In years past, there were always a few things you could count on at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: some salty induction speeches (like Madonna’s last year ), bands awkwardly reuniting with members past and trying to make nice but not performing together (as Van Halen did when they were inducted ) and others who gladly performed but refused to make nice (as when Blondie were inducted into the Hall in 2006).
This year’s ceremony — which takes place on Saturday night near the actual Rock Hall in Cleveland for the first time in more than a decade — promises a little bit of all three scenarios as the Hall welcomes such icons as Metallica, Run-DMC and Jeff Beck.
The likeliest suspects for onstage tension, hard-rock icons Metallica, have already said they’re not interested in any drama, as evidenced by their decision to invite ousted bassist Jason Newsted to perform with them alongside current bassist Robert Trujillo. Frontman James Hetfield has promised that instead of tension, the group will make the night a celebration of their long career .
Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, Metallica rose from humble beginnings to become one of the biggest and most influential heavy-metal bands on the planet. Their 1983 debut, Kill ’Em All, is widely considered one of the first thrash-metal albums, thanks to its blitzkrieg riffs and breakneck tempo. Their subsequent albums — 1984’s Ride the Lightning, 1986’s Master of Puppets and 1988’s … And Justice for All — saw the band expanding not just their sound, but their audience. Their self-titled 1991 album (also known as The Black Album for its iconic onyx cover) made them one of the biggest bands in the world, with a long run at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling a staggering 22 million copies worldwide. Last year, they released the return-to-form Death Magnetic , which also debuted atop the Billboard charts and was one of 2008’s biggest-selling albums.
Though they no longer perform together and are rarely seen in the same room, founding Run-DMC members Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels will take the stage Saturday night after being inducted by none other than Eminem in one of his first major public appearances in several years.
As only the second induction of a hip-hop group to enter the hall, the inclusion of the Queens, New York trio — DJ Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell was murdered in a still-unsolved 2002 ambush — is ironic, given that Run-DMC’s 1985 video for “King of Rock” shows them wreaking havoc in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, nine years before the actual museum opened.
The trio famously formed in Hollis, Queens, in the early ’80s and released their debut single, “It’s Like That,” in 1983. Their first three albums (1984’s self-titled debut, 1985’s King of Rock and 1986’s Raising Hell) are considered to be among the most important hip-hop albums ever released. With their stylish dress, sample-heavy tracks and streetwise lingo, the group is often credited with bringing hip-hop to the mainstream. They gave the genre credibility when they teamed up with Aerosmith for the hit “Walk This Way,” were the first rap group to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and were one of the first hip-hop acts to have videos in constant rotation on MTV.
Run-DMC disbanded in 2002 following Mizell’s murder, but in 2007, MTV’s Hip-Hop Brain Trust named them the Greatest Hip-Hop Group of All Time.
The roster of inductees also includes guitar legend Jeff Beck, 64, the laconic Englishman who is one of the rare breed of rock legends to make it into the Hall as a solo artist and a bandleader — honored in 1992 for his work with the Yardbirds, in which he succeeded fellow Hall of Famer Eric Clapton.
Beck — known for his dynamic playing, intricate rock instrumentals and later excursions into jazz rock and jazz fusion — is perhaps best known for his work with the blues rock godheads the Yardbirds, who produced such landmark singles as “Heart Full of Soul” and “I’m a Man,” during his tenure. He also led the Jeff Beck Group, whose first incarnation featured Rod Stewart on vocals and later Rolling Stones member Ron Wood.
Among other honorees are early doo-wop vocal group Little Anthony & the Imperials, led by powerful vocalist Anthony Gourdine, 69, who is heard on such indelible hits as “Tears on My Pillow” and such later pop-soul hits as “Goin’ out of My Head.”
The Hall will also welcome the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, 71, who blazed a trail for female rock singers with her raw, uninhibited work on such early hits as “Let’s Have a Party” and “Right or Wrong.” Rounding out the performers list is soul/gospel powerhouse and Cleveland native, Bobby Womack, 65, who began his career playing guitar in Sam Cooke’s band and went on to a long career as a session guitarist (Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles), songwriter (Wilson Pickett, Janis Joplin) and solo star in the 1970s with such gospel-tinged soul hits as “Woman’s Gotta Have It” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.”
Also entering the Hall in the sidemen category is Bill Black, the late bassist for Elvis Presley who was present at the recording of the King’s first single for Sun Records in July 1954 and who is credited with helping to come up with the rocked-up arrangement for Presley’s signature early single, “That’s All Right.” Joining Black in that category is Elvis’ legendary drummer, D.J. Fontana, 78, considered the first rockabilly drummer and best known for his laid-back, no frills style.
The sidemen category will also welcome Muscle Shoals Sound progenitor keyboardist/vocalist Spooner Oldham, 65, who has played on such landmark tracks as Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” as well as sessions with everyone from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Cat Power and the Drive-By Truckers.
Among the scheduled presenters at the ceremony in the Public Auditorium in Cleveland are Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood, Flea (who will induct Metallica) and Smokey Robinson.
Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record, and inductees are selected by a panel of 500 “rock experts” who evaluate each candidate.