Rock Hall Class Of 2017 Inductions Were A Thug's Dream [Recap]
Photos taken by Kevin Kane / WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Last night, your favorite neighborhood managing editor was able to witness history as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions took place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The 2017 class included certified G’s (Tupac Shakur), impactful songwriters (Nile Rodgers, Jeff Lynne) and socially conscious rockers (Pearl Jam) to name a few. The multi-hour event marked the 32nd ceremony in the Rock Hall’s history, marking only the second time it has left the 216 for “greener” pastures in the 22 years it has been in Cleveland.
With the continued mission of “engaging, teaching and inspiring through the power of rock and roll,” Jann Wenner kicked off the festivities by paying tribute to one of main architects of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, who passed away at the age of 90. Electric Light Orchestra paid tribute to “Johnny B. Goode” guitar legend by going through some of his most notable hits before transitioning into their own work such as “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky”. The Brooklyn Barclays crowd was wholly into the night’s festivities as hoots and hollers rained down on those from eager fans.
“No one would be in this room without Chuck Berry,” Jann Wenner said prior to the performance kicking off. “He laid down the law and he understood teenagers better than themselves.” In a video playback of remembrance to Chuck, fellow legends such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards all saluted and shared their most fondest memories of Chuck Berry. Once ELO took us into their stratosphere with otherworldly sounds, the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions were on the way. Aside from two of my favorite songs (“Evil Woman,” “Mr. Blue Sky”) were being played in pristine fashion, the ELO proved that after 50 years they were still different and impossible to recreate.
Joan Baez, a folk hero and a legend to the Civil Rights Movement, was next to be inducted. A look at her career from when she started performing at 19 at coffee houses to becoming a singing-songwriting partner with Bob Dylan to engaging in non-violent protests for the past 45 years framed Joan as an activist connected to the struggle in a major way. Albeit now armed with gray hair, Joan’s ferocity has yet to waver. She told an interesting story about how the young people don’t know her anymore, “My granddaughter doesn’t know about me,” she said. “I took her to see Taylor Swift, and she left with an autograph, a photo and a newfound respect for her grandmother.” You couldn’t deny the immense effect that Joan Baez had on real, down home, rooted to the soil music.
I only knew one song from Yes, but it goes without saying that keyboardist Geoffrey “Geoff” Downes carried the night’s humor excellently. From making jokes about his prostate doctor having an erection to how his mother didn’t want him to even become a musician, Downes charisma helped to make the night a rousing success.
The moment I had been waiting for was the induction of Tupac Amaru Shakur. Taken from us too soon, most hip-hop fans have deified the former Death Row artist, which was a point of contention for his friend and presenter, Snoop Dogg. Choosing to focus on the humanity of ‘Pac, Snoop shared memories never before told about his former labelmate. “Imagine me, ‘Pac and Suge in South America, parasailing,” Snoop said as the crowd erupted in laughter. “We [‘Pac + Snoop] were so scared, we damn near holding hands.” The passionate poet who “helped to expand the political and powerful voice of hip-hop,” according to Jann Wenner, was called the “greatest rapper of all time” by Snoop—and rightfully so.
— All Eyez On Me (@alleyezmovie) April 8, 2017
“We had no peers except for one another. He wore his humanity like a badge of honor. Tupac Shakur will forever be known as a strong black man that stood for his,” Snoop said to thousands in attendance at Barclays Center. The tribute, to be honest, at the beginning left me a bit confused. Alicia Keys came out first. She performed some of his hits, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,” “Ambitionz Az A Ridah,” and more on her piano. But all the while I was thinking, “Where’s Shock G? Where’s Spice 1? Where are his for real, for real homies?” I would soon have my answer as Snoop Dogg returned to the stage, accompanied by YG as they performed “2 of Amerika’s Most Wanted” in grand fashion. Afterwards, T.I. came out, dressed in ‘Pac’s signature bowtie bandana and leather corset, and performed “Keep Ya Head Up”.
Treach from Naughty By Nature came out and performed “Hail Mary,” marking one of the few times an actual friend (outside of Snoop) from ‘Pac’s life was there to honor him. Once the performance concluded, Snoop and T.I. came down to the press room for photos, but didn’t stay for the questions.
To round out the rest of the night, we were treated to speeches and performances by Journey and Pearl Jam. David Letterman came through with the epic beard gang to salute his friend, Eddie Vedder, and the group Pearl Jam. It was disappointing that Steve Perry didn’t join his group to sing at least “Don’t Stop Believing,” but spirits were surely emotional hearing Letterman talk about a kind thing Eddie did for his son. When it came time to honor one of the master funkateers, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell had everyone in awe as he talked about how Rodgers’ music would be worth $3 billion today. “It was freedom, exuberance and it was awesome [working with Nile]. Spiritually, he has been in the studio with me for 25 years. He has taught me the value of being one, of sacrificing yourself for the song. Nile has dedicated his life to love,” Pharrell said.
— Stephanie Frederic (@stepfredla) April 8, 2017
All in all, whether it was seeing Lenny Kravitz paying tribute to Prince with a funky rendition of “When Doves Cry” or “the heart of San Francisco music,” Journey making sure we all don’t stop believing — you’ll just have to watch it all unfold when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony airs on HBO on April 29.