By Jim Johnson

The 2016 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was inducted on Friday night (April 8th) at Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center. In addition to Chicago, who was inducted by Rob Thomas, this year’s inductees were Deep Purple — inducted by Lars Ulrich, Steve Miller — inducted by the Black Keys, songwriter/producer Bert Berns  — inducted by Steve Van Zandt, N.W.A. — inducted by
Kendrick Lamar, and Cheap Trick — inducted by Kid Rock.

The event featured two salutes to recent fallen Rock Hall members, with David Byrne, Kimbra, and The Roots performing “Fame” in tribute to David Bowie, along with Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter playing the Eagles‘ “New Kid In Town” in tribute to Glenn Frey. HBO will broadcast highlights from the Rock Hall ceremony on April 30th at 8:00 P.M.

The 2016 induction ceremony was a lower key event than the 2015 inductions, which culminated with an onstage reunion of the surviving Beatles when Paul McCartney inducted Ringo Starr into the Hall. Surprisingly, given the wealth of talent gracing the Barclays Center stage, the real sparks flew backstage, when Steve Miller met the press and let loose on the Rock Hall’s questionable standards and practices for incoming members. Miller’s comments marked the first time in 31 years that an incoming inductee publicly slammed the Hall the night of their induction.

Miller, who had been critical of the Hall before he was picked for inclusion this year, was asked by the press what he would change about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and even lashed out at a publicist trying to stymie his tirade: “Uh, yeah. Everything. The whole process is unpleasant. The whole process needs to be changed, from the top to the bottom. ‘Doesn’t need to be this hard, there’s nothing fancy going on out there that requires all of this stuff. They need to get their legal work straight, they need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t — I don’t have any of my paper work. . .  is signed. I have no licensing agreements with these people, they’re trying to steal my footage, they’re tying to make me indemnify them. When they told me I was inducted, they said ‘You can have two tickets; one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000 dollars. Sorry, that’s the way it goes.’ I said, ‘I’m playing here, what about my band? What about their wives?’ What about. . . They make this so unpleasant that they came this close. . . (to publicist) No, we’re not going to wrap this one up! I’m going to wrap you up. You’re going to sit over there and learn something. So here’s what you need to know. . . This is how close this whole show came to not happening because of the way the artists are actually being treated right now. So, I’ll wrap it up right now (applause).”

Steve Van Zandt was asked backstage about the long and slow process for classic artists to finally gain entry into the Hall: “But, it’s tough, man. It’s tough to get in. Y’know, it’s not easy to get in. (Laughs) That’s why when people don’t show up at this thing, man, I get crazy! ‘Cause it’s so hard to get in. It’s a pretty big list — J.Geils Band, y’know, high on my list. There’s quite a few, still.”

DEEP PURPLE

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducted Deep Purple and put the band’s legacy into proper perspective: “Without exception, every hard rock band of the last 40 years — including mine — traces its lineage directly back to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple (applause). That’s right (applause). And as far as I’m concerned, these three bands should always be considered equals for their songwriting, their recordings, and their accomplishments.”

Deep Purple’s co-founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who split from the band in 1993, opted out of Friday’s ceremony. In addition to the classic lineup of Blackmore,Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice, and the late-Jon Lord, the Hall also inducted original frontman Rod Evans, and latter day members David Coverdale andGlenn Hughes.

Frontman Ian Gillan thanked each and every member of Deep Purple over the years and went on to say: “Y’know, this award isn’t really for us. This award is very much for our families and our business connections, our crew, and our fans over what’s been (applause) nearly 50 years.”

David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, represented the only members inducted from the band’s mid-’70s period. Coverdale took time out to name check those who were unable to enjoy the honor with the band: “I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to all past and present members of Deep Purple. My incredible musical mentor Ritchie Blackmore (applause), and particularly the very-much missed Tommy Bolin, and of course the immortal Jon Lord. I’d like to particularly thank all the fans of Deep Purple around the world, who not only keep the music alive of the band, but continue to support all the offshoot bands, as well.”

