NEW YORK— Nirvana, who set music and fashion trends with their grunge sound but whose career was cut short by leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide 20 years ago, led inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday.
Kiss entered the Hall thumbing its nose at critics, the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates called for more Philadelphia bands to join them, Peter Gabriel urged young musicians to use their imaginations, Cat Stevens was visibly touched, Linda Ronstadt was honoured in her absence and, predictably, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band turned their induction into a marathon
Nirvana was inducted in its first year of eligibility. The trio’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit like a thunderclap upon its 1991 release, briefly making the Pacific Northwest rock’s hottest scene. Joan Jett replaced Cobain onstage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, singing the song with Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
“Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music,” said Novoselic, the band’s bass player. “When I hear that, I think of Kurt Cobain.”
Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, hugged the two surviving band members, with whom she’s had some bad blood.
“I just wish Kurt was here to do this,” she said.
Former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe traced Nirvana’s origins through the hardcore punk scene of the 1980s and said they were a voice for the disaffected. He said they were true artists, not just musicians.
“This is not pop music,” Stipe said. “This is something much greater than that.”
The original four members of Kiss didn’t perform at Barclays due to a dispute between active original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and retired members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. But the original four made peace and saluted each other in heartfelt induction speeches.
“This is a pivotal moment for all of us,” said Simmons, the bass player and reality TV star. We are humbled that that the fans gave us the chance to do what we loved doing.“
The theatrical quartet put on makeup, belched blood, shot fireworks out of Frehley’s guitar and sang about wanting to “Rock and Roll All Nite.” They weren’t trendy, but Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello said that Kiss inspired him and their concert was the first he attended. He even fought high school bullies who ridiculed him for liking Kiss.
“Tonight proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the high school bullies and critics were wrong,” he said. “Kiss fans were right.”
Ronstadt, the sexy siren of the Los Angeles country-rock scene of the 1970s, couldn’t make it to her induction. Now retired, she suffers from Parkinson’s disease and doesn’t travel much. Glenn Frey, who played with fellow future Eagle Don Henley in Ronstadt’s backup band, saluted her with an induction speech.
Ronstadt was saluted by some royalty of female country rock. Carrie Underwood sang “Different Drum,” Ronstadt’s first hit with the Stone Poneys. Underwood was joined by Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt for “Blue Bayou.” Sheryl Crow and Frey made it a quintet to sing “You’re No Good.” Then Stevie Nicks came out to lead them in “It’s So Easy” and “When Will I Be Loved.”
Nicks said hearing “Different Drum” when she was in high school made her want to get into music.
“I didn’t look that good in cutoffs, but that’s what I was going to do,” she said.
Stevens, the 1970s era singer of “Morning Has Broken” and “Wild World,” was inducted by Art Garfunkel, who said his breakup with Paul Simon helped pave the way for Stevens’ entry into the charts.
Stevens performed “Father and Son,” ”Wild World“ and ”Peace Train,“ joined by a robed choir in the final song.
Springsteen’s 1999 entrance into the Rock Hall without the E Street Band was a sore point for some of its members. Thursday they got their due in the sidemen category, although it was a posthumous honour for saxman Clarence Clemons and keyboard player Danny Federici.
The band made up for lost time: Their induction took 85 minutes. That included performances of “The E Street Shuffle,” ”The River“ and an epic ”Kitty’s Back.“ Springsteen told stories, many familiar to fans who have seen them onstage, of the formation of the band, which includes his wife, Patti Scialfa. David Sancious, who was with the band only briefly, was the only one to ever live on E Street, he said.
“We suffered aging, illness and death together,” Springsteen said. “We took care of each other when trouble knocked, and we hurt each other in big and small ways. In the end we stuck with each other.”
Daryl Hall and John Oates made reference to the Springsteen marathon with their induction.
“Lucky for you, there are only two of us,” Hall said as the audience laughed.
The duo sang “She’s Gone,” ”I Can’t Go For That“ and ”You Make My Dreams Come True.“
“If you owned a radio in the late ’70s or ’80s, or if you knew anybody who did, you knew Hall & Oates,” said The Roots’ Questlove, a fellow Philadelphia musician who inducted the hitmaking duo. “Hall and Oates can cure any known ailment.”
Gabriel was inducted by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who later sang with him on Gabriel’s “Washing of the Water.”
Martin credited Gabriel with creating a cathedral of sound and “he helped John Cusack get back his girlfriend in the movie ‘Say Anything.”’ That movie’s climactic moment featured Gabriel’s song “In Your Eyes,” and Gabriel performed a soaring version to celebrate his induction.
Gabriel said aspiring musicians should surround themselves with brilliance and, noting his early failures as a drummer, shouldn’t be afraid to try different things.
“Dream big, and let your imagination guide you, even if you end up dressing as a flower or a sexually transmitted disease,” said Gabriel, known for his theatrical outfits during early Genesis days.
The first two artist managers were inducted into the Hall: the late Brian Epstein, of the Beatles, and Andrew Loog Oldham, of the Rolling Stones.
David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or on Twitter
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