Of course Joan Jett and Bill Withers and the three guys in Green Day — Billie Joe Armstrong front-man loquacious but Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool equally worthy and chatty — were proud as hell to be up there accepting their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
So, too, were Stevie Ray Vaughan’s brother Jimmy, those still here from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and all the family members representing the 5 Royales.
And Ringo Starr, the last Beatle to be brought in on an individual basis, was positively beaming as Paul McCartney welcomed his in for his Participation Award to close the evening, as shown to the world Sunday night in the three-hour HBO special that’s become an annual rite of rock passage.
Click on a photo for a description. Click twice on the bottom photo for an enlarged slide show. Photos from my flat screen.
My favorite moment, though, was Laurie Anderson’s acceptance speech for Lou Reed, the feisty one who was her partner for 21 years. Reed was a New York guy with a Syracuse connection, on my radar from the time I was a New York kid playing Sweet Jane on my turntable and advancing to Walk on the Wild Side. He stayed in my heart when I moved to Syracuse when I was 25 and became more aware that he’d gone to college up on the hill and dug the stories of teachers including Raymond Carver. He became even more important when I became the music writer and critic for the big daily when I was 33 and started meeting and talking to people who knew him when.
I was shaken when Reed died in October 2013, and I was teary at Anderson’s beautiful speech at the podium to remember her sweet man. Lou Reed had performed some of his favorite yoga poses before taking his last breath in her arms. Lou Reed was tough as nails but never cynical. Lou Reed told her they should have three rules to live by: Don’t be afraid of anyone. Get a really good bullshit detector and use it. Be really tender.
And there we had the one naturally occurring swear word that I thought bore repeating here.
It was part of the most endearing moment of this year’s event.
The music was cool, from Joan Jett ripping out Bad Reputation to Stevie Wonder’s loving work on Bill Withers’ classics including the forever fantastically rhythmic Use Me with Withers not wishing to play or sing but at his side nonetheless to Green Day’s powerful punk anthem performance of American Idiot and When I Come Around.
The country blues and blues jams that included the Butterfield gang and Zac Brown and Double Trouble with Jimmy Vaughan and Guy Clark Jr. and John Mayer were notable mash-ups.
Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs led off the salute to Lou Reed, but it was the combo of Beck and Nate Ruess of Fun that truly took it home in style.
Ringo Starr brought plenty of friends out, including McCartney at his side on bass, for his closing musical medley, and who wouldn’t want to see the only two remaining Beatles playing together side by side? Yet what I liked best about this segment was the introductory clip that featured a handful of today’s best drummers demonstrating the runs and style that makes Ringo one of the best behind the kit. Who knew? They explained his simple genius in a fan’s terms. Beautiful to see and hear.
McCartney’s introduction of his friend was warm and humorous.
At the front of the show, though, Myley Cyrus was foul-mouthed and obnoxious as she introduced Jett. I want to like Billy Ray’s daughter for her independent streak, I really do. But must you drop the profanity and wear the do-anything-you-want-flag every time? I know, Joan’s a rebel, I get it. But I always felt like Joan had a cause other than sheer rebelliousness. Maybe I’m just old.
Speaking of which, some of the other folks up there after her cracking profane just looked ancient, trying to uphold some rock badge of honor. I wasn’t taking down their names, so Cyrus remains my easy and obvious target. I do recall that Jann Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and chairman of the Rock Hall seemed mighty satisfied while giving his state of the union speech.
The museum in Cleveland is great. I’ve been. I agree. The people seemed glad to be an arena in that city instead of New York. The special on HBO will draw in rock fans, devoted and curious. Good, all. Now let’s get a good class for 2016.
Did you or will you watch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction special? Who’s your favorite from this year’s class and why? Is swearing OK in rock or not, and why?