Last night, the Class of 2000 — including Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor — was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fourteen groups and individuals were honored in the 15th annual ceremony, which took place at a $1,500-a-plate dinner at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The other honorees included Earth, Wind & Fire; the Lovin’ Spoonful; The Moonglows; Nat “King” Cole; Billie Holiday; record exec Clive Davis; and five notable “sidemen” (backup musicians). Diana Ross sang “Strange Fruit” during the induction of the late blues singing legend Holiday, and Ray Charles, honoring the late singer Cole, tore up the Waldorf when he frankly admitted that he “tried to steal Nat Cole’s voice, I even tried to steal his piano — he wouldn’t let me, but I tried.” Paul McCartney, there to present James Taylor, was a surprise guest — and the laughs he drew when he spoke were among the biggest surprises of the evening. Among Sir Paul’s bon mots: He recalled that Taylor was the first artist to sign onto the Beatles’s record label, Apple, back “before it was a computer.”
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