Typically, the most exciting thing about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony happens outside of the actual event. Arguments crop up around the long list of potential nominees that are revealed every year and then another argument starts when they let us all know who is getting in. But due to the sheer impact of the musicians we’ve lost in the last year, the notably strange situation in the White House and the outsized names being inducted, this year’s ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was uncharacteristically eventful.
We’ve compiled a few of the standout moments below.
The Rock Hall Honors Chuck Berry
Only way to start the #RockHall2017 ceremony: ELO doing their symphonic ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ in tribute to Chuck Berry pic.twitter.com/YTTIcalUGk
— Eric Renner Brown (@ericrennerbrown) April 7, 2017
It’s fair to say that without Chuck Berry, the Rock Hall wouldn’t exist. They recognized as much during their founding by making the proto-rocker the Hall’s first-ever inductee in 1986. Berry was honored three times over, with an introductory speech by Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner, a tribute package featuring famous rockers paying fealty to the late legend and with a performance by Electric Light Orchestra as they were being inducted.
Rock Hall performances are notoriously constrained. They kind of have to be when legendary bands are asked to sum up their careers in a few songs. Even so, ELO gave up a portion of their performance to play their cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” before their own big hits “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Joan Baez Is Still Political
Famed folkie and activist Joan Baez used her acceptance speech to due what she’s done for more than 50 years, push for causes she believes in.
“Where empathy is failing, and sharing has become usurped by greed and lust for power, let us double, triple and quadruple our own efforts to empathize,” she said. “Let us together repeal and replace brutality and make compassion a priority. Together, let us build a bridge — a great bridge, a beautiful bridge — to once again welcome the tired and the poor. And we will pay for that bridge with our commitment.”
If the target of her speech wasn’t apparent, she later shouted out President Donald Trump during a rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Yes’ Rick Wakeman Is The Rock Hall’s Drunk Uncle
While most inductees used their time on the mic to thank friends, fans and family, Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman decided to test out some Andrew Dice Clay B-material.
“[Guitarist] Steve [Howe] said a thank you to his wife, I want to say a thank you to mine,”he said. “Unfortunately, she’s not here tonight. When I left her this morning, I think she was in a coma. The sex was still the same, but the washing was piling up!”
Wakeman also made jokes about prostate doctors getting erections and informed the room that his first ever sexual experience happened nearby the arena.
Snoop Dogg Honors Tupac With A Heartfelt Speech…
Snoop Dogg was given the honor of inducting his late friend Tupac Shakur and he more than rose to the occasion. Barring a revalation about Shakur hipping Snoop to blunt-smoking, The Doggfather gave an emotional speech about the legendary rapper who was murdered over 20 years ago.
“While many remember him now as some kind of thugged out superhero, Tupac knew that he was only human,” said Snoop. “To be human is to be many things at once, strong and vulnerable, hardheaded and intellectual, courageous and afraid, revolutionary and oh yeah, don’t get it f*cked up, gangsta.”
…And A Performance
Snoop wasn’t done. He also joined in the star-studded tribute to Shakur that the Hall put on. Snoop and fellow Left Coaster YG performed “All Eyez On Me” in a medley that also included Alicia Keys playing “I Get Around” and “Changes” on piano, Treach of Naughty by Nature performing “Hail Mary” and T.I. performing “Hail Mary.”
Lenny Kravitz Plays The Tribute He Was Born To Play
Admittedly, the downbeat and dubby “When Doves Cry” bit of Lenny Kravitz’s Prince tribute was a bit of a miss. Lenny was largely saved by the choir he brought on stage with that. But if you don’t think that Kravitz has been gearing up to perform something like Prince’s psychedelic and religious Sign O The Times shriek “The Cross” since he first burst onto the scene with the equally Jesus-y “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, then you haven’t been paying attention.
He’s not the first name that would come to mind for a Prince tribute, but neither is “The Cross.” And once you see it, you can’t imagine anyone else doing it.
David Letterman Inducts His Famous Buddies
Pearl Jam didn’t get sworn into the Rock Hall by Neil Young as planned, but David Letterman with a full-on wild man beard is one hell of a consolation.
Throughout the speech, Letterman revealed his long-standing relationship with the ’90s megastars, even reading a letter that Eddie Vedder had written to Letterman’s son Harry. He also casually dropped the fact that Warren Zevon hadn’t been inducted, a theme that would hold throughout Pearl Jam’s part of the ceremony.
Jeff Ament Celebrates Snubs
Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament wore a t-shirt covered in the names of deserving bands that haven’t made it into the hall to receive the honor of his own band being inducted. The list included some pretty shocking names like The Cars, Slayer, Husker Du, The Cure, Duran Duran, The Smiths and Tom Waits.
In case you missed it, Pearl Jam helpfully posted a picture of the shirt to their Instagram.
Eddie Vedder Advocates For Fighting Climate Change And Listening To Chance The Rapper
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder has always worn his politics on his sleeve (or his arm). So, it’s no surprise that he took a moment to address climate change during his own acceptance speech.
“Climate change is real — it’s not fake news,” he said. “Anything can be obtainable: the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. It can be done, but here’s the thing: We don’t have 108 years to wait. We cannot be the generation that history will look back upon and wonder why they didn’t do everything humanly possible to solve the biggest crisis in our time.”
The Cubs weren’t the only Chicago product that Vedder felt like shouting out. He also took a moment to honor the reigning patron saint of the Second City.
“If Chance the Rapper ever sees or hears this, I just want to tell him, my daughter really loves you,” he said. “I also, Chance, want to thank you for all the great work you’re doing in Chicago. That gives us all hope.”
Keep your eyes peeled for the official airing of the ceremony later this month, on Saturday, 4/29.