The list of presenters at this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reads like, well, a hall of fame induction class: John Mellencamp, Motown legend Smokey Robinson, singer-songwriter Carole King, the Band’s Robbie Robertson and ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons and Dusty Hill — each of them already members of the hall — will welcome the Class of 2012.
Public Enemy’s Chuck D is set to induct the Beastie Boys, while comedian Chris Rock will introduce the Red Hot Chili Peppers. E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt welcomes the Small Faces/Faces, while Donovan will be inducted by Mellencamp. Laura Nyro will be welcomed by Bette Midler, Freddie King will be inducted by Gibbons and Hill, and Carole King will introduce Don Kirshner, for whom she worked in the Brill Building era.
Mellencamp is “my dear friend of recent years,” Donovan told Billboard.com. He’ll be joined during what promises to be an intriguing performance by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. “My music translates again and again to younger generations of players,” Donovan added, “because I broke all the rules — and they can break all the rules now, too.”
Producers/engineers Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns will be inducted by Robertson, and sidemen from the Blue Caps, the Comets, the Crickets, the Famous Flames, the Midnighters and his own band the Miracles all will be inducted by Smokey Robinson.
Details on who will induct Guns n’ Roses were still forthcoming. It also remains to be seen whether the original lineup of the band will be able to set aside their differences long enough to appear at the ceremony. The 27th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions are set for Saturday, April 14 in Cleveland.
The ceremony will be televised by HBO on May 5.
Here’s a look back at our thoughts on a few of the new inductees. Click through the titles for expanded coverage …
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – I’M WITH YOU (2011): Though they often play with a familiar steely aggression, the Red Hot Chili Peppers seem nevertheless to be rounding the corner into middle age. I’m With You, the band’s first project since the 2006 double-album Stadium Arcadium, is often focused on departures — of youth and of old friends, perhaps a direct reaction to the exit of guitarist John Frusciante. The longest layover in band history, clearly, gave them time to think. Still, this being the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and thunderous bassist Flea being, well, thunderous on the bass, you’d expect most of these ideas to be buried deep in the group’s trademark whomping frat-boy funk, right? Not so fast. This Rick Rubin-produced efforts ends up as the most layered, complex offering in a Peppers’ catalog dating back almost three decades.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – GREATEST HITS (2003): The Chili Peppers is one of those bands that I resisted. They were getting airplay from Mother’s Milk (“Higher Ground”, no doubt) and I just did not get it. Then Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out. This was the Peppers’ London Calling, their Dark Side Of The Moon (and hopefully not their Frampton Comes Alive). The funk was undeniable: killer guitar riffs and powerful in-the-pocket drumming, all anchored by Flea’s kinetic and soulful bass. So one day at work I’m listening to BSSM and a co-worker asks me if I’ve heard the ‘real’ Chili Peppers. He offers up his LP copies of Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Freaky Styley. Cripes, this stuff is nuts!
LAURA NYRO – LIVE AT THE BOTTOM LINE (1988): You may already have an idea of Laura Nyro’s music, which has been covered by the likes of Blood Sweat & Tears, 5th Dimension and Three Dog Night. It’s got a lot of soul, with dashes of folk, jazz and even a Broadway showtune occasionally thrown in for good measure. Sometimes she can be confused with Joni Mitchell or Carole King, even though she slightly preceded them both as stars. Todd Rundgren has built much of his solo career around trying to duplicate the intricate, yet sweet-sounding melodies that was this lady’s stock in trade. But none of that makes a great live record. What does is a tight band, great arrangements, good vocals (supported superbly by Diane Wilson), song selection and good rapport with the audience. It’s all here.
THE BEASTIE BOYS – SOME OLD BULLSH-T (1994): Some interesting early sides, featuring the Beastie Boys’ Pollywog Stew (an eight-song punk-thrash thing from 1982) with the “Cooky Puss” 12-inch from 1984, a surprise regional hit. Having already broken up and reformed several times, the Beasties had by then landed a studio gig recording commercial jingles. That knob fiddling led to a new complexity in their sound, with “Cooky Puss” and then “Bonus Butter” moving into a house-rap synthesis — but, this being the early 1980s, with a heavy disco vibe. Everybody knows what happened next.