Starr quality at the Rock hall
In induction speech, he says Alan Freed’s radio show inspired him as a boy.
A former Beatle is among those inducted in Cleveland.
CLEVELAND — A moment after Ringo Starr took the stage early Sunday morning on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it looked like he was resorting to that hoariest of rock performance cliches: name-dropping the city he’s in to elicit a cheap ovation.
“I was doing the press earlier, and someone asked ‘Why did you wait so long?’ ” Starr, 74, told the crowd of about 10,000 packed into the 93-year-old Public Auditorium to see him welcomed into the Rock Hall along with Lou Reed, Green Day, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bill Withers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the “5” Royales.
“It had nothing to do with me,” he said with a puckish smile. “You have to be invited. Finally I’m invited, and I love it. I also love it that I got lucky, and it’s actually in Cleveland.”
Most rockers would have left it at that and soaked in the hearty cheer that erupted. But Starr quickly added, “And I’ll tell you why.”
He then recounted how as a boy growing up in Liverpool, England — separated from the United States by an ocean — he connected with the liberating music this country gave the world in the 1950s because a radio station based in Luxembourg carried early rock disc jockey Alan Freed’s radio show that championed Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and rock’s other pioneers.
“Every Sunday at 4 in the afternoon, we heard rock ’n’ roll music,” Starr said. “Alan Freed introduced us to so many great records.” Freed’s show, as it happened, originated from Cleveland.
It was one among many moving and deeply personal moments shared during the Rock Hall’s 2015 induction ceremony — Starr’s made more so by the speech given by his long-ago band mate, Paul McCartney.
Even at 72, McCartney played the cute Beatle as he leaned casually on the lectern and recounted the first time Starr sat in with the nascent Beatles.
“I remember the moment, standing there, looking at John, then looking at George, and we were like … what is this?” McCartney said. “That was the moment. That was the beginning of the Beatles.”
The induction speech for proto-punk rocker and poet Lou Reed was delivered by his friend and fellow poet Patti Smith, who choked back tears several times talking about her friendship with the man who took a couple of generations of listeners for “Walk on the Wild Side” with his evocative portraits of New York’s underbelly.
Accepting the award for Reed, who died in 2013, was his partner of 21 years, performance artist Laurie Anderson.
“Lou was hilarious, never cynical,” she said. “He was my best friend, the person I admire most in the world. There were times I was frustrated, there were times I was mad. But I was never, ever bored.”
Inducted by Stevie Wonder, Withers, 76, responded by saying, “I’m honored to be this year’s oldest living solo inductee. Don’t hate me because I’m precocious, OK?”
Jett, who was given a bawdy introduction by contemporary pop music bad girl Miley Cyrus, opened the evening with a blazing set of her hard-rock and punkrooted music.
Jett wiped away tears when she accepted her Hall of Fame statuette, telling onlookers, “I was really going to try not to cry. It’s a little overwhelming.”
Bay Area punk band Green Day also got caught up in the evening’s outpouring of emotion. Lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong was a teary-eyed mess during his good-natured acceptance speech, in which he thanked his parents and sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Because the Rock Hall’s eligibility rules require that a musician or band cannot be inducted until 25 years after the release of its first recording, it’s inevitable that many honorees are no longer living.
Such was the case with the early R&B vocal group the “5” Royales, which disbanded in 1965 and whose original core members have died.
Texas blues guitarist Vaughan died the same year Green Day’s recording career effectively began, in 1990.
He was given a hero’s welcome not only by vociferous fans — he topped the fanvoting component this year — but by fellow rock-blues guitarist John Mayer, who called Vaughan “the ultimate guitar hero.”
Southern rocker Zac Brown and L.A. rock guitarist-activist Tom Morello teamed for a scorching runthrough of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “Born in Chicago” in tribute to the blues bandleader.
“We kind of set an example, which was badly needed in those days,” said Butterfield band guitarist Elvin Bishop, “that people of different races could work together.”
An HBO special with highlights from the nearly six-hour ceremony is scheduled to premiere May 30.
left, teamed with old Beatles band mate Paul McCartney.