The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s long road to inducting its Class of 2020 finally comes to an end this Saturday night when the virtual ceremony airs on HBO at 8:00 ET and PT.
This year’s class — The Doobie Brothers, Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., T. Rex, and Ahmet Ertegun Award winners Irving Azoff and Jon Landau — was announced on January 15th, and the ceremony was scheduled for May 2nd in Cleveland. But, like everything else, that was called off, and here we are with a virtual ceremony. This year’s broadcast is the shortest ever, clocking in at two hours and seven minutes. That’s because there are no performances and the acceptance speeches are very short.
Dave Grohl opened the show with a short speech.
“This rock and roll family of ours, like so many others, unfortunately can’t gather together in person to induct the Hall of Fame Class of 2020. The artists are all very different, but they share one crucial virtue in common – the undying spirit of rock and roll.”
The Doobies Brothers were first up, inducted by country singer Luke Bryan with comments in the video package from comedic actor Judd Apatow, country picker and singer Brad Paisley, and Heart‘s Nancy Wilson.
“Being a Doobie Brother represents some of the best years of my life. So, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with these guys makes it all the more special to me.”
Nine Inch Nails was second with a spirited induction speech by Iggy Pop.
“I went to the Nine Inch Nails show in The Forum in Los Angeles, the one together with David Bowie, and Trent [Reznor] held the center of that room just by being a kind of dark spot, hunched behind the mic. I’d see the same thing accomplished in different ways by T. Rex at Wembley, Nirvana at the Pyramid Club, and Bob Dylan in ’65. This is the mark of the master artist — simply to connect.”
“As I’ve been wrapping my head around Nine Inch Nails being welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think I was most looking forward to the ceremony itself where hopefully the whole camp, past and present, was going to get together and have a moment. And, we’re all stuck in our little boxes staring at our screens.”
The night’s first yuks come from Don Henley and Joe Walsh in their tribute to Eagles manager Irving Azoff. He received the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which goes to “songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on Rock and Roll.”
DH: “Irving Azoff in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why not? Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve inducted somebody who can’t sing or play an instrument.”
JW: “We love him. All the guys in the Eagles love him. He has a beautiful house that we bought him, and a beautiful car that we bought him. He has a wonderful life that we’ve made possible for him.”
“My mantra since day one has been do what’s right for the artist and in turn that decision will be right for you. I can honestly say that strategy hasn’t failed me once. No one has taught me more about the importance of protecting artist’s rights than Don Henley. If you are young artist or executive and I can give you any advice, it’s be brave. Own as much as you can. Depends on no one but yourselves. Protect intellectual property at all costs. Take the long road. Fear nothing and no one. I promise you it will pay off.”
DG: “It’s incredible now to be in this club. There’s so many other musicians, artists that are part of this that we have grown up listening to — David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The Clash, just to name a few.”
AF: “The Eagles.”
DG: “Yeah, don’t forget the Eagles. Everybody loves the Eagles.”
The In Memoriam segment followed Depeche Mode, leading off with a video tribute to Eddie Van Halen featuring comments from Slash, Kirk Hammett and Tom Morello. But the highlight of this segment was the virtual drum-off between between Neil Peart and Ginger Baker. And, of course, the last person honored was Little Richard, one of the founding fathers of rock and roll.
While this is the time of year where we know who has been nominated for induction in 2021, that selection process will not begin until early in the year with the ceremony to be held next fall in Cleveland.