Ringo Starr playing with Green Day, and then reuniting with Paul McCartney on the same night? It’s the kind of stuff that only happens at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held this past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. As usual, the very, very long night featured a mix of once-in-a-lifetime performances, emotional speeches and plenty of rock and roll attitude.
The show opened with inductees Joan Jett & the Blackhearts walking onstage to perform “Bad Reputation.” They were then joined by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl for “Cherry Bomb,” the song made famous by Jett’s previous band The Runaways. Next, it was “Crimson & Clover,” performed with Grohl and Tommy James, the man who wrote it, not to mention Miley Cyrus. Miley, who cites Joan as her biggest inspiration, inducted the band by beginning her speech, “I wanna start this…by telling you about the first time I wanted to have sex with Joan Jett.”
Joan herself received a standing ovation, and, while tearing up, told the crowd, “I was really gonna try not to cry and be tough but that’s a little overwhelming there!” She made an impassioned plea for the true meaning of rock and roll, explaining, “We’ve become so conditioned to measuring our music’s impact in dollar signs only, that we can forget what it’s really about: the music! Emotion, expression, giving a voice to those who aren’t satisfied fitting into whatever box they were given.” She also thanked pretty much every single person who ever had anything to do with her career.
Here’s a rundown of the show’s other highlights:
–It’s certainly a thrill anytime the two surviving Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, get together, and McCartney was on hand to induct Ringo into the Hall. He was the last of the Beatles to get in as a solo artist, and McCartney campaigned hard to get his old friend the honor. In his speech, McCartney recalled how he, George Harrison and John Lennon knew Ringo was the right drummer for them when he was able to play a tricky Ray Charles song that few could get correct. “Ringo nailed it!” said Paul delightedly.
“He just is something so special,” he added. “I mean, when he’s playing behind you…a lot of these bands…they’re looking ’round at the drummer, like, ‘Is he going to speed up? Is he going to slow down?’ You don’t have to look with Ringo, it just is there.” Ringo, the night’s final inductee, then took the stage and gave a lengthy speech about his life and career, even giving up-and-coming bands this pearl of wisdom: “When you’re in the van, if you fart, own up!” He then joined Green Day to perform the Shirelles’ hit “Boys,” and finally, all the inductees and presenters jammed out on “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
—John Mayer inducted his all-time idol, the late blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble. Mayer’s eloquent speech was built around the concept that Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash in 1990, was “the ultimate guitar hero,” and introduced blues to the MTV generation by presenting it in a modern way. He also revealed that it was Vaughan, who battled substance abuse only to emerge clean and sober, who inspired him to reject drugs and alcohol throughout his career.
Vaughan’s brother Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds accepted on his brother’s behalf, saying, “I just want you to know I couldn’t be more proud of him. He was the most wonderful, cool, talented little brother anybody could ever have.” Then, Vaughan, Double Trouble, Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. performed Vaughan’s hits “Pride and Joy” and “Texas Flood,” as well as Jimmie Vaughan’s 1994 tribute to his brother, “Six Strings Down.”
–Reclusive soul singer Bill Withers, known for his hits “Lovely Day,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me” and “Use Me,” was inducted by Stevie Wonder, who admitted that he wished he had written some of Withers’ hits. Withers then took the stage for the night’s most rambling and most hilarious speech. “This has got to be the largest AA meeting in the Western Hemisphere,” he joked to the audience. He finished by saying, “It’s been a wonderful, odd odyssey with ups, downs and sometimes screw-me-arounds, but I will always remember the good things. Bottom line is, check this out: Stevie Wonder knows my name and the brother just put me in the Hall of Fame!”
Stevie then performed “Ain’t No Sunshine,” John Legend performed “Use Me,” and then Stevie, Legend and Withers himself all sang “Lean on Me.”
–Fall Out Boy inducted Green Day, with both singer Patrick Stump and bass player Pete Wentz explaining why, to them, Green Day is the epitome of punk rock. Listing all the band’s most “punk rock” accomplishments, Wentz spoke of the band’s magnum opus, American Idiot, by saying, “When, in an era of basically no socially-conscious discourse in pop music, you put out a scathingly political rock opera and somehow managed to make that your career-redefining, Grammy-winning, smash-hit second act, that was insanely f***ing punk rock!” He ended the speech by saying, “So let some Reddit feed argue the definition of punk rock. Me? I already have my answer.”
Billie Joe Armstrong took the stage to talk about the band’s early beginnings, his family, his long friendship with his band mates Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt, and his passion for music. “I love rock and roll music, I always have, soon as I opened my eyes and took my first breath – I am a fan,” he told the crowd. “And that’s the one thing that I’m gonna close with, is that I love rock and roll and I’ll love it for the rest of my life.” Drummer Tre Cool spoke of the band’s tight bond, saying, “We grow older, and we change, and we get weirder, and crazier and, it’s awesome. We grow together, and with every beat of the drum, our love for music gets even stronger.” Green Day then performed “American Idiot,” “When I Come Around” and “Basketcase.”
–The most emotional moment of the evening came during the induction of the late Lou Reed, already a member of the Rock Hall as part of the Velvet Underground. His longtime friend Patti Smith inducted him, and choked up while reminiscing about their friendship. “Thank you for brutally and benevolently injecting your poetry into music,” she said. Then, Reed’s partner of 21 years, artist and musician Laurie Anderson, took the stage for a speech in which she remembered Lou, not just as a great artist, but as the man who loved her, and who died in her arms. She also asked the crowd to chant “Looouuu!” “one more time.”
Next, Karen O and Nick Zinner of the alt-rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed Reed’s classic “Vicious,” while recent Grammy winner Beck took the stage to sing “Satellite of Love.” Nate Ruess of .fun was supposed to perform but he was nowhere to be found.
The other inductees included The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which helped electric blues cross over to a wider audience in the sixties, and the R&B vocal group the “5” Royales, whose members all unfortunately had passed away.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air May 30 on HBO.
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