Rock Hall of Fame highlights
From Janet Jackson to The Zombies, icons rule.
From Stevie Nicks’ charmingly loopy storytelling to Janet Jackson’s soft-spoken commemoration of her family, the highlights of the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction were the moments when the night’s most distinctive personalities were on display.
Friday night’s ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center brought together a wide-ranging group of artists to honor them as the Rock Hall’s 2019 inductees: Nicks, Jackson, Radiohead, The Cure, Def Leppard, Roxy Music and The Zombies.
The ceremony will air April 27 on HBO.
The first woman to be inducted into the Rock Hall two times, Stevie Nicks kicked off the night as the show’s first performer and inductee with a display of showmanship that few of the night’s other featured artists managed to top. Blazing through several of her hits in her opening medley, Nicks brought Don Henley onstage for “Leather and Lace” and was joined by Harry Styles for her Tom Petty collaboration “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” with Styles tackling Petty’s vocals.
“We didn’t realize it would be the last song on my set for the rest of my life, it never seems to lose its power,” she said, introducing the last song in her set, her enduring hit “Edge of Seventeen.”
Styles returned to the stage to induct Nicks into the Rock Hall, with a speech honoring Nicks’ status as a musical and cultural icon.
“On Halloween, one in seven people dress as Stevie Nicks,” he said. “She is both an adjective and a verb. To quote my mother, ‘I Stevie Nicks’d that (expletive) so hard.’”
Nicks acknowledged that she was too nervous to prepare a speech, instead treating the audience to six minutes of vintage stories and quirky advice, as she recalled her years roughing it with her former bandmate Lindsay Buckingham.
“Three waitress jobs and two cleaning lady jobs,” she recalled, explaining that she relished leaving the house she shared with Buckingham because of the constant clouds of illicit drug smoke. “Lindsay worked on the music, I worked on food and dirty houses.”
Addressing her fellow female artists, Nicks encouraged them to seek the same career heights that she has achieved, including her recordbreaking double induction. “What I am doing is opening up the door,” she said. “The times are different, and it’s gonna be hard but I know someone will be able to do it, and I’ll give enough interviews to tell you what to do.”
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, as well as bandmates Jonny and Colin Greenwood, did not attend the ceremony, leaving guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Philip Selway to thank the indie rock band’s cheering fans in the audience.
“It feels really good to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” O’Brien said. “I know if the other guys were here, they’d feel it, too.”
Making up for the missing star power, pop innovator and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne inducted Radiohead into the Rock Hall, pointing out that the band took their name from the 1986 Talking Heads song “Radio Head.”
“I’ve asked myself, why that song?” Byrne said, calling it a “slightly goofy Tex-Mex song.”
“I still haven’t been able to figure it out and I still don’t want to know,” he continued, praising Radiohead for “their music, the quality and constant innovation, but equally for their innovations in how they release their work (that) completely changed the entire music business.”
“It’s a real honor that David Byrne has inducted us,” Selway said. “We borrowed our band name from him 30 years ago, and luckily for us, he hasn’t asked for it back yet.”
For the first time since 2011, the majority of Roxy Music gathered on stage to perform together and celebrate the band’s legacy. Bandleader Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay were in attendance at the ceremony, running through a set list of hits, including “Out of the Blue,” “Love Is the Drug,” “Avalon” and “Editions of You.”
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and John Taylor did the honors of inducting the English rockers, with Le Bon calling their music “a shock to the system, a psychedelic Sinatra crooning pop-art poetry over driving drums, saxophones and oboes, heavily treated electric guitars, and the most out-there synthesizer parts you’ve ever heard.”
“The musicians themselves were dressed outrageously, each one with an individual, well-defined look,” he continued. “Put it all together and what you got was pulp-science fiction.”
While Duran Duran has yet to be inducted into the Rock Hall, Le Bon demurred when asked about the inclusion of their new-wave peers The Cure in the 2019 class.
“The Rock Hall inducts seven acts a year, so there must be a very fine process of elimination to get there,” he said. “One does not presume to be inducted and if it does happen, you’re very grateful for it.”
Founding member Brian Eno, who hasn’t played with the band since 1973, did not appear with the band, nor did drummer Paul Thompson.
“Do I have time for one more? (Expletive) Stevie Nicks!” Cure frontman Robert Smith joked onstage toward the end of their set, referencing Nicks’ time-consuming show opener, before launching into the band’s enduring hit “Boys Don’t Cry.”
In one of the night’s most inspired inductor-inductee combinations of the night, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor spoke about how the ’80s pop innovators changed his life as a young listener, in the years “before the internet devalued our art form.”
“A lot of the darkness I felt in my head was coming back through the speakers, and it blew my mind,” he said, recalling hearing The Cure’s “The Head on the Door” album in college.
Reznor conceded that he’s not always a fan of awards shows, but for The Cure, he was more willing to travel to Barclays for their induction.
“In the past, I’ve been ambivalent about the existence of certain awards ceremonies,” Reznor said. “I’ve even said, among other things, ‘How can I take this awards ceremony seriously if they let in X, Y and Z, but they won’t even let in The Cure?’ Let’s just say, I’m never been so happy to eat my words.”
Smith was unfailingly polite during his short-and-sweet speech, telling the crowd that he’d “rather use our allocated time to play some music” instead.
“I’d like to thank all the fans, everyone who’s bought our records or listened or been to a show and just enjoyed what we do, it’s been fantastic,” he said. “We love you, too.”
Celebrating her much-deserved Rock Hall induction, Janet Jackson gave a speech brimming with love for her parents, siblings and young son, 2year-old Eissa Al Mana.
“He wakes me up every single morning singing his own little melodies,” she said. “He’s only 2, you guys. I want you to know that you are my heart, you are my life, and you have shown me the real meaning of unconditional love.”
Jackson didn’t reference her brother Michael Jackson directly in her speech, maintaining the silence she’s kept since the release of the controversial HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” about the alleged crimes against him. But she did mention “my family’s extraordinary impact on popular culture” in her speech, telling her brothers, “tonight, your baby sister has made it.”
Like Nicks, Janet Jackson also petitioned the Rock Hall to add more women to its ranks, telling the crowd, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please, in 2020, induct more women.”
Inducting Janet Jackson was fellow R&B revolutionary Janelle Monae, who said on stage that she had kept a photo of Jackson as her phone background “for seven years.”
“She is the queen of Black Girl Magic,” Monae said about Janet Jackson.
Following their bands’ inductions, members of The Zombies and Def Leppard emerged to perform the traditional all-star jam that has ended the show in previous years. Along with Zombies’ Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs and Steven Van Zandt (of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), Def Leppard also invited Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter on stage to sing the band’s 1972 feel-good crowd-pleaser “All the Young Dudes.”
Queen’s Brian May also lent his guitar skills to the jam session after inducting Def Leppard earlier, sharing his tips for rock-star longevity in his speech.
“Well, these guys did not get fat, they did not lose their hair and they did not split up, and they’re here tonight,” he joked.
“They kind of got attacked for making hit records,” he added about the band. “There was this feeling abroad in the press and in the media that that made them uncool. The fact that they made real songs that people can sing is why Def Leppard will be remembered in hearts and minds long after all of us.”
Hoffs delivered a poignant speech honoring The Zombies for their induction, telling the crowd: “Even when their music moves me with its poignancy to tears, it reminds me of what it is to be alive, to be human, and of the power of song and music to connect us all.”
Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, left, performs with Queen’s Brian May at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.