Rock Hall of Fame Fetes Clapton, James Taylor, Lovin' Spoonful

The Moonglows, Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holiday also inducted during 15th annual ceremony.

NEW YORK — Eric Clapton let his guitar do

the talking Monday night as he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame for an unprecedented third time.

Instead of offering a long-winded speech, the soft-spoken British blues guitarist told the crowd of well-dressed rockers and industry movers, "For me, it's about the music. I'm the messenger and I carry the message."

With that, the rocker, who was previously inducted with the '60s rock bands Cream and the Yardbirds, closed his eyes and performed a

moving, emotive rendition of his hit song "Tears in Heaven," followed by a searing version of the blues standard "Further on Up the Road."

The 15th annual ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel

also included the

induction of such '70s rock and soul stars as the

Lovin' Spoonful, James

Taylor and Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as bluesy

singer/guitarist Bonnie


The event climaxed hours later with the traditional


jam, which this year featured former Band member

Robbie Robertson, Lovin' Spoonful leader

John Sebastian,

singer/songwriter James Taylor, R&B singer Natalie

Cole and rocker Melissa


Hall of Famer Robertson inducted Clapton by listing his

various nicknames,

including "EC, alias God, alias Slow Hand Clapton," and then joined hiim on guitar for "Further on Down the Road."

Clapton was clean-shaven and wore a black suit, yellow tie and

wire-rimmed glasses.

Old Meets New

In a meeting of the brash new and the brassy old,

risqué rapper Lil' Kim

inducted '70s soul-funk group Earth, Wind & Fire.

"I might be young," Lil' Kim said, sporting a towering

head of blonde hair

offset by a daring hot pink-and-black polka dot

dress. "But I grooved to

Earth, Wind & Fire. These men make music that brings

people together."

The group, led by singers Maurice White and Philip

Bailey, scored a number

of funk, soul and disco hits in the '70s, inclduing "Boogie

Wonderland" and "Shining Star." They performed

"Shining Star"

following their induction, causing a several people in

the audience to jump from

their seats and boogie.

Hall of Famer Paul Simon inducted the 1950s doo-wop

group the Moonglows.

The singer/songwriter spoke of the innocence of youth,

when minds are

open and "we hear and feel in a way that will affect

us for the rest of our


Simon recalled hearing the Moonglows' hit "Sincerely"



excerpt) as a child on famed rock DJ Alan

Freed's "Moondog" radio show in 1955, calling the song


"magical, perfect" record. Leader Harvey Fuqua then

led the band in a

performance of the track that drew a rousing standing


For the first time in the Hall of Fame's history, a

number of rock

'n' roll side musicians were inducted. Mike Stoller of

the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller inducted

saxophonist King Curtis,

Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore, Motown bassist

James Jamerson, R&B

drummer Earl Palmer and session drummer Hal Blaine,

who performed on a

number of Beach Boys records.

Celebrating Clive Davis

One of the emotional highlights of the evening came

when cathartic rocker

Patti Smith inducted Arista Records President Clive

Davis, who this year

oversaw the unexpected, Grammy-winning return of

Santana. Davis was

inducted in the nonperformer category.

The always intense Smith, wearing a baggy black suit

and loosened tie, was

close to tears during the induction. The singer

credited the

longtime executive with teaching her all about the

music business, as well

as giving her the invaluable advice, "Loosen up."

Davis, whose triumphant year was tempered by a battle

with Arista's parent

company BMG over reports of its attempts to force his

retirement, was

serenaded by Smith with a raucous version of the

singer's anthemic call to

arms "People Have the Power" (



"You have risen and are still rising," Smith said to


Early Influences, Big Surprises

Legendary pianist/songwriter Ray Charles inducted

early influence and

fellow singer/pianist Nat "King" Cole, while former

Supremes singer and

solo star Diana Ross paid touching tribute to another

early influence

inductee, late jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Singer/songwriter Etheridge inducted blues slide

guitarist Raitt, who made

her name in the 1970s with her distinctive vocals and

guitar style but

didn't reach mass-audience success until her

Grammy-winning 1989 album

Nick of Time.

In one of the night's biggest surprises, former Beatle

Paul McCartney showed up to usher in an artist who began his career on

the Beatles' Apple

Records label in the late '60s, singer/songwriter

James Taylor.

Rootsy rocker John Mellencamp inducted the Lovin'

Spoonful, recalling that

during the summer he was 14 the group's hit "Summer in

the City" was a

radio staple.

Artists become eligible for the Rock Hall of Fame 25

years after releasing

their first record, with nearly 800 voters selecting

the inductees.