The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame returned to its wild, unpredictable roots with an unforgettable induction ceremony at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live that stretched deep into Friday morning.
Public Enemy's Flavor Flav offered a long and winding stream-of-consciousness acceptance speech, all under the watchful eye of Chuck D. who even tapped on Flav's trademark clock around his neck to try to get him to wrap it up. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson delivered his entire speech by repeating the word "blah" for several minutes while miming his thought process. And Oprah Winfrey, there to induct her friend Quincy Jones, threw her hands in the air and waved 'em like she just don't care during Public Enemy's set.
The 26th annual ceremony officially inducted Public Enemy, progressive rockers Rush, blues guitar wizard Albert King, disco queen Donna Summer, hard rockers Heart, singer-songwriter Randy Newman, producer Quincy Jones and manager Lou Adler into the Hall of Fame.
However, the night, which will be broadcast May 18 on HBO, was far more raucous than that - from Don Henley calling Newman's induction "shamefully overdue" to Foo Fighters Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins egging on the crowd, overwhelmingly filled with fans of Rush, by yelling the names of the band's albums in chronological order with growing intensity.
Chuck D. said that from his unique vantage point on the stage, he could see the crowd's bewildered reaction to Flavor Flav's speech, which bounced from promises to retire his clock necklace to explaining how Public Enemy was instrumental in getting the state of Arizona to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday.
"I was looking at 10,000 folks - a large percentage of them, wealthy white folk - looking astonished," Chuck D. said backstage.
While Public Enemy received the rare honor of being inducted into the Rock Hall in its first year of eligibility, the hall, which Henley called "this peculiar, perplexing organization," had Rush wait 14 years and Newman more than two decades. Newman and Henley teamed up to sing "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)" as a commentary on the wait, which Newman has borne graciously.
Rush drummer Neil Peart drew a huge ovation for his acceptance speech. "We've been saying for a long time this isn't a big deal," he said. "Turns out, it kind of is."
Usher provided a standout tribute to Quincy Jones by recreating Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" video. Jennifer Hudson delivered potent versions of Donna Summer's "Bad Girls" and "Last Dance," which she sang, at times, to Flavor Flav. To cap the evening of surprises, members of Public Enemy, Rush and Heart joined John Fogerty, Dave Grohl, Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and DMC for a thunderous version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads."
After all, as Chuck D. said in his acceptance speech, ""We all come from the damn blues. Let's not get it twisted."
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Rush jams into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rush fans can relax. The band is now officially in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Canadian rockers were welcomed into the musical fraternity at Thursday's 28th annual induction ceremony by the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. At the beginning of the Nokia Theatre event, the audience was already administering a standing ovation to the group.
"We've been saying for a long time that this wasn't a big deal," drummer-lyricist Neil Peart told the crowd, most of whom came out to specifically support the band. "It turns out, it kind of is."
Rush gained entry following its first appearance on the ballot after repeatedly being left off the list since gaining eligibility in 1998, to the great consternation of the legion of Rush fans who cried bias against progressive rock.
Rush was among this year's eight eclectic inductees, which also included fellow classic rockers Heart, singer-songwriter Randy Newman, rap group Public Enemy, disco queen Donna Summer, bluesman Albert King, and producers Quincy Jones and Lou Adler.
For Heart, entering the hall of fame isn't just about music.
"Our long and winding road has always been about the magical power of love and the enduring strength of family," said Nancy Wilson. "We came from an era when women normally did not rock and women were not expected to be leaders."
Wilson, her sister, Nancy, and their band mates celebrated their induction with lively performances of "Crazy for You," ''Dreamboat Annie" and "Barracuda."
Adler was inducted by comedy duo Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong before being serenaded by Carole King with "So Far Away." Jack Nicholson was among Adler's fans in the audience who lavished the producer-mogul a standing ovation.
With his guitar around his neck, John Mayer inducted the late King before joining Gary Clark Jr. for King-tinged jam session.
"Albert King is why guitar-face was invented," joked Mayer.
Newman - joined by Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and Tom Petty - kicked off the Los Angeles ceremony with a performance of his classic "I Love L.A." It was an appropriate song choice given the fact this year's event marks the first time since 1993 that the Cleveland institution has held its induction ceremony on the West Coast. Backstage, Newman was matter-of-fact about his inclusion.
"I didn't think it would happen until I died or something," he said.
Oprah Winfrey was on hand to welcome Jones into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Usher lauded the producer-mogul with a rendition of the Michael Jackson tune "Rock with You."
Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Summer with a medley of her hits, much to the delight of Flava Flav. The Public Enemy rapper, clad in an all-white tux, was the only person in the crowd who remained on his feet throughout her performance. He later commanded the microphone for a long-winded acceptance speech when Public Enemy was recognized. His colleague, Chuck D, was more succinct in his remarks.
"Let us all not forget, we all come from the damn blues," he told detractors.
Thursday's event concluded with all-star jam session featuring Rush, Heart, Chuck D, Grohl, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello and others riffing together on stage.
The induction ceremony will be broadcast May 18 on HBO.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.