Thursday, March 13, 2008


For me, maybe the most fun part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies is seeing who presents each of the inductees. Sometimes they're obvious and satisfying, like Springsteen inducting Dylan, or Bono inducting Springsteen, or Springsteen inducting U2, and sometimes they're unexpected but satisfying, like Axl Rose inducting Elton John. My favorites are when a bigger star inducts a lesser star, like when Steven Tyler inducted AC/DC, or Keith Richards did the honors for ZZ Top.

Here are this year's presenters:

Justin Timberlake for Madonna
: A perfect choice, in oh-so-many ways. When she used to wear that Boy Toy belt buckle, Justin was the boy she had in mind.

Lou Reed for Leonard Cohen
: One literate non-singing songwriter does the honors for another, but this one feels a bit off to me. For one thing, I don't think Lou can hold Leonard's jock, but maybe that's just me. Let me just note that while Reed was trying so hard to be the coolest guy in New York, Leonard was sleeping with everyone from Joni Mitchell to Janis Joplin.

Billy Joel for John Mellencamp: Billy is becoming one of the go-to guys for this, like Springsteen or Eddie Vedder (who inducted the Ramones, R.E.M., Neil Young, and probably a few others I missed) or Kid Rock (who did Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd; don't know why they didn't have him do Van Halen). Joel inducted the Righteous Brothers a few years back.

John Fogerty for the Ventures: This was my favorite choice of the evening, a bigger star paying tribute to his influences.

Tom Hanks for the Dave Clark Five: An odd choice, but it works; Hanks is a huge star, and the DC5 are basically what the Wonders would have been had they had more than one hit.

Patti LaBelle for Gamble and Huff: They could have chosen the people who performed on their biggest hits, but Billy Paul isn't exactly a big name anymore, and nobody would recognize anyone from the O'Jays. I would have gone with Russell Thompkins of the Stylistics, but I'm funny that way. Patti LaBelle is a fine choice, although I don't think she ever worked with G&H - at least she's from Philadelphia, and she's a big star and a great live performer (I saw her at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater in the early 1990s). Jerry Butler had been announced as Gamble and Huff's inductor; I don't know what happened there.

Ben Harper for Little Walter
: Good choice. Ben Harper seems like the appropriate level of star for someone no one's ever heard of. “To pass through life you must pass through the blues and to pass through the blues you must pass through Little Walter.” Good job, Ben.

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