Yes, Journey, the Electric Light Orchestra, Pearl Jam and Joan Baez were among those inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year.
Yes, who were joined on stage by Geddy Lee on bass in place of the late Chris Squire, were welcomed to the HOF by the Rush duo of Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson. And although Rick Wakeman had threatened he “might be busy that night” due to resentment over how long it had taken Yes to gain admission to the HOF, he attended the star-studded ceremony in New York.
Before they played a version of Roundabout, with Jon Anderson returning to the group for the first time since 2004, Lee said he was helping to “right a wrong” by inducting Yes into the Hall Of Fame, while Lifeson spoke of playing Yes songs such as Starship Trooper and Yours Is No Disgrace in his bedroom as a boy, declaring: “Yes helped give me the gift of music.” Yes also performed the Trevor Rabin-era hit single Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
Wakeman’s hilariously bawdy acceptance speech, which included quips about prostate exams and spotting his father at a strip club, created uproar at the ceremony, although one person who was less than amused was Billy Sherwood, the current touring bassist of Yes, who took to social media to declare: “I would rather have heard about my dear friend Chris than a bunch of toilet humour,” adding that he had been waiting to hear from Squire’s widow Scotland and daughter Xilian, both of whom were present on the stage, “but alas Wakeman told too many jokes”.
During the build-up to the ceremony, Sherwood also said: “For the record, I’m not playing [at the induction], as requested by the A, the W and the R. You would need to ask them why.”
The aforementioned A (Anderson), W (Wakeman) and R (Rabin) have of course been on the road together (and have just announced that they will now go by the name Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman). So it was no surprise that Steve Howe, a member of the current official Yes line-up, said there was little chance of both bands’ members joining together for a Union-style celebration of Yes’s 50th anniversary in 2018.
“Before we can take on board ideas, there must be a good line of communication,” said the guitarist, “and as far as I understand, Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman aren’t really interested in doing this – and we’re most probably not really interested in doing this either.” Howe concluded: “I’d say don’t hold your breath.”
As the induction drew near, conjecture grew over the possibility of Journey being joined by their former singer Steve Perry. In the end, Perry attended the ceremony and gave a touching speech, praising the “magic fingers” of guitarist Neal Schon and thanking current singer Arnel Pineda for keeping the band’s music alive, although he didn’t perform. Perry also buried the hatchet with manager Herbie Herbert by expressing gratitude for bringing him into Journey in 1977 and also thanked his “long-time attorney, Lee Philips”. Journey keyboard player Gregg Rolie, inducted with Santana in 1998, had his second induction into the HOF (Schon missed out on this honour), and along with the current line-up and former drummer Aynsley Dunbar played on Separate Ways, Lights and, inevitably, Don’t Stop Believin’.
Pearl Jam were inducted by TV host David Letterman after Neil Young, who was supposed to do their induction, fell ill. As well as performing with former drummer Dave Krusen for the first time in a quarter-century, Eddie Vedder spoke passionately from the stage: “Climate change is real – this is not fake news.” They performed Alive, Given To Fly, Better Man and ended with Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World joined by Lee, Lifeson, Schon, Rabin, Jonathan Cain and Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison, who earlier had inducted ELO.
ELO leader Jeff Lynne, who paid homage to Chuck Berry with a cover of Roll Over Beethoven, told the HOF audience: “It’s such a pleasure to get one of these. It’s like my dad said – everything comes to him who waits.”
Lenny Kravitz performed with a full gospel choir for his tribute to Prince with a version of When Doves Cry, following it with a dramatic cover of Prince’s Sign O’The Times song The Cross.
Veteran folk-rock singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, now 76, admitted that most young people “would have no clue who I am”, laughing as she added: “My [own] granddaughter had no idea until I took her backstage to a Taylor Swift concert”. During a version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot she even appeared to offer an olive branch to her country’s controversial president as she sang: ‘I saw a band of angels, and they were coming to carry you, me, us, even Donald, home.’
Others honoured on the night included producer Nile Rodgers, who received the Award for Musical Excellence, and the late rapper Tupac Shakur.