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10 Unforgettable Moments From Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2016 Induction Ceremony
On Friday night (April 8) in Brooklyn's Barclays Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted six new artists into its ranks. The Class of 2016 saw pioneering hard rock band Deep Purple, bluesy-psychedelic hitmaker Steve Miller, jazz-indebted rock outfit Chicago, punchy pop-rock titans Cheap Trick, gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A and late songwriter/producer Bert Berns ("Hang On Sloopy"; "Under the Boardwalk"; "Here Comes the Night") enter the Rock Hall during its 31st annual ceremony.
While the show will make its TV debut April 30 on HBO, Billboard was on hand to witness the ceremony's most memorable moments, which veered from hilarious to explicit to heartfelt.
Here are 10 unforgettable moments from the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Bowie Tribute Opener
David Bowie's unexpected passing earlier this year has been acutely felt throughout nearly every musical subculture. His cross-generational and cross-genre impact was nodded to when the Rock Hall opened with David Byrne, the Roots and Kimbra covering Bowie's first No. 1 hit, the impossibly funky "Fame." By the way, Byrne gave Bowie's Rock Hall induction speech in 1996.
Chicago's Incredible, Explicit Acceptance Speech
Who would have thought that soft rock kings Chicago would deliver the more expletive-filled acceptance speech of the night? Aside from a healthy number of f-bombs used as adjectives, drummer Danny Seraphine spoke of how the group "lived together, cried together, fought together and f---ed together." Then, as if he had shocked even himself, he added, "Did I really say that?" Chicago, incidentally, was absolutely blistering and instrumentally astounding while delivering their early hit "25 or 6 to 4," reminding people they can tear up a stage just as well as sing a radio-friendly ballad. During his introduction to them, Rob Thomas noted that many critics see Chicago as a "mom's band" these days, but added, "If your mom listens to Chicago, I want to party with your mom."
Steve Miller Calls for More Women in Rock Hall of Fame
Steve Miller might be perceived as a feel-good '70s hitmaker, but he was the most prickly inductee toward the Rock Hall this year. Early in his acceptance speech, he looked back on his days as a "freedom rider and war protester" as a student at Midwestern liberal bastion UW-Madison, and before he wrapped, he proved that spirit of activism hasn't entirely died with a challenge to the Rock Hall. "I encourage you to keep expanding your vision, to be more inclusive to women ... and more transparent to the public ... And most importantly, to support music in our schools."
N.W.A Defends Hip-Hop's Presence in the Rock Hall
Many people have kvetched over the years about rappers getting into the Rock Hall of Fame -- along with sciatica, it's a popular topic for Old White Dudes to complain about. So while accepting the honor, Ice Cube delivered a measured, convincing argument for its inclusion: "Rock 'n' roll is not an instrument. It's not even a style of music. It's a spirit that's been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop. Rock 'n' roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and life. That is rock 'n' roll and that is us."
Lars Ulrich's Love Letter to Deep Purple
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich introduced Deep Purple to the Rock Hall wearing, naturally, a deep purple-hued velvet jacket. Calling the band "a beautiful contradiction," Ulrich noted the impact seeing them "on a cold, cold night in Copenhagen" had on him in 1973. He called out those who "might mistake them for a one-hit wonder," which was a pointed riposte to the Rock Hall voting committee, who, according to Purple's Ian Gillian, had kept them out for years because they simply viewed them as the band behind "Smoke on the Water." But for Ulrich, and countless metalheads, Deep Purple were "equals for songwriting, recordings and accomplishments" alongside Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. At the very least, Ulrich's passionate please for Purple should inspire new fans to dig deeper into the band's catalog.
Kendrick Lamar Uses Teleprompter as a Jumping Off Point
Not everyone who took the mic at the 2016 Rock Hall read from a teleprompter, but most speaking at length used it. Like a true freestyle master, Kendrick Lamar -- unlike everyone else reading from the screen at the back of the room -- used his teleprompter as a guide, frequently veering off into heartfelt diversions and riffing on the pre-written speech. While some might be able to freestyle endlessly to a beat but clam up when speaking in public, Lamar can deliver a partially off-the-cuff speech without breaking a sweat. During his speech, Dr. Dre said, "There's not a doubt in my mind he'll be on this stage one day in the future being inducted," and we'd have to agree with that prediction.
Tom Hanks Continues to Be a Great Guy
While there was plenty of rock star power on hand at the Friday night ceremony, cameras raises and pulses quickened when actor Tom Hanks entered the arena to take his seat. He was purely there as a spectator, but gamely stopped to pose for pictures with fans and even shoot the shit with one table. When he finally sat down, he shared a table with iHeartMedia exec John Sykes.
Glenn Frey Honored by Sheryl Crow & Grace Potter
The second tribute performance of the night was to Eagles' Glenn Frey with a cover of one of his most recognizable lead vocals on an Eagles track, "New Kid in Town." Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter traded vocals and guitar licks on the affecting Hotel California single, a No. 1 Hot 100 hit.
Cheap Trick Gets Laughs, and Not Cheap Ones
Ever the showman, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen couldn't get on stage without making a few off-the-cuff quips. Prior to the finale, Nielsen joked he was "a little pissed off" at N.W.A for not joining them on a collaboration. "I wanted to do a song with those guys and we'd be cool like Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C." He also called out Rob Thomas amidst the sea of gray and dyed hair on stage that night -- "Rob, you look too healthy to be around here."
Typically the Rock Hall wraps with a massive group jam session to a widely known and beloved song from one of that year's inductees. So the decision to wrap the 2016 edition with a cover of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame," rendered in the arrangement from Cheap Trick's classic live album At Budokan, was curious. It left many in the crowd scratching their heads for the first two minutes of the finale jam, and it didn't help that Sheryl Crow's mic wasn't working for most of her verse. But eventually the raw power of rock 'n' roll won the crowd over: David Coverdale wailed it up while delivering his verse, Steven Van Zandt pitched in, Steve Miller played guitar behind his head and Chicago's horns added a mighty punch. It wasn't the crowd-pleaser many expected, but hey, this is rock 'n' roll. It's supposed to surprise you.