The Glorious Corner: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards, Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson’s Family Trouble, David Letterman, and More

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G.H. Harding 


From Billboard: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2017 on Friday (April 7) night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Folk icon and social justice activist Joan Baez, string-augmented rock hitmakers Electric Light Orchestra, arena rock titans Journey, grunge pioneers Pearl Jam, West Coast rap god Tupac and prog-rock progenitors Yes all entered the Hall’s ranks. Additionally, disco pioneer and super producer Nile Rodgers received the Award for Musical Excellence.

The show will air on HBO on April 29, but Billboard was on hand during the April 7 ceremony to witness everything from a roaring Chuck Berry tribute to a slew of surprise guests paying homage to Tupac to Eddie Vedder shouting out Chance the Rapper. 

Here are the unforgettable moments from the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

ELO’s Chuck Berry Tribute

Considering Chuck Berry is the single most important figure in rock history, it makes sense that the first Rock Hall ceremony following his death would open with an homage to the rock n’ roll architect. ELO took the charge, delivering their cheeky cover of “Roll Over Beethoven.” Opening with the strings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, the band quickly kicked their classical leanings to the side for a ripping run-through of the sneering rock classic.

Dhani Harrison — whose late father George was a close friend and bandmate of Jeff Lynne’s — gave the induction speech for Electric Light Orchestra. Harrison shared the story of attending an ELO concert at age 7 where his father unexpectedly joined the band onstage. “Out of nowhere they all kicked into ‘Johnny B. Goode’ like Back To the Future,” he recalled. While the idea of George Harrison performing with Jeff Lynne might not seem like a surprise, what happened next was: the big screen behind Dhani miraculously cut to Michael J. Fox sitting in the audience. The Barclays Center went insane, clapping and hooting with as much fervor as they gave to the inductees as Fox waved and politely tried to ignore the attention. Hey, it’s deserved: Marty basically invented rock n’ roll.

Baez Offers an Olive Branch to Trump

Joan Baez was the sharpest of the Rock Hall inductees, singing about deportees and talking social activism as well as joking about her age and the likelihood that a good portion of the Barclays Center — mainly there for Pearl Jam and Journey by the sound of applause each band received — didn’t know who she was. “I’m aware I’m speaking to many young people who, without this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, would have no clue who I am. My granddaughter had no idea who I was until I took her backstage to a Taylor Swift concert,” she quipped. Prior to bringing Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter out for two gorgeously harmonized performances, Baez did “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” solo, and offered a generous shout-out to the night’s implicit villain: “I saw a band of angels, and they were coming to carry you, me, us, even Donald, home.” 

Yes Jams With Rush’s Geddy Lee 

After Geddy Lee helped “right a wrong” by inducting Yes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rush bassist joined his prog-rock heroes onstage for a crushingly loud run-through of “Roundabout.” Speaking backstage about it, Lee said, “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck it up. They are without question my favorite band.” He did, however, point out it was “bittersweet” to take over for late Yes bassist Chris Squire, who passed away in 2015 and didn’t live to see his band recognized. He did Squire justice, though: Lee and Yes (with Jon Anderson back on vocals for the first time since 2004) rocked with more precision than any other performer that nighTupac’s All-Star Tribute

As the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony kicked off, the big question was “who will perform the tribute to the late Tupac?” Well, the Rock Hall made a lovely, inspired choice by having East Coast R&B balladeer Alicia Keys honor the late West Coast rap god with a medley of snippets of ‘Pac songs (including “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” and “Ambitionz As a Ridah”) while effortlessly riffing on the piano, talking about her love for the man and his music. Standing up from the ivories, she belted “Changes” as the audience sang-along. Then, things got loud. Snoop Dogg and YG performed “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” Treach from Naughty by Nature did “Hail Mary,” and T.I. – decked out in Tupac’s signature bowtie bandanna AND a leather corset — gave an affecting cover of “Keep Ya Head Up” that was clearly very meaningful for him.

Steve Perry & Journey

Even though Journey’s classic vocalist Steve Perry didn’t reunite with the band during their Rock Hall performance (to the dismay of hopeful fans), he did offer up a touching speech, giving props to the R&B band he played in during high school, former bandmate Neal Schon’s magic fingers, his lawyer and more. And obviously, when “Don’t Stop Believin'” started, the Barclays Center lost it.

