Behind The Scenes of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with CEO Greg Harris (interview with Michele Amabile)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony took place this Saturday (Nov. 5), with Duran Duran, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Judas Priest, The Eurythmics, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie and more being inducted as the Class of 2023.

On hand to do the honors for Jimmy Iovine as the recipent of the Ahmet Ertegun Award, John Mellencamp, inducting lawyer Allen Grubman for the same honor, Robert Downey Junior inducted Duran Duran, Janet Jackson inducted Musical Excellence Award recipients Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Sheryl Crow inducted Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Alice Cooper inducted Musical Excellence Award recipients Judas Priest, Sara Bareilles inducted Carly Simon, who was not present due to the deaths of her two sisters in recent weeks. Simon filmed her acceptance speech. Additionally, Lenny Kravitz inducted Lionel Richie, The Edge from U2 inducted Eurythmics, Dr. Dre inducted Eminem, and Pink inducted Dolly Parton.

There were no speeches for Early Influences inductees Harry Belafonte, who did not attend, and Elizabeth Cotten, who died in 1987. Their contributions were acknowledged in filmed segments, as was that of a third Ahmet Ertegun Award recipient, recording artist and Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia Robinson, who passed in 2011.

Artists who participated in performances only included Olivia Rodrigo, who sang “You’re So Vain” in the Carly Simon segment, and Dave Grohl, who played lead guitar for Lionel Richie on “Easy.”

During the ceremony, Duran Duran read a letter from original guitarist Andy Taylor, who was diagnosed with stage four metastatic prostate cancer, which was first detected just over four years ago, but never spoken about publicly until now.

He wrote, “Although my current condition is not immediately life threatening there is no cure. Recently I was doing okay after some very sophisticated life extending treatment. That was until a week or so ago when I suffered a setback, and despite the exceptional efforts of my team, I had to be honest in that both physically and mentally, I would be pushing my boundaries [to attend].”

There were many sweet and powerful moments during the ceremony, including one by by Benatar, who acknowledged her husband in her speech.

“My partner, my love, 43 years ago in a rehearsal studio in New York could you ever have imagined this night tonight? So I’m guessing we could’ve probably done this separately on our own in our own way, but it wouldn’t have been this much fun.” 

While inducting pioneering music business lawyer Allen Grubman, Mellencamp, who is not Jewish, made an impassioned and often NSFW speech against antisemitism. He said: “I can’t tell you how important it is to speak out against hate.” He then repeated twice, “Silence is duplicity.”

A number of other artists spoke about hate and discrimination, including Rob Halford of Judas Priest, who begin his speech, “I’m the gay guy in the band…,” then, after an ovation, continued: “You see, that there is what heavy metal is all about. We call ourselves the heavy metal community, which is all-inclusive. It doesn’t matter what your sexual identity is, what you look like, the color of your skin, the faith that you believe in — or don’t believe in —  everybody’s welcome.”

Eminem was joined on stage by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who sang parts of “Dream On”for “Sing for the Moment,” and Ed Sheeran for “Stan,” performing verses previously recorded by first Dido, then Elton John. Later, Slim Shady declared, “I’m a rapper and this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” and explaining how hip-hop — and specifically Dr. Dre —  had “basically saved [his] life.”

Dolly Parton, who at first turned down her nomination because she felt she wasn’t rock enough, has embraced it after becoming more aware of the Rock Hall’s wide-umbrella definition of rock. She was the evening’s final inductee, and explained that she was dedicating her award award to her husband Carl, a huge rock fan who has regularly had it on in their home during their 56-year marriage.

Parton explained that she had talked about doing a rock album for years, but that this honor had lit the spark for her to finally record it, and that she would preview a song from it during her performance. After joint tributes to her from Brandi Carlile and Pink on “Coat of Many Colors”, then Sheryl Crow and Zac Brown on “9 to 5,” Dolly emerged from the wings in a black rock n’ roll outfit that looked like a feminine version of something Elvis Presley might have worn. She also carried an electric guitar. She then performed the new song, “Rockin,” which not only references Elvis, but Jerry Lee (Lewis)Little Richard and Carl Perkins. She said she intends to have lots of rock star guests on the album and mentioned in interviews that she wants to record a version of “Stairway to Heaven” with Robert Plant and ‘maybe Jimmy Page, too”.

Dolly closed with an ensemble performance of her breakthrough hit “Jolene” that featured her, Pink, Rob Halford, Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile and inductees Annie Lennox and Pat Benatar alternately singing the verses. There was even a duet portion where Dolly sang with Halford.

 Following that performance, Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen  came back out to front a tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis, a medley of “High School Confidential” and “Great Balls of Fire” that will likely find its way into the ceremony when it’s televised on HBO starting November 19th. A lengthy In Memoriam segment that included recorded portions of “Be My Baby” (featuring the late Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes) “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” (Gary Brooker of Procol Harum), “Who’s Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” (Loretta Lynn), a drum solo by Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters and a few other songs by artists who died since the last ceremony behind a gallery of photographs of the late stars.

Michele Amabile caught up with Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to talk about the highlights from the show, and what exactly may end up televised Nov. 19 on HBO.

“I think [the ceremony] was closer to six hours, but the good news is there is great stuff,” he said. “It’s going to be really hard to cut that 6 hours in half down to three hours for the HBO broadcast on Nov. 19. The editors are hard at work right now.”

To hear what you missed and more behind the scenes details, listen below:

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