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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame widened its doorway over the years to usher in rap, disco, dance pop and doo-wop, but this year’s class looks like a School of Rock fantasy.
Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, the Cars and Nina Simone will be inducted, along with early influence Sister Rosetta Tharpe, on Saturday, April 14, in Cleveland. The 33rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will premiere May 5 on HBO at 8 p.m. Here’s a look at the iconic lineup.
Toiling in the shadow of fellow New Jersey hero Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and his blue-collar outfit formed in 1983 and muscled their way to superstardom with a steady stream of hits such as "Bad Medicine," "I’ll Be There for You" and "You Give Love a Bad Name." An acoustic performance of "Livin’ on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" on the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards partly inspired the MTV Unplugged series. The hits kept coming ("It’s My Life," "Bed of Roses"), helping the band amass sales of 120 million albums. In addition to singer-songwriter Bon Jovi, members to be inducted (by Howard Stern) are David Bryan (keyboard) and Tico Torres (drums), and former players Richie Sambora (guitar) and Alec John Such (bass).
Best album: Slippery When Wet (Mercury, 1986). Best compilation: Cross Road (Mercury, 1994).
The new-wave sensation, formed in Boston by singer Ric Ocasek and bassist Benjamin Orr in 1976, raced up the charts with such turbocharged hits as "Just What I Needed," "My Best Friend’s Girl," "Good Times Roll," "Shake It Up" and "Drive." The band released six studio albums before dissolving in the late ’80s. The Cars’ avant-pop and innovative videos influenced the ’90s alt-rock movement and remain staples on classic rock radio and YouTube. Orr died in 2000, ending hopes for a reunion, though survivors regrouped for the 2011 studio album Move Like This. Ocasek, Orr, guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson will be inducted by Brandon Flowers of the Killers.
Best album: The Cars (Elektra, 1978). Best compilation: Complete Greatest Hits (Elektra/Rhino, 2002).
The British band formed in 1977 and burst through the dominating forces of punk and disco with the 1978 rock hit "Sultans of Swing." Dire Straits built a faithful following with its melodic, guitar-driven sound and reached stratospheric heights in 1985 with the MTV-themed smash "Money for Nothing," featuring a guest vocal by Sting. After the band split in 1995, leader and guitar virtuoso Mark Knopfler embarked on a successful solo career. He and his brother, guitarist David Knopfler, will be inducted, along with keyboardists Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher, bassist John Illsey and drummer Pick Withers.
Best album: Making Movies (Warner Bros., 1980). Best compilation: Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler (Warner Bros., 2005).
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The Moody Blues
After forming in 1964, the R&B-fueled rock band first gained recognition for its hit single "Go Now." The group altered course with the release of the 1967 concept album Days of Future Passed, a work of symphonic psychedelia regarded as one of the first progressive rock albums. It yielded the classics "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon," and shaped scores of prog-rockers to follow, including Genesis and Yes. Amid breaks and personnel changes, the Moodies released 16 studio albums between 1965 and 2003. Original singer-flutist Ray Thomas died in January at age 76. Along with Thomas, singer-guitarist Justin Hayward, drummer Graeme Edge, bassist John Lodge and keyboardist Mike Pinder will be inducted by Heart singer Ann Wilson.
Best album: Days of Future Passed (Polydor, 1967). Best compilation: Collected (Universal, 2007).
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The High Priestess of Soul — a contralto with astonishing range, a proficient pianist and a fiery champion of equal rights — mastered folk, jazz, blues, classical, Broadway, gospel and pop during a career spanning nearly 50 years. Equally significant, she provided a soundtrack for the civil rights movement with the indelible "Mississippi Goddam" and "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," as well as with such defiant tunes as "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free" and "Four Women." The preacher’s daughter from North Carolina had only one U.S. hit, 1959’s "I Loves You, Porgy," but her dozens of albums, searing live performances and tireless activism inspired scores of artists, including Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Elton John, John Legend, Aretha Franklin and David Bowie. She died in 2003 at age 70. Mary J. Blige will induct her, and Andra Day will perform in her honor.
Best album: Nina Simone Sings the Blues (RCA, 1967). Best compilation: Anthology (RCA, 2003).
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Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Popular in the ’30s and ’40s, the gospel singer was known for her feisty dexterity on the Gibson SG electric guitar, giving a rhythmic kick to her folky hymns. She appealed to both R&B and rock audiences, and influenced such artists as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard (who was 14 when Tharpe put him on a stage for the first time). An electric blues pioneer who pulled gospel into the mainstream, Tharpe was later dubbed the "Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll." After breaking through with "Rock Me" in 1938, she continued to spread her rowdy brand of gospel, racking up R&B hits such as "Strange Things Happening Every Day" (considered one of the earliest rock records), "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)" and "Silent Night (Christmas Hymn)" in the ’40s. After suffering two strokes, she died at age 58 in 1973. She will be inducted by singer Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.
Best album: Gospel Train (Mercury, 1956). Best compilation: The Gospel of Blues (Decca/MCA, 2003).