Nile Rodgers Tears Up  

Pharrell was glowing with pride while introducing Nile Rodgers during the Rock Hall ceremony, but Rodgers — ever the self-effacing Genius Behind the Curtains — was gracious and direct during his acceptance speech, even choking up at one point. He explained how after finishing an album with an artist, their name is on the LP in big letters while his is in teeny-tiny letters. “My name doesn’t mean shit. This award is amazing to me because of all the people who have allowed me to join their lives and their bands.”

Lenny Kravitz Covers Prince

Prince died not long after the 2016 Rock Hall ceremony, so this year’s edition featured Lenny Kravitz and a full gospel choir performing a swamp-funk take on “When Doves Cry” in tribute. Covering Prince is a difficult proposition, and his take on the Purple Rain classic didn’t entirely land. What came next, however, was remarkable: A cover of the Sign O’ the Times classic “The Cross” that allowed Kravtiz, the singers and his backing band ample time to build the slow-burning rocker to an incendiary climax. For covering Prince, notching one whiff and a homerun is a pretty impressive score.

David Letterman Roasts Ticketmaster

Considering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame attracts a fair share of industry attention, it was pretty hilarious that David Letterman — who introduced Pearl Jam after Neil Young bowed out due to illness — roasted Ticketmaster,  who Pearl Jam famously accused of charging too much for tickets during the mid ’90s. Letterman’s take on that part of rock history: “Pearl Jam stood up to that beady-eyed, bloodsucking corporation Ticketmaster… And I’m happy to say, because they stood up to them, every concert ticket in America today is free.”

Prior to absolutely destroying the stage with Pearl Jam (who brought back Ten drummer Dave Krusen for his first PJ appearance in 25 years), the perpetually woke Eddie Vedder made a plea for people not to close their eyes and pretend we’re not facing an impending hellscape of a planet within the next century. “Here we are in this modern technology age, and we’ve got a lot of evolving to do. Climate change is real — this is not fake news,” he said. “We cannot be the generation history looks back on and thinks ‘why did they not do everything humanly possible to solve this biggest of problems?’ Anything can be attainable — the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. I use that analogy because it can be done, but we don’t have 108 years.”

All-Star Finale

As per Rock Hall tradition, an assortment of Class of 2017 inductees — members of Pearl Jam, Journey, Yes and 2013 inductee Geddy Lee of Rush — closed the night with an all-star jam session. Instead of performing one of their songs, however, they covered Neil Young’s iconic “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a searing political anthem that feels as relevant now as ever. As the guitarists plowed away on the finale, a sweaty Eddie did a well-deserved victory lap around the stage and the night came to a close.

I HEART HEART —And, now, certainly the saddest story of the year:  Ann Wilson believes that only counseling can secure the future of Heart after the singer and her guitarist sister Nancy fell out over a family assault drama.

Ann’s husband, Dean Wetter, was arrested for physically attacking Nancy’s children while the siblings were performing a show together in Auburn, Wash., last August. The incident is reported to have occurred after one of the kids left a tour bus door open, meaning a pet dog could have escaped — which threw Wetter into a rage. He was detained after police were called. 

The sisters’ relationship deteriorated to the extent that Ann called the last 20 shows of the tour “hell,” while Nancy described them as “excruciating” – and the pair used separate dressing rooms for the first time since they began working together in the 60’s. Since then, Ann has launched a solo tour while Nancy has formed a new band, Roadcase Royale. The Wilsons are said to have only communicated via text.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a temporary hiatus,” Ann told Rolling Stone. “I would say it’s a hiatus. We don’t need that little qualification in there. When I came offstage and Dean told me what happened, the first thing he said was, ‘Go onto Nancy’s bus and clear the way, because I want to apologize.’ I went over, and everyone in the Heart camp was sitting around. They wouldn’t listen. I know him and I know he was really provoked. It was wrong of him to get into it, but he’s a person of extremely high moral fiber. It was just totally unfortunate all round.”

Wetter pleaded guilty to two non-felony assault charges last month, and a deal means he won’t face prison time when he’s sentenced on April 14. Pointing out that parents have an obligation to inform police about assault situations, Nancy said, “I don’t think it was cool of her to try to cover for him. I thought, if he was an adult, he would face it and try to explain the behavior. But that’s never happened.”

