It was a night of nostalgia, with an emphasis on ‘better late than never,’ as rockers from Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits and the Moody Blues braved the wet cold of Cleveland on Saturday in the 33rd class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Guitarist Richie Sambora reunited with front man Jon Bon Jovi on stage as the group that got its start in New Jersey in the early 1980s played stadium-hits “Shot Through The Heart,” “It’s My Life” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” to cheering fans.
The set followed a rather R-rated introduction by radio personality Howard Stern, who bemoaned how long it took for the band that sold more than 130 million albums to be inducted.
“The bubonic plague only killed 50 million people,” Stern said. “That’s peanuts compared to the more than 130 million albums.”
“They are finally getting their due, and it is about time.”
Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes echoed the theme when thanking the fans of the band formed in Boston in the late 1970s.
“I know that some of you voted for us every single day,” Hawkes told the crowd. “Not just this year, but the two previous years that we didn’t get in,” he joked.
Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first recording and inductees are voted on by music fans and 900 music industry experts.
The rock-heavy 2018 list marks a return to the roots of the U.S. Hall of Fame, which for the past two years has broadened its base to include rap artists such as the late Tupac Shakur and N.W.A.
The evening performances included tributes to musicians who died in 2017, with the Killers performing Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and “Free Falling” and Ann Wilson of Heart and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains paying tribute to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell with the artist’s 1994 hit “Black Hole Sun”.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone were inducted posthumously. Tharpe, dubbed the “Godmother of Rock and Roll,” and known for her finger picking guitar technique, is said to have influenced the likes of Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry.
“It’s terrific that Tharpe is inducted this year,” said Greg Harris, the chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “She influenced the influencers.”
Singer-songwriter and civil rights activist Nina Simone, who died in 2003 aged 70, was inducted by Mary J Blige, who called the unique performer “the High Priestess of Soul,” adding that she “could sing anything” but that “everything she sang she made her own.” The 2017 induction ceremony will be broadcast on cable channel HBO on May 5.