By Matt DeMarco
Drunken ramblings, boa constrictors, Bette Midler—it sounds like the makings of an acid trip gone wrong, but in fact, these were some of the key ingredients to the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Some of the biggest stars in the music industry piled into the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan this past Sunday to honor this year's inductees—Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Jac Holzman, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Art Rupe, Leon Russell and Tom Waits—in what was a night filled with music, emotion and hilarity.
"We blessed to do what we do," said Dr. John, the night's first inductee. The purple-clad New Orleans native and piano master would later take the stage with the man that inducted him, John Legend—one of many duets of the evening.
After R&B legend Lloyd Price and former Doors drummer John Densmore inducted producer Art Rupe and Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman , respectively, Bette Midler took to the podium, stating how happy she was to be there because "now at least when you Google ‘Bette Midler' and ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,' something will come up!" She then inducted Darlene Love, arguably most famous for her Christmas-time favorite "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," into the Hall of Fame. The two later teamed up to perform "Rebel," with some guitar accompaniment by Bruce Springsteen. In a complete 180 from the last presenter, Rob Zombie took to the stage to induct Alice Cooper (the band). Before this "gang of murderous drag queens,"–Zombie's words, not mine—accepted their new position in rock royalty, they performed a medley of their hit songs, even bringing out the Ronald McDonald House Choir to back them up on their hit single, "School's Out."
Neil Young came out next to induct an emotional, yet hilarious, Tom Waits. "They say that I'm difficult to work with," said Waits, "and they say that like it's a bad thing. This has been very encouraging." These two rock icons would later take the stage together in what may have been one of the best sets ever played in the ceremony's history.
Next out was Sir Elton John to induct Leon Russell. Before the ceremony, John, who worked with Russell to release The Union earlier this year, told reporters that one of his goals for this album was to bring Russell back into the spotlight and get him into the Hall of Fame, as he'd somehow become forgotten as the years passed. Russell, who was holding back tears behind his massive sunglasses and Gandalf-like beard, graciously accepted his trophy and later took the stage, with some help from Elton and John Mayer.
The night's final inductee was none other than Neil Diamond—"the Jewish Elvis Presley," as Paul Simon called him when he introduced Diamond to the stage. Diamond then took to the stage in what Rolling Stone editor Andy Greene has called, "one of the greatest drunk rambling speeches in Hall of Fame history." Perhaps it was because his induction came 20 years after he was initially eligible, or maybe he was just jetlagged from flying in from "Sydney, F--king Australia," but Diamond was clearly in a mood of sorts: [Pointing to the screaming fans in the top balcony,] "They love me! They're crazy, but I love them, and I love you too [pointing to the celebrities/other Hall of Fame members], even though you didn't vote for me. I don't give a s--t."
He did give a s--t about his later performance, however, singing some of his hit songs, including, not one, but two performances of "Sweet Caroline," followed by an all-star rendition of "Da Doo Ron Ron," featuring all of the inductees—an incredible ending to an incredible night.