Prince was king, ZZ was tops, and the English rock-jazz fusion band stopped traffic — all this, and a salute to honorees Bob Seger and George Harrison, among others.
Eight inductees were crowned rock royalty Monday night in the Grand Ballroom of Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.
Besides Prince, Harrison and Seger, the Class of 2004 included Texas boogie-woogie blues-rockers ZZ Top, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, the British band Traffic, the R&B vocal group The Dells and Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, reports Reuters. Each of them has spent at least 25 years in the music field.
At the ceremony (which will be shown in edited form Sunday on VH1), Prince was introduced by Alicia Keys and OutKast, and then got things off to a rollicking start with rousing — and standing-ovation-worthy — renditions of “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Sign ‘O’ The Times” and “Kiss.”
“There are many kings. King Henry VIII, King Solomon, King Tut, King James, King Kong. But there is only one Prince,” said Keys.
As for the man himself, whose 1984 “Purple Rain” sold 17 million copies, he told the crowd: “When I first started out in this music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. I wish you all the best on this fascinating journey. It ain’t over.”
Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001 and was already inducted to the Cleveland-based hall as a member of the Beatles, became the third of the Fab Four to be inducted as a solo artist, following John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Ringo Starr has yet to be inducted on his own.)
Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison, quoted the poet Rabindrath Tagore at the black-tie ceremony, reports The New York Times. “Blessed is he whose fame does not outshine his truth,” it began.
Harrison’s look-alike son, Dhani, joined presenters Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne for the Traveling Wilburys song, “Handle With Care,” and Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” in which Prince joined in, says Reuters.
Dave Matthews presented Traffic, comprised of Steve Winwood , Jim Capaldi , Dave Mason and the late Chris Wood, while Bruce Springsteen introduced balladeer Browne, who performed “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty.”
“I think music is a force, a powerful force for good,” said Browne, who has championed liberal causes. “I think music is a very empowering thing and I’m glad I’ve had a lifetime to do it.”
“The most underrated singer, songwriter and performer of our generation — until this day” is how fellow Detroit rocker Kid Rock introduced Seger, whose hard-driving hits include “Old Time Rock and Roll,” the soulful “Night Moves” and “Hollywood Nights.”
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards presented ZZ Top — Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, who performed “La Grange” and “Tush.”
Film director Robert Townsend introduced The Dells, who formed in a Chicago suburb in the 1950s, and had their first hit, “Oh, What a Night,” in 1956. “There’s a God that cared a lot about us that made us care a lot about each other,” bass singer Charles Barksdale said about his band’s longevity. “We do love each other.”
Wenner, who started Rolling Stone in 1967, was introduced by a Rolling Stone named Mick Jagger.
“Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” and “Feelin’ Alright” brought the evening to close with a bang — and with all the stars onstage, joining in.