This year’s induction banquet for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame began much like the Grammys: with a blistering live medley from Prince. After testimonials by OutKast and Alicia Keys, Prince launched into renditions of ’80s hits ”Let’s Go Crazy,” ”Sign O’ the Times,” and ”Kiss.” Then, reflecting on the ”fascinating journey” of his career, he advised young artists that ”without spiritual guidance, too much freedom can lead to spiritual decline.” It was the beginning of a four-hour kudofest and jam session at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel, which also saw the inductions of ZZ Top, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Traffic, the Dells, and the late George Harrison. VH1 will edit the festivities down to two and a half hours for broadcast on Sunday.
Prince didn’t join the traditional all-star jam at evening’s end, though he did play along with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne when they inducted their Traveling Wilburys bandmate, George Harrison, with performances of ”Handle With Care” and ”While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Harrison, who died in 2001 and is the third member of the Beatles to be inducted for his solo career as well (sorry, Ringo, maybe next year), was represented by his widow Olivia and lookalike musician son Dhani.
Keith Richards introduced fellow blues lovers ZZ Top, who performed ’70s hits ”La Grange” and ”Tush.” Kid Rock called fellow Midwesterner Bob Seger (who sang his hits ”Turn the Page” and ”Old Time Rock and Roll”) ”the most underrated singer, songwriter and performer of our generation.”
Dave Matthews inducted ’60s British rockers Traffic, whose core members Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi performed ”Dear Mr. Fantasy.” Bruce Springsteen called sensitive ’70s singer-songwriter Jackson Browne (who sang ”The Pretender” and ”Running on Empty”) a ”bona fide rock ‘n’ roll sex star.” R&B vocal group The Dells, who’ve had the same lineup since 1960, were the only other black act besides Prince in this year’s class. Inducted by filmmaker Robert Townsend (”Hollywood Shuffle”), they sang their 1956 hit ”Oh, What a Night” and said they hoped similar vocal groups like the Chi-Lites and the O’Jays would be honored in the future.
Also inducted at the 19th annual ceremony was one non-musician, Rolling Stone magazine founder and publisher Jann Wenner, who also helped found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first place. In his introduction, Mick Jagger called Wenner ”one of the first music critics who understood what we as artists felt.”