She added that she found Wetter “hard to know” in the two years since his marriage to Ann. “He’s one of those crank pots – he’ll kind of mouth off about kids,” she said. “He’s a guy that had some issues that really came between me and wanting to see him anytime soon.”

“He’s a different animal from anyone else who’s ever come into our family,” Ann countered. “She never really understood him. He was demonized before we got married because he’s a free spirit. He’s completely blunt, honest and open. People take it personally.”

The incident seems to have brought an underlying career dispute to the surface. Ann admitted that she and Nancy “no longer had a shared vision” for Heart over the past several years ago. “We didn’t want to see ourselves as an old, has-been legacy band, just going out again and again,” she said. “I saw that happening more and more. She has a vision of playing the same old meat-and-potatoes set in Europe. It can just go on forever.”

The singer said she wanted to avoid becoming “a static thing that’s going to ride into obscurity without at least trying to evolve.” Ann added, “I don’t mean to say she’s wrong. We just differ, that’s all.”

It seems that the door isn’t locked against a reunion, with Nancy insisting she was “really happy” for her sister if she’s in a good marriage. “It’s been more negative than it needed to be, but I’m willing and ready to get back into a dialogue, with Ann in particular, about if we’ve still got Heart. I just know in my gut that me and Ann are going to be fine.”

“I do see a positive way forward, and that’s our friendship,” Ann said. “Nancy and I didn’t do this thing. Nobody in this situation is evil. Nancy and I love each other. We want to be friends. My side really hurt her side, her side really hurt my side. We’ve got to let those heal, and get some counseling.”

I really don’t know what to say, other than the incident quite clearly open up old wounds. I saw Heart, for the first time, last summer (with Cheap Trick and Joan Jett) and it was just a magical night. They were better than I had thought possible. If this really does bring Heart to an official end, that’s damn shame.

SHORT TAKES — Producer Tony Moran interviewed by L. A.’s Music Connection (Producer’s Crosstalk) tomorrow. He’s there prepping the release of “My Fire” from Kimberly Davis (featuring Nile Rodgers on the track) … John Geils, the guitarist and namesake of the J. Geils Band, has died. He was 71. Boston’s WCVB says that he was found dead in his home in Groton, Mass., where he had lived for 35 years. As of now, the cause of death is unknown. The station’s Kathy Curran tweeted that police responded to a call to check on his well being. They do not suspect foul play. Peter Wolf, the lead singer of the band from 1967-83, and during their reunion tours, posted on Facebook, “‘Thinking of all the times we kicked it high and rocked down the house! R.I.P. Jay Geils’ PW.”

Born John Warren Geils Jr. in New York City on  Feb. 20, 1946, he began playing jazz trumpet, but eventually switched to blues guitar. He formed an acoustic blues trio, Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels, with bassist Danny Klein and
harmonica player Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz, while studying mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the mid-60’s. They soon moved to Boston, where they added drummer Stephen Jo Bladd and singer Peter Wolf, who was a DJ on WBCN and changed their name to the J. Geils Band. The arrival of keyboardist Seth Justman in 1968 rounded out the lineup, and they were signed to Atlantic in 1970, with their self-titled debut coming later that year. Like many bands of the day, they originally had trouble breaking through to the masses despite great reviews and an energetic live show. But it eventually paid off, finding the Top 40 three times in the next few years with “Looking for a Love,” “Give It to Me” and “Must of Got Lost.”A commercial lull followed, but they rebounded in 1980 by modernizing their sound on the albums Love Stinks  and 1981’s Freeze-Frame topped the charts on the strength of the No. 1 single “Centerfold” and the title track, which reached No. 4. Wolf left for a solo career in 1983, and the group broke up after the Justman-fronted You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd. From there, Geils turned to another
love: cars. He founded KTR Motorsports, where he restored vintage European sports cars. But a reunion of the original lineup, minus Bladd, followed in 1999. Although they never recorded again, they toured a handful of times over the next 15 years. However, by 2012, relations between Geils and the other four had soured over the rights to the name, and Wolf, Justman, Salwitz and Klein announced a tour, aided by additional musicians, using their band’s name, which resulted in a lawsuit from Geils. The group, again with Geils, toured most recently in 2014-15, where they headlined clubs and served as Bob Seger‘s opening act. RIP.

Till next time…Leave your comments below.

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