play through some of their greatest hits, including “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

In the press room, Jon Anderson of Yes told The Washington Times that if he could play with anyone from rock history who is no longer alive, he said it would be Elvis Presley.

When asked by The Times what Messrs. Lifeson and Lee, who inducted Yes, would tell to kids now just starting out, Mr. Lifeson joked “get into medicine.”

“Play, play, play, play, play,” Mr. Lee said.

Tupac Shakur, the New York native who catapulted to fame in the 1990s, was the next inductee. Shakur, an actor and rapper, was shot dead on the Las Vegas Strip in 1996 at the age of 25.

Snoop Dogg, the L.A. rapper, said he couldn’t believe it had been over two decades since anything had last been heard from Shakur.

“My labelmate, my homie, my brother,” Snoop Dogg said of his friend, whom he inducted, adding that his eldest son is now the same age Shakur was when he died. “I’m here to make sure that ‘pac is remembered the way he wanted to be: as a strong black man,” Snoop Dogg said, calling Shakur the greatest rapper of all time. 

Snoop Dogg then said it was Shakur who got him into blunts, and also encouraged him to try his hand at acting.

The 45-year-old added he also convinced Death Row head Suge Knight to bring Shakur onto their label. He also recalled a an unlikely episode of parasailing with his late friend, with Knight driving the boat.

Snoop Dogg became emotional recalling the night Shakur died, and how Shakur’s mother comforted him through his tears. 

“Tupac, we love you, dog,” Snoop Dogg said as he lifted Shakur’s award statue to the heavens.

“This award shows that the music that you make will be appreciated over the test of time if you put your heart and soul into it,” Snoop Dogg said in the press room of accepting Shakur’s award.

Train singer Pot Monahan praised class member Journey, whose anthems include “Don’t Stop Believin,’” “Separate Ways” and “Wheel in the Sky.”  

“They weren’t afraid to be romantic and hold women in high esteem,” Mr. Monahan, a San Francisco musician, said of his fellow Bay Area rockers. 

Steve Perry, the band’s onetime singer, said he would go watch Journey at the Starwood Club in Los Angeles before he himself joined the band.

“There was one instrument that was flying above the entire city of Los Angeles, and that was the magic fingers of Neil Schon’s guitar,” Mr. Perry said of his former bandmate. 

Mr. Perry said his demo tape found itself to band manager Walter James “Herbie” Herbert, who invited Mr. Perry down to try out. The next thing he knew, he was writing “Faithfully” beside Mr. Schon.

Mr. Perry, who left the band decades ago, made sure to praise current singer Arnel Pineda, who joined following the departure of vocalist Steve Augeri in 2007.

Mr. Pineda, 49, then joined his bandmates at center stage for the anthemic “Separate Ways.”

Mr. Schon brought out former Journey keyboardist Gregg Rowley and former drummer Aynsley Dunbar for “When the Lights Go Down.” 

Despite the hopes of many, Mr. Perry did not join his former bandmates for their mini-set. He has not sung with Journey in any capacity since 1998.

Asked in the press room about the honor of being inducted by another member of the San Francisco musical family, Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain told The Times of once being on Train singer Mr. Monahan’s podcast. 

“It was highly rated,” Mr. Cain said of The Times’ query.

Honoree Nile Rodgers is a longtime producer who worked with everyone from David Bowie to Madonna. Pharrell Williams, whose “Get Lucky” is one of Mr. Rodgers‘ many success stories, introduced the longtime musician and producer.

“I was born not very far from where we are standing now,” Mr. Rodgers said upon accepting his honor. “I was saying to Pharrell, almost everybody on this stage … I’ve worked with.” 

“I appreciate anytime that my music is worthy of being honored,” said Mr. Rodgers in the press room after receiving an award. 

When asked by The Times what he felt the future of the music industry might be, he said “branding.”

“There was a time when [writing] television [jingles]” was considered beneath contempt for musicians, he said. But then came Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” being used to promote Michelob beer. 

Now it is a moneymaker, he said, at a time when the entire industry has been turned upside-down in the digital era. 

David Letterman was selected to be the presenter of the final honoree, Pearl Jam. Sporting a rather hefty beard, Mr. Letterman made light of the fact that he replaced original presenter Neil Young.

“The truth of it is the guy can’t stay up this late. It was either that or he swallowed a harmonica,” the former late-night host said of Mr. Young.

Mr. Letterman spoke of his 33 years on television, when he would meet musicians nightly on his show.

“I was reminded this afternoon during rehearsal … what a gift live music is,” Mr. Letterman said.

He described Pearl Jam’s seminal album “Ten” as so full of angst that it made him “pissed off, and I was almost 50.”  

He mentioned the band’s early-‘90s feud with Ticketmaster, when the group attempted to get concert tickets to fans without the use of the behemoth ticket retailer. 

“Because they stood up, every concert ticket today is free,” Mr. Letterman joked.

Going serious, he then added he hopes to return for an induction ceremony in the future when his late friend, Warren Zevon, joins the Hall of Fame. (Zevon died of lung cancer in 2003.)

Mr. Letterman produced a letter dated May 18, 2015, from Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder to Mr. Letterman’s son, Harry. 

“‘I wanted you to have this guitar to start out with,’” Mr. Letterman read. “‘Good luck, Harry, in all things.’

“There are many reasons they belong in the Hall of Fame, but to me, that’s the best one,” Mr. Letterman said of the missive before bringing the Seattle band onto the stage with him.

“There are pivotal moments in life that change you forever. The first was in 1976,” said Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready, adding that was when he first heard KISS. “Pearl Jam, you’re my brothers,” he said to his bandmates, adding that Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan once told him, “you’re only as good as the people you’re around.”

Mr. McCready also touted Red Hot Chili Peppers, who took Pearl Jam out on the road with them when they were still coming up.

Bassist Jeff Ament said the Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman,” which he read in 7th grade, pushed him to never be a “suit” type. He spoke of moving from his home state of Montana to Seattle to “find his tribe,” and promptly met Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.

“Making music and art, traveling the world … making small differences, that’s a pretty great life,” he said.

Lead singer Mr. Vedder thanked all of those “who came before us,” but said that humanity has “a lot of growing to do.”

“Climate change is real. That is not fake news,” Mr. Vedder said of one of his personal causes. “We cannot have [future generations] look back and say, ‘Why did they not do everything humanly possible’” to address the issue. 

“We don’t have 108 years,” Mr. Vedder said, making an analogy with the Chicago Cubs’ lengthy World Series championship drought having ended in 2016. 

Mr. Vedder praised his wife and his children, saying he loved them more than anything, “which is hard because I really love The Who,” he said. 

“I feel like we’re like halfway there to deserv[ing] an accolade of this kind of stature,” Mr. Vedder said. “We’ve very grateful.”

After performing “Alive” and “Better Man,” Rush’s Mr. Lee and Journey’s Mr. Schon and other honorees joined Pearl Jam for “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” by Mr. Young.

It was a worthy final rock ‘n’ lesson for the class of 2017.

The concert will air on HBO April 29 at 8 p.m. EST.

 

 

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