The Detroit News
Emotions rock Hall ceremony
MAY 5, 2012
It’s hard not to have mixed emotions about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony, as seen by most of us via the annual telecast (airing at 9 p.m. today on HBO). The drama of the aging divas, the onstage feuds (Guns ‘N Roses‘ Axl Rose was absent and mostly forgotten this year), the often shambolic, ill-advised jam sessions can add up to a train wreck, amusing for all the wrong reasons.
But skepticism vanishes when you hear the voices of long-forgotten rock pioneers falter; when tears well in the eyes of veterans finally getting their due.
In this year’s ceremony, it was singer Bette Midler who was the first to lose control of her voice, while inducting singer-songwriter Laura Nyro, composer of “And When I Die,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” etc.
“I fell in love with her the moment I put the needle down on the record,” Midler said. “That beautiful imagery, that beautiful, sexy little girl voice that had soul in its DNA, where did this come from? In a world of imitators ”¦” Midler continued, before succumbing to a verklempt moment. She hung on, and her honest reaction was a nice break from some of the slicker introductions.
But it’s when a slate of six veteran backing groups, including Motown’s Miracles and Detroit’s Midnighters, are recognized, finally, by the Rock Hall in a mass induction added at the last minute, that the tears flow.
In each case, the lead singer/front person had been inducted years ago, cutting the group out, and this was the Rock Hall’s attempt to make up for it. It’s hard to remain dry-eyed while watching the Blue Caps (Gene Vincent), the Comets (Bill Haley), the Crickets (Buddy Holly), the Famous Flames (James Brown), the Midnighters (Hank Ballard) and the Miracles (Smokey Robinson), all in their 60s, 70s and 80s, teary-eyed but standing triumphantly for their honor.
Many of the singers came to the stage in wheelchairs, but all insisted on standing for the time that they were on camera.
The sheer joy of the Comets – the drummer waved his award like a flag – was irresistible, and Famous Flame Bobby Bennett’s voice broke as he remarked that he’s the last surviving member of the group.
Smokey Robinson was peerless in his introduction of the groups, smooth yet heartfelt as he formally inducted all of them en masse.
“I am here to induct some of the greatest ”¦ the movers and the groovers, the drummers and the strummers,” he said. And: “I know what a group can do for a song because I was a member of the Miracles for 25 years.”
Claudette Rogers Robinson, easily the dishiest inductee onstage, said on behalf of the Miracles: “I pay homage to my fellow Miracles: Pete Moore, Smokey Robinson, Bobby Rogers, and our angels in heaven, Ronnie White and Marv Tarplin.”
Another Detroiter, Norman Thrasher, giddily recited some lines from Hank Ballard & The Midnighters‘ “Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go” as he and Abdul Bin-Asad accepted on behalf of the group: “There’s a thrill upon the hill, let’s go let’s go let’s go to the rock and roll hall of fame!” Thrasher said.
Donovan composed and recited a poem he wrote for the occasion, “I thank you for this bright green laurel resting now upon my brow,” before singing “Sunshine Superman,” and “Season of the Witch” (accompanied by John Mellencamp).
Little Steven Van Zandt‘s witty induction of the Faces/Small Faces. “Unlike those other bands, these guys were good-looking. The other guys were scaring everybody to death. These cute, cuddly cheeky little devils were playing like Booker T and the MGs, and singing like Wilson Pickett.”
Kid Rock in a lime green Adidas tracksuit performing the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” with Black Thought and Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy.
An “In Memoriam” segment: Ledisi sang “At Last” while photos of music greats who died last year (Davy Jones, Etta James, etc.) flashed on the screen. Thankfully, they didn’t forget the Miracles’ Marv Tarplin.