CHICAGO

Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas underlined how ingrained Chicago‘s best loved songs remain in the fabric of everyday life: “‘Saturday In The Park,’ (applause) ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,?’ (applause) ‘If You Leave Me Now,’ (sings) ’25 Or 6 To 4,’ ‘Feelin’ Stronger Everyday,” ‘Wishing You Were Here.’ These songs are the sound of a city. They’re the sounds of a melting pot. They’re the sounds of unity, and they’re the sounds of Chicago (applause).”

Chicago’s primary songwriter and keyboardist Robert Lamm took time out to salute the band, but notably failed to include long-estranged bassist and vocalist Peter Cetera, who sparred with the band and the Rock Hall over his appearance at the festivities: “This is not something you can do by yourself. In this case, Walt (Parazaider), Danny (Seraphine), Lee (Loughnane), James (Pankow), Terry (Kath (applause) — my brothers in the band. I would not be standing here without them.”

Saxophonist Walt Parazaider spoke about the band’s origins: “This band started on February 15th, 1967, when we played together for the first time in my basement. We never thought we’d be standing up here at this time. Wow (applause). I’d like to thank my brothers up here for the incredible experience of creating and playing music with them — as well as Terry Kath, our good friend and great guitar player (applause). We miss him (applause).”

STEVE MILLER

When accepting his honor, Steve Miller recalled his “make or break” journey from Chicago to seek fame and fortune in Northern California: “Muddy Waters said ‘The blues had a baby, and they named it ‘rock n’ roll.” Well, I definitely did feel like and outsider, and I remember so clearly, the first day I did arrive in San Francisco. It was 1966. I had five dollars in my pocket and I was living in a Volkswagen bus (laughs). I went straight to the Fillmore Auditorium and bought a ticket, and I did see the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (applause). And Paul invited me to sit in and announced I had arrived.”

CHEAP TRICK

Kid Rock closed the night with the final induction speech, which linked the band directly with their Midwestern work ethic: “It looked like success came out of nowhere, but trust me — they worked for it. Of course they did. They’ve got Midwestern  heart. . .  (applause) they got Illinois shoulders. . . (applause) That’s why today, more than 40 years later — and more than 5,000 gigs, they’re still going strong (applause). They’ve been on the ropes, they’ve been knocked down, but they never stopped. And they’re still out there racking up the miles and playing every show like it’s their first. You don’t think so? These crazy ****s got three more gigs this week (applause).”

It was a given that Cheap Trick leader Rick Nielsen‘s acceptance speech would be equal parts sentimental, caustic, and comedic: “Music’s always been my savior. It found me at an early age. Music has worth and it’s all I’ve ever done for my living. You can write ‘retirement’ on my tombstone (laughter). Of course, along with this business of ours, comes corruption and jealousy, stealing, backstabbing, resentment, lawsuits, etc. . . And that’s just the road crew (laughter).”

Robin Zander clearly spoke from the heart while accepting his honor for his 42-year-tenure as Cheap Trick’s frontman: “Holland and Ian, I know I wasn’t the best father — neither was I the worst. But I was gone a lot, yes. But I know, I love you very much. Our fans really deserve this honor more than anyone (applause) for stickin’ up for us as long as they have! I know that’s been tough over the years! But most of all, thanks to this band, Cheap Trick, for giving me a life I’d always dreamed of — and their families for putting up with this for over 40 years.”
FRIDAY’S SETLIST AT THE ROCK HALL INDUCTION CEREMONY

  • “Fame” – David Byrne, Kimbra, and The Roots (in tribute to David Bowie)
  • “Highway Star,” “Green Onions/Hush,” and “Smoke On The Water” – Deep Purple
  • “Fly Like An Eagle,” “The Joker,” and “Rock ‘N Me” – The Steve Miller Band
  • “New Kid In Town” – Sheryl Crow & Grace Potter (in tribute to Glenn Frey)
  • “Saturday In The Park,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” and “25 Or 6 To 4” – Chicago
  • “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “Surrender – Cheap Trick
  • “Ain’t That A Shame” – All-Star Jam

Check out the 2016 inductees super jam, “Ain’t That A Shame”:

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