The honorees were joined by a slate of special guests, including past Hall of Famers Stevie Nicks and Elton John, as well as Adam Levine, Brandi Carlile, Queen Latifah and Jimmy Page.
Many of the night’s award winners also performed, including Elliott, who wowed audiences with “Work It” and “Get Ur Freak On,” hip-hop hits from the late 1990s and 2000s that helped establish her iconic weirdness.
The Hall of Fame lauded Elliott’s first album, “Supa Dupa Fly,” as a defining moment in the genre, writing on its website that “she spit out onomatopoetic nonsense, singsong, and jagged syncopations in a signature urban Southern drawl.”
In her acceptance speech, Elliott donned a glittery gold tracksuit and fedora, and gave shout outs to her fellow inductees and inspirations in the audience, including John, Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa and Roxane Shante: “I was just listening to other people’s stories and being like, wow, they’ve been around all of these years and just getting inducted, who I feel been worthy to be up here. And that’s why I’m still in shock because they have so many years on me,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them and their music, I probably wouldn’t be standing here.”
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British popstar George Michael, a posthumous awardee, was best known for songs such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas” as one-half of the teen group Wham! His embrace of his sexuality later in his career and his coming out in 1998 helped pave the way for today’s LGBTQ+ artists.
Willie Nelson, who after 60-plus years continues to perform his brand of rock, pop and blues-infused country music, took the stage to sing with Chris Stapleton and fellow honoree Sheryl Crow.
At Nelson’s 90th birthday concert in April, The Washington Post popular music critic Chris Richards wrote that the “Troublemaker” singer sounded “familiar and unknowable, breezy and profound, casual and dependable, now more than ever.”
Crow, who has attended and performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies since its start in 1986, said in an interview for the hall that it was incredible to have her legacy showcased alongside legends such as Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.
“This is a little bit like getting an Oscar for a screenplay you have not finished writing,” Crow said.
Two groups — the fiercely political Rage Against the Machine and the R&B singers from the Spinners — were also awarded in the performers category.
Kate Bush catapulted into fame with her self-written, chart-topping single “Wuthering Heights,” inspired by an Emily Brönte novel of the same name. Her 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” made a comeback on the charts last year after it was featured on the hit show “Stranger Things.”
Bush said she was unable to attend last night’s ceremony but thanked the rock-and-roll Hall of Fame for her award in a statement on her website: “I am completely blown away by this huge honour — an award that sits in the big beating heart of the American music industry,” she wrote.
Accepting musical influence awards were Link Wray and Clive Campbell a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc — who invented hip-hop at a Bronx house party 50 years ago.
LL Cool J, a 2021 inductee, praised Kool Herc as “one of the great founders of hip-hop” when he presented the DJ with his award. “It’s a culture that changed my life obviously,” LL Cool J said. “It changed the lives of millions and millions of people.”
Chaka Khan, Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin, were also honored for their musical excellence.
Khan sang a medley of her hit songs, including “Sweet Thing” and “I’m Every Woman,” alongside H.E.R., Sia and Common.
And Taupin slighted former Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner in his speech, referring to a recent interview in which Wenner said no Black or female musical artists were “articulate” enough to be highlighted in his new book on rock luminaries. The comments caused a firestorm and Wanner was later removed from the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.
“I’m honored to be in the class of 2023 alongside a group of such profoundly ‘articulate’ women and outstanding ‘articulate’ Black artists along with all of the other music masters here tonight,” Taupin said.
Don Cornelius, best known as the creator of “Soul Train,” posthumously received the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which is given to non-performers in the music industry who “have had a major influence on the creative development and growth of rock & roll and music that has impacted youth culture,” the Hall of Fame’s website states.