Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners and the late George Michael were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Friday.
The 38th annual ceremony took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with performances that spanned genres and brought together different generations of stars, including an opening act with Crow and Olivia Rodrigo singing “If It Makes You Happy,” a duo from the Honorees Chaka Khan and Common as well as HER and Sia and a medley of Nelson’s songs with the 90-year-old artist alongside Dave Matthews, Chris Stapleton and Crow. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page made a surprise appearance to perform “Rumble” in honor of new recruit Link Wray.
The evening ended with a magnificent performance by Elliott, dressed in a sequined gold jumpsuit, surrounded by backup dancers and performing hits like “Lose Control” and “Get Ur Freak On.” With her induction, Elliott, who was introduced by Queen Latifah, became the first female rapper to become part of the Hall of Fame.
“This is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, so it goes deeper than just being up here,” Elliott said while tearing up on stage. “When you’re in the hip-hop world, it just feels like the goal is a long way away.”
Elliott also noted that this was the first concert her mother had attended, as she did not want her to come to previous shows and hear her swearing in songs.
The ceremony and selection of inductees placed great emphasis on mixing genres and bringing more people under the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame banner, which was a focus of Chairman John Sykes. This also comes in the wake of derogatory comments Made by Jann Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and Rock Hall board member who said women and black artists weren’t “eloquent enough” to be included in his newly published book about rock stars.
During the ceremony, Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s longtime lyricist who received an award for musical excellence, directly addressed those comments (which led to Wenner being removed from the board in September), adding that diversity of genres contribute to strengthening the industry.
“I am honored to be part of the Class of 2023, alongside such a deep group articulate Women and articulate Black artists,” Taupin said.
Elton John, who introduced Taupin before playing “Tiny Dancer,” also said that the two continue to work on new music together and have just finished recording a new album that will “take you completely by surprise.”
Big Boi from Outkast introduced the segment for Kate Bush, who was not present, before St. Vincent sang “Running Up That Hill.” The rapper called himself the “biggest Kate Bush fan” and said that even though her music may seem different on the surface, he enjoys the way her songs “challenge” him as a listener.
“What I love about Kate’s music is that I never know what sound I’m going to hear next. She ignores anything that seems like a formula and instead just does what she wants to do, like me,” he said.
Nelson, who received one of the longest standing ovations of the night after his performance with Stapleton, Matthews and Crow, spoke about his famous collaboration with Ray Charles and said the two never discussed genres.
“We never asked ourselves what to do or whether we should do a soul song, a rock song or a country song, we just sang the songs we loved,” Nelson said.
In addition to emphasizing genre-transcendence, many of the speeches also addressed the political elements inherent in music and their lives. In Matthews’ introduction to Nelson, the musician highlighted, among his other contributions, Nelson’s ongoing work with Farm Aid, which has raised money for family funds since 1985, and what he sees as his fight against corporate greed.
“Through his words and through his music and through the example he sets, people feel a connection to Willie Nelson. “Willie is an example of what the world would be like if we could just stand up and fly properly,” Matthews said.
Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, noting that he was the only band member present due to differing views on Rock Hall induction, said that “the world is changed by average, everyday, everyday people” and encouraged everyone , doing this Start making a difference, “or at least cause a lot of trouble.”
In addition to Taupin and Khan, Al Kooper were honored for their musical excellence, while DJ Kool Herc and Wray were honored for their musical influence. The late one Soul train Creator Don Cornelius was named the recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which honors individuals who are not musicians but have had an impact on the industry.
And despite their long careers and top hits, there was still some disbelief among many of the honorees about their induction.
After opening the show with Rodrigo and being introduced by Laura Dern, Crow also duetted with Stevie Nicks on “Strong Enough” and “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”
Crow later said that she wouldn’t be where she is without Nicks, saying that she “found her mastery of words through.” [Stevie’s] Images and their melodies.” She also said that she was a child “who dreamed of rock ‘n’ roll” but also couldn’t believe that she would receive this honor.
Crow added: “It’s a bit like getting an Oscar for a screenplay you haven’t finished writing yet.”