The first-ever virtual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was broadcast on HBO on Saturday night (November 7th), marking the first time the Rock Hall has inducted its members online. In lieu of actual performances, each inductee was saluted by a primary inductor, a montage of vintage footage, with testimonials filling in their story by spotlighting their career and artistic highlights.
The 2020 Rock Hall class included the Doobie Brothers, T. Rex, Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and the Notorious B.I.G. Jon Landau — Bruce Springsteen's manager and producer, along with music mogul and Eagles manager Irving Azoff, both received the Ahmet Ertegun Award. The annual “in memoriam” section featured an expanded tribute to the late-Eddie Van Halen.
Among those appearing were such heavyweights as Ringo Starr, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Alicia Keyes, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Luke Bryan, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Charlize Theron, Judd Apatow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brad Paisley, St. Vincent, and Gwen Stefani.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
The Doobie Brothers were finally inducted after being passed over every year since first becoming eligible 25 years ago. The members of the band tapped for induction were Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald, John McFee, Tiran Porter, John Hartman, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter — along with posthumous drummers Keith Knudsen and Michael Hossack.
Guitarist Tom Johnston took time out to look back at the band's early days playing in biker clubs in Northern California: “It's been quite a ride from playing clubs in San Jose to recording music that we loved — then playing for people in venues all over the world. It seems unreal, but it's been quite a trip and we aren't done yet. My deepest thanks to the Doobie Brothers' family and all the members over the years who have been part of this journey. It's always been about our love of music, and because of the band's success, we now celebrate this induction.”
Michael McDonald, who breathed new life into the band upon joining the Doobies in 1976, spoke about his love and appreciation for his bandmates: “I wish to thank, first of all, the guys who I accept this award with tonight for their years of friendship and the privilege of allowing me to be a member of the Doobie Brothers. I'd also like to that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this great honor. I'd like to thank the fans for their continuous support over the years. Being a Doobie Brother represents some of the best years of my life, so being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with these guys, makes it all the more special for me.”
Pat Simmons who stands as the sole member of the Doobies to perform in every incarnation of the band, made sure all the key players in the group's assorted lineups got a proper shout out: “I want to thank all the Doobie Brothers past and present — especially Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, John McFee, Michael Hossack, John Hartman, Keith Knudsen, Triran Porter, Bobby LaKind, and Jeff Baxter. It's truly been an honor to be part of this great band and of amazingly talented musicians and wonderful friends. We have the greatest road crew in rock n' roll — thanks guys, and our incredible fans who got us here and stuck with us over 50 years. We owe you so much.”
The classic lineup of T. Rex was inducted, featuring leader Marc Bolan, drummer Bill Legend, and his late-bandmates percussionist Micky Finn, and bassist Steve Currie.
Ringo Starr, a close friend and collaborator of Marc Bolan's, directed the classic 1972 T. Rex movie, Born To Boogie — and even based his second solo hit, 1972's classic “Back Off Boogaloo” on a phrase Bolan used to toss around. Nearly 50 years after first working together, Ringo ushered Bolan — perhaps glam's greatest star — into the Hall of Fame: “My good friend, Marc Bolan. People knew him as a great musician, a songwriter, a guitarist — but he was also a poet. And he was very proud of that, he was always telling me that — he was the number one selling poet in Britain. In fact, his poetry was as important to him as his music. He had great style and was really unlike anyone else I have ever met. He was a great performer — just incredible. We lost him way too young, but in his short life, he made over 12 albums that are as far out, and ahead of their time as he was.”
Bolan's only child, Roland Bolan, who in 1977, was just days away from his second birthday when his father was killed in a car crash, accepted the honor for Marc and T. Rex: “He was taken away from all of us so early in his life. I discovered his music, pretty much the same way you have — through my eyes and ears. When I was a kid watching MTV, Def Leppard's 'Rocket' video came on and had clips of T. Rex's performance of 'Get It On.' That was my daily hello to my father. When I saw G N'R and Slash was wearing his Slider t-shirt, and looking just like my dad, I had to check out The Slider album, and discover the T. Rex sound for myself.”
NINE INCH NAILS
Iggy Pop, a longtime friend of Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor, spoke about some of the boundaries Reznor's music broke — and the connections to be found within the sounds he and the group created: “Listening to Nine Inch Nails’ music, which is so often called 'industrial,' I actually hear a lot of funk. Just listen to 'Closer,' and the foundation could be Stevie Wonder or George Clinton. But on top of that is a focused and relentless process of emotional destruction, which paints a portrait of pain, pressure, and dissatisfaction. It’s the soundtrack to the dark and lonely party that was beginning to play out in America at that period.”
Trent Reznor accepted on behalf of Nine Inch Mails and touched on the relationship between the creator and their audience: “As I’ve been wrapping my head around Nine Inch Nails being welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think I was most looking forward to the ceremony itself where hopefully the whole camp, past and present, was going to get together and have a moment — and we’re all stuck in our little boxes staring at our screens. Even now, music’s always been the thing that keeps me going, and, as an artist, I think the most significant accomplishment, or feeling, is realizing something you’ve created from a fragile and intimate place has reached out, resonated, and affected someone else, possibly changing how they see the world.”
