By CAROLINE R. MERK
The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions were replete with epic moments, memories, and music.
Sounding as good as they did 25 years ago, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts jump-started the show with a rousing set. Watching Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, two of rock’s most famous living legends, share the stage – wow! Ringo said he was lucky to be inducted in Cleveland and related that when he was a kid in Liverpool, he listened to a weekly radio broadcast, via Luxembourg, of Alan Freed’s program from Cleveland. (Alan Freed was the Cleveland DJ who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”). Soul legend, Bill Withers said he, “brought a wonder and a legend,” referring to Stevie Wonder and John Legend, who teamed up to sing some of his hits. John Mayer spoke eloquently about his idol, the late legendary blues man, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and then nailed a set of his music. Patti Smith waxed poetic about her friend, the late great Lou Reed. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, gave heartfelt speeches filled with gratitude, then played like the bad boys of yore. Another musical high point was the excellent tribute to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band performed by Tom Morello, Jason Ricci and Zac Brown.
The roster of this year’s inductees, and their presenters, is as follows: Bill Withers inducted by Stevie Wonder; Lou Reed inducted by Patti Smith; Ringo Starr inducted by Paul McCartney; the Paul Butterfield Blues Band inducted by Peter Wolf; Green Day inducted by Fall Out Boy; Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble inducted by John Mayer; and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts inducted by Miley Cyrus. The “5” Royales finally got their due, inducted posthumously in the category of “Early Influence,” by Steve Cropper.
People-watching on the red carpet was amazing. An ebullient Ringo Starr, with his beautiful, former Bond-girl wife, Barbara Bach, flashed peace signs. They were accompanied by Joe Walsh and his wife, Marjorie, who is Barbara’s equally lovely sister. John Legend was classy and professional. The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, happily mugged for the cameras. Texas singer/songwriter, Doyle Bramhall II, brought his girlfriend, Renee Zellwegger, who was unrecognizable behind the dark glasses. Some things don’t change … E Street’s Stevie Van Zandt wore his trademark bandana and Yoko Ono came in a white top hat. Beck and Billie Joe Armstrong were among the few stars that made their way over to the fans. Thanks guys.
Public Auditorium was filled to capacity for the five-hour show. More than 1,000 people were on the main floor/VIP seating, along with the rock stars. The auditorium sold out with 6,000 fans, as it has for each of the prior inductions. An additional 1,100 people attended the sold-out simulcast party at the Rock Hall. According to Carl Harp, the Rock Hall’s communications coordinator, the weekend generated $15 million in local economic impact.
We owe former Rock Hall CEO, Terry Stewart, a debt of gratitude for negotiating to hold the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions in Cleveland every three years. The week of concerts and special events leading up to inductions, and the actual night of the ceremony, puts us in the international spotlight, and injects the city with a huge dose of excitement and pride. Can’t wait for the next one in 2018! STORY BY CAROLINE R. MERK/PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT MULLER