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The Most Memorable Moments of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2023

Living legends raise the roof and diversify the talent at rock’s annual honors concert


spinner image Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow performing together at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
(Left to right) Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow perform onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center on Nov. 3, 2023 in New York City.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

What is rock, anyway? At the 38th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 3 — all four-plus hours are streaming now on Disney+, and a two-hour version airs Jan. 1 on ABC — the boundaries of the genre’s meaning were stretched, embracing blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, country, funk and hip-hop.

The Rock Hall’s head, John Sykes, 68, said it all adds up to what Motown founder Berry Gordy, 93, once called “the music of young America — I can’t think of a better description of rock ’n’ roll.” But Sykes said anything that exudes youthful energy — and above all, “attitude” — qualifies.

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This year’s diverse inductees include Kate Bush, 65; Sheryl Crow, 61; Missy Elliott, 52; Rage Against the Machine; the Spinners; Chaka Khan, 70; Blood, Sweat & Tears founder and Dylan sideman Al Kooper, 79; the late George Michael; and Willie Nelson, 90, who said that while he’s never been inducted before, “I’ve been indicted.”

Here are some highlights from the evening.

spinner image Inductee Sheryl Crow speaks onstage as she's honored at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Inductee Sheryl Crow speaks onstage during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Sheryl Crow quotes Jimmy Buffett, says she loves ‘the work’

After actress Laura Dern, 56, hailed Crow as a “legendary artist, poet, activist, friend, mother, daughter and all-around badass goddess rock star,” Crow confessed that it’s a bit disconcerting to be honored for a career that isn’t anywhere near done: “This is a little bit like getting an Oscar for a screenplay you haven’t finished writing yet.”

But she added that the quest is its own reward. “If you love what you do, you will never work a day of your life,” she said, quoting the words of Jimmy Buffett, who died this September. “Yes, there have been ups and downs in my story, but mine is a story of infinite possibility for any young person setting out on a musical journey. I love the work.”

spinner image Sheryl Crow and Olivia Rodrigo perform onstage together during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
(Left to right) Sheryl Crow and Olivia Rodrigo performing together.
Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Crow teamed with Gen Z sensation Olivia Rodrigo and 90-year-old Willie Nelson

She opened the show by singing her 1996 hit “If It Makes You Happy” with Gen Z sensation Olivia Rodrigo, 20 — less than a third her age — a duet as hooky as Rodrigo’s rendition of “You’re So Vain” at Carly Simon’s 2022 Rock Hall induction. Later, Crow joined Willie Nelson in performing “Crazy,” his hit for Patsy Cline (and also himself), and his ode to never working a day in your life, “On the Road Again.”  

spinner image Stevie Nicks embraces Peter Frampton onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Stevie Nicks with Peter Frampton onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Peter Frampton came alive — and got plastered with kisses

As Crow and Stevie Nicks, 75 — whom Crow inducted into the Hall in 2019 — sang Crow’s 1996 anthem, “Everyday Is a Winding Road,” they were accompanied on guitar by Peter Frampton, 73. Just as Crow’s duet with Rodrigo proved the intergenerational continuity of rock, her performance with him reached back to the past — the first concert she ever attended was a Frampton show. He sat on a stool with an ecstatic grin lighting up his face as he played absolutely blistering lead lines. Nicks crossed the stage to give him a kiss on the cheek, and at the end of the set, Crow followed suit.

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Long since shorn of the signature golden locks he wore on his massive 1976 live-album hit Frampton Comes Alive!, he retired from touring in 2019 after he was diagnosed with a rare degenerative muscle disorder. But Frampton said at the Hall that though his hands are somewhat affected by the disease, “I’ve adapted and I’m still playing really good, so I’m lovin’ it.” So was the audience.

Asked what it was like sharing a stage with Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks, Frampton said, “It doesn’t get better than that. And they both kept coming around and kissing me.”

spinner image Chaka Khan speaks onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Inductee Chaka Khan holds up her award during her speech at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

At long last, the Hall quit jilting Chaka Khan at the altar

At 70, Yvette Marie Stephens, better known by her stage name, Chaka Khan, has sold over 70 million records, won 10 Grammys, and been nominated for the Rock Hall six times — then spurned, over and over. “I’m not singing to be in the Hall of Fame,” she told Ebony in 2019, but she refused to fret about it.