Among the more interesting Depeche Mode fans taking about the band prior to the band's acceptance speeches was none other than Texas blues legend, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons: “All you need to do is put the needle in the groove and the let the. . . let the music speak for itself. They've done a wonderful job seeing things that we may not have seen before and listening to things that we had yet to hear.”
Frontman Dave Gahan spoke about the importance music has played in the lives of both the band and its audience: “We've been doing this most of our adult lives. 'Guess we were 18, 19 when we started doing this. Growing up, listening to music on the radio and having music to listen. . . It really, kind of, helped us to feel normal and feel part of something. Y'know, and that's what music does for people, and I think that's what Depeche Mode has done for many people. Music really brings people together and God knows we need that more today, than, it seems, any other time (laughs).”
Alicia Keys spoke lovingly of her friend and hero Whitney Houston: “We were kindred spirits and instant sisters. We did work together on 'Million Dollar Bill,' the song I wrote for her album, I Look To You. We laughed so much that I figured we'd never be able to finish the song. We called each other 'Mima,' and I got to talk to her, be in her beautiful company, and love her.”
Whitney's sister-in-law and longtime manager, Pat Houston, revealed that being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had been a wish of Whitney's for years: “This is something that Whitney always wanted. I remember in 2009, we were in London and Whitney looked at me and she said, 'This is really special — but there's only one thing missing; I've got to get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (laughter).' This moment right now, proves it all, that there's only one matchless Whitney Houston, and tonight, she would be very proud and honored to receive this award.”
THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
CJ Wallace, the son of The Notorious B.I.G., who accepted the award on the family's behalf with his sister Tyanna, saluted his father's groundbreaking legacy: “Our father was one of the founding fathers of hip hop. He helped revolutionize what was a young art form for the black community and the world. I'm honored to share his name and his dedication to black music, creativity, self-expression, and black freedom.”
Don Henley explained the importance of Eagles manager and music mogul Irving Azoff — who all but invented the modern musical industry: “I think we taught him about the dynamic in a band. He'd managed solo artists like (Dan) Fogelberg and (Joe) Walsh — but not a band, like the Eagles, where there were a lot of chiefs and no Indians. He has been instrumental in bringing in a new order, in terms of recording contracts, in terms of management, in terms of copyright, in terms of artists' rights. I don't there's anybody in the music business who's made more of a difference over as long a span of time as Irving Azoff.”
Irving Azoff used his speech to offer up important lessons to the younger generation coming up in the industry: “If you are a new artist or executive watching this today and I can give you any advice — it's be brave; own as much as you can; depend on no one but yourselves; protect intellectual property at all costs; take the long road; fear nothing and no one. I promise you it will pay off.”
Bruce Springsteen inducted his manager and producer Jon Landau, who helped him conceptualize and deliver his work in a way that stayed true from top till tail going on a half-century now: “There was an innate, sort of intellectualism that was always part of the music we were working on. Thinking about what rock n' roll meant; its place in society — our place in maturing. As a writer, Jon was in the forefront. As a producer — critical. And he created a management style based around not just a business, but nurturing the highest artistic goals — along with personal growth. No one did that before Jon Landau and I don't think any one's done it as well since.”
Jon Landau, who first made his bones as a rock critic for Crawdaddy and then as an editor at Rolling Stone, spoke about the decision to devote his life to the creative “cause” of Bruce Springsteen: “On May 9th, 1974 I went to a concert at the Harvard Square Theatre, and I was so overwhelmed by the performance that I went home after the show and wrote those words that I'm still so proud of: 'I've seen rock n' roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.' That night I decided that I would somehow find a way to work with Bruce on his music and career. And so I did. For the next 45 years as his manager, co-producer, and most importantly as a partner and a friend who loves him deeply.”
EDDIE VAN HALEN TRIBUTE
A special Eddie Van Halen tribute featured testimonials from such guitar icons as Slash, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, and Tom Morello. Morello underscored the importance of Van Halen's technique and the importance of his fretwork for every player that came of age in his wake: “Eddie Van Halen was the Mozart of our generation. He had the kind of talent that, maybe, comes around once a century. Eddie Van Halen inspired me to practice 20,000 hours to try and get 100 miles of his mastery of the electric guitar.”
RRHOF Tom Morello :
RRHOF Trent Reznor :
RRHOF Tom Johnston :
RRHOF Rolan Bolan :
RRHOF Ringo Starr :
RRHOF Iggy Pop :
RRHOF Irving Azoff :
RRHOF Jon Landau :
RRHOF Pat Houston :
RRHOF Pat Simmons :
RRHOF Michael McDonald :
RRHOF Dave Gahan :
RRHOF Bruce Springsteen :
RRHOF Don Henley :
RRHOF CJ Wallace :
RRHOF Billy Gibbons :
RRHOF Alicia Keys :