NEW YORK -- On a night filled with history and celebration, the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame's 14th annual induction ceremony reached its apex Monday with the
ushering in of New Jersey-born rock icon Bruce Springsteen by Irish rocker Bono.
Leaning against the podium, U2 singer Bono delivered a poetic speech about
Springsteen and his contributions to music, saying that, in the blue-collar rocker's lyrics,
"ordinary lives became extraordinary."
"Handsome mother with those brooding brown eyes," Bono continued. "Eyes that could
see through America. And a catastrophe of great songs if you were another songwriter."
"Here was a dude that carried himself like Brando, Dylan and Elvis. If John Steinbeck
could sing; if Van Morrison could ride a Harley. But he was something new, too. He was
the first whiff of Scorsese, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello."
And a man of dignity, too. "[Springsteen] hasn't done the things most rock stars do," Bono
said. "No drug busts ... no blood changes in Switzerland ... no bad hair period in the
Springsteen's induction, and his subsequent performance with his E Street Band,
provided the highlights of a night filled with moving moments.
During the ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Paul McCartney, who had already
been inducted as a member of the Beatles, entered the Hall as a solo artist, and
dedicated the honor to his late wife, Linda, who died a year ago.
Elton John injected humor into his speech when he inducted British soul-pop singer
Dusty Springfield, who died of cancer two weeks ago, calling her "the greatest white
singer there ever has been, apart from Tiffany." He was facetiously referring to the 1980s
Everclear's Art Alexakis inducted Del Shannon, a '60s pop rocker known for such
classics as "Runaway," who committed suicide in 1990. Lauryn Hill inducted gospel-soul
legends the Staple Singers. Ray Charles saluted pop piano man Billy Joel.
Also entering the Hall Monday were the late Bob Wills, a pioneer of the country-music
style known as Western swing (he was inducted by Chris Isaak), the late R&B singer
Charles Brown (inducted by Bonnie Raitt), and soul singer/songwriter Curtis Mayfield
(inducted by Sean "Puffy" Combs). Mayfield, who has been paralyzed from the neck
down since a freak onstage accident in 1990, was too ill to attend the ceremony.
But the night belonged to Springsteen, the storied singer of such songs as
HREF="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/Springsteen,_Bruce/Born_To_Run.ram">"Born to Run"
music/Springsteen,_Bruce/Born_To_Run.ram">"Born to Run"(RealAudio
excerpt) and "Born in the U.S.A." "More than anyone else," Bono said, "... Springsteen
owns America's heart."
Springsteen gave a long speech during which he saluted his late father, his manager,
his co-producers and engineers and his E Street Band -- who, in a decision that rankled
some fans, were not inducted with Springsteen. "Everyone wants to know how I feel
about the band," Springsteen said. "Hell, I married one of them."
Then, addressing his wife, E Street vocalist Patti Scialfa, he paraphrased one of his own
lyrics, saying, "Baby, you're tougher than the rest."
Springsteen said his troubled relationship with his recently deceased father, which he
chronicled openly in such songs as "Independence Day," helped fuel his music.
"If everything had gone great between us, [my career] would have been a disaster,"
Springsteen said. "When I tried writing happy songs in the early '90s, people didn't like
Springsteen also praised original E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt, who will tour
with Springsteen this year for the first time since the early '80s. "We haven't played
together in 15 years," Springsteen said. "I'll never let that happen again."
With Van Zandt and the rest of the E Streeters, Springsteen performed a four-song set,
leading off with a stunning wall-of-sound version of their 1978
(RealAudio excerpt) They followed with "Backstreets" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" before new inductee Joel
and soul singer Wilson Pickett -- who was inducted into the hall in 1991 -- joined them for
a rendition of Pickett's 1965 hit "In the Midnight Hour." Joel played organ, Pickett and
Springsteen traded off on the verses.
Accepting his own induction earlier in the night, Joel noted the influence of black artists
on his music. "I know I've been referred to as derivative," he said. "I'm derivative as hell.
There wouldn't be any white people in [the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] if they didn't let
us derivative people in."
Grunge-rock godfather Neil Young, who inducted McCartney, called the
ex-Beatle "one of the greatest songwriters, perhaps ever" and predicted
he will be "remembered a hundred years from now."
McCartney held his award high and said, "This one's to you, baby,"
referring to his late wife. Their daughter Stella stood by McCartney's
side wearing a shirt that read "It's about f---ing time" -- a reference
to the three years it took the hall to induct her father as a solo
artist after he became eligible.
Backstage, Joel said of McCartney's Beatles, "Those guys showed me it
was possible to make a life like this ... I'm from freaking Levittown"
(a town on New York's Long Island).
Melissa Etheridge paid tribute to Springfield by performing her 1969 hit
(RealAudio excerpt of Springfield version). Elton John said of Springfield,
"She was enough to turn a gay boy straight -- but not quite enough. She
was a diva to the end."
The Hall of Fame also honored one of its own traditions by resurrecting
the Hall of Fame jam, a free-for-all performance session that had been
skipped in recent years.
The Staple Singers performed a medley of their "Respect Yourself" and
"I'll Take You There" while an audience that included Bono, Springsteen
and Lou Reed rocked back and forth and clapped along.
Joel and Raitt led the crowd through Shannon's "Runaway," then McCartney
was coaxed out to sing Carl Perkins' '50s hit "Blue Suede Shoes."
Charles performed "What'd I Say" and then, in Mayfield's absence, Bono
and Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers sang his "People Get Ready."
The stage, meanwhile, was filling up with such luminaries as Etheridge,
Raitt, Hill, Alexakis, Eric Clapton, Lenny Kravitz, D'Angelo and E
Street Band members Nils Lofgren and Max Weinberg.
With Joel leading the way on piano and McCartney back at the microphone,
the assembled stars capped the night by performing McCartney's Beatles
hit "Let It Be." Robbie Robertson of the Band played a spirited guitar
solo; Dion and Isaak shook one maraca each.
Afterward, McCartney said "It's time to go home. This was a good night,
VH1 will broadcast an edited version of the festivities Wednesday from
9 to 11:30 p.m. EST.
(Contributing Editor Teri vanHorn contributed to this story.)