Now the Hall has finally wised up, and no ill feelings were on display as she performed her joyful, high-energy hits medley. She was joined by hip-hop artist and actor Common on Prince’s “I Feel 4 U” and by the soul singer and guitarist H.E.R. for “Ain’t Nobody,” Chaka’s 1983 classic with her former band, Rufus. Then, stepping out to join her on another Rufus staple, “I’m Every Woman,” was Australian pop diva Sia in an over-the-top Barbie-pink getup that made her look like a character from an anime theme park. “I love you Chaka,” Sia gleefully chanted as the two hugged. “Chaka for president!”

spinner image Jimmy Page performs onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jimmy Page performing at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page surprised the crowd

Two eyebrow raisers stood out. Led Zeppelin guitar god Jimmy Page, 79, gave a recorded video tribute to long-ago guitar god Link Wray, a kind of Australopithecus Jimmy Page whose 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble” shockingly pioneered distortion. Nobody expected Page to appear in person, because he hadn’t performed publicly in nine years.

But then he popped up onstage with his signature double-neck guitar at the ready and played “Rumble” so stunningly you could see why it was banned from some radio playlists for fear it would incite juvenile delinquency.

The lone surviving member of the Spinners, Henry Fambrough, 85, was unable to attend the ceremony. But the 1980s new jack swing kings New Edition did a brilliant tribute to the sweet singing, precision stepping pop-soul group. With its founder Bobby Brown, 54, back to form, New Edition sang the Spinners hits (“I’ll Be Around,” “Rubberband Man” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”) in a performance that doubled as tribute to the late, great Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius, who was inducted posthumously.

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spinner image LL Cool J and Cindy Campbell present an award to DJ Kool Herc onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
LL Cool J (left) presents an award to DJ Kool Herc (middle) at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

LL Cool J led the tribute to hip-hop creator DJ Kool Herc

Hip-hop was born on the night of Aug. 11, 1973, at a rent party (admission 25 cents for girls, 50 cents for boys) in the basement at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in a poor section of the Bronx. The father was Jamaica-born deejay Clive “Hercules” Campbell, 68, known ever after as DJ Kool Herc. He invented the rudiments of the musical instrument — two turntables that he used to create dance beats — that “started a fire that’s still blazing,” as L.L. Cool J, 55, said when inducting Herc.

In one of the evening’s most poignant moments, Cool J helped the ailing pioneer to the stage, where Herc broke down crying as he struggled to give his acceptance speech. Riches and fame did not await Herc as it did so many others who fanned the flames he ignited, but immortality in the rock pantheon is now his.

spinner image Elton John and Bernie Taupin at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
(Left to right) Elton John and Bernie Taupin at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Bernie Taupin took a subtle dig at Rock Hall cofounder Jann Wenner

Taupin, 73, got a Musical Excellence Award in recognition of more than 50 years writing the lyrics for songs made indelible by, most notably, Elton John, 76, who performed their hit “Tiny Dancer.” Taupin paid tribute to the new diversity the Hall now embraces by taking an implicit dig at Rock Hall cofounder Jann Wenner, 77, who got booted from its board recently for disrespecting women and artists of color as inarticulate and not up to the standards of his favorite white male stars. “I’m honored,” Taupin said, “to be in the class of 2023, alongside such a group of profoundly articulate women and outstanding, articulate Black artists.”

spinner image Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and Brittany Howard perform onstage at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
(Left to right) Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and Brittany Howard performing together during the “In Memoriam” tribute.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Lost stars shone on

The evening’s “In Memoriam” video tribute honored the talents who passed since the last ceremony, including Tina Turner, Sinéad O’Connor, Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, Christine McVie, Tom Verlaine, Harry Belafonte, Gordon Lightfoot, Jane Birkin, Rodriguez, Wayne Shorter and Robbie Robertson. Movingly, Sheryl Crow, Elton John, Brittany Howard and Chris Stapleton covered “The Weight,” Robertson’s first smash hit, which, in 1967, made Bob Dylan say, “This is fantastic,” then shake his head, slap Robertson’s arm and add, “Damn! You wrote that song?”

spinner image Tom Morello speaks onstage during 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine speaks onstage during 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Mike Coppola/WireImage

On a night devoted to ‘the music of young America,’ the best advice for America was given by a 100-year-old

Innovative guitarist Tom Morello, 59, was the only member of his former, highly political band Rage Against the Machine to appear to accept their induction. “Can music change the world?” he said rhetorically. “The whole f------ aim is to change the world. … Dream big and don’t settle. Two, aim for the world you really want without compromise or apology.”

He thanked his mother, Mary Morello, 100, a retired teacher and tireless lifetime activist, and quoted what she told him: “History, like music, is not something that happens. It’s something you make.”

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