Continuing an annual bash where a duet between Kid Rock and soul singer Solomon Burke might seem perfectly normal, music legends once again converged on New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel to enshrine the Rock Hall's Class of 2001--a group that included solo superstars Michael Jackson and Paul Simon, '70s rockers Aerosmith and Queen, recent Grammy winners Steely Dan and former Chuck Berry musical partner Johnnie Johnson.
Also inducted was R&B singer Burke, Ritchie Valens--who released hits like "La Bamba" and "Donna" before dying in the 1959 plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly--doo-wop group The Flamingos, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell (whose discoveries included U2 and Bob Marley) and sideman James Burton, a "chicken pickin'" guitarist who played on records for Elvis Presley and Gram Parsons, among others.
Per tradition, the all-star attendees converged on stage (even bringing a few lucky audience members with them) for the night's obligatory jam session, belting out Burke's hit "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and a version of Steely Dan's "Do It Again."
Speaking of doing it again, Monday night marked the second induction of both Simon (previously honored for his work with Simon & Garfunkel) and Jackson (previously enshrined as a member of the Jackson 5).
As he limped onstage with a broken foot, Jackson told the crowd "there's not going to be any moonwalking tonight," but the King of Pop thanked his family, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones (who produced his 1982 disc Thriller, still the biggest-selling album in history) and Diana Ross, whom he said "is my second mother...I thank you."
Simon, meanwhile, got his due for post-S&G work that includes the Grammy-winning albums Graceland and Still Crazy After All These Years. But he also hinted that one day, he'd like to reconcile with his old partner, Art Garfunkel. "I regret the ending of our friendship and hope one day before we die we'll make peace with each other," he said, before joking, "No rush."
In one of the night's more touching moments, pianist Johnnie Johnson declared, "This is the proudest moment of my life" as he was inducted in the "sideman" category with the help of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Johnson, the former partner of rock 'n' roller Chuck Berry, is the artist immortalized on Berry's classic "Johnnie B. Goode" and is widely hailed for his influence on early Berry hits like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "No Particular Place to Go."
Richards called Johnson "an American work of art." Berry, meanwhile, did not attend Monday night's ceremony--not at all unexpected, given that Johnson sued Berry last December seeking royalties on many of the early songs.
For Steely Dan, it's been a pretty good year for trophies, considering the jazz-rock duo had to wait 30 years to win any of 'em. It wasn't until last month that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker picked up their first-ever Grammy win for the album Two Against Nature. Techno-popster Moby inducted the group, best known for '70s hits like "Rikki Don't Lose that Number" and "Do It Again."
Thirty years after they first formed, the still-churning Boston rockers in Aerosmith also were honored for early hits like "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On," although they're currently sitting at number two on the Billboard charts for their newest album, Just Push Play. Kid Rock, who performed with the group at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, called Aerosmith "the greatest rock band in American history," while frontman Steven Tyler addressed early criticism that the band was just a Rolling Stones ripoff.
"I wonder if this will put an end to, 'Hey, aren't you Mick Jagger?'" he said.
Also getting its due Monday night was Queen, the campy British rock-opera group that packed arenas in the '70s and '80s with anthems like "We Are the Champions," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and (our personal favorite) "Fat Bottomed Girls." Legendary frontman Freddy Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, but the surviving members reunited onstage Monday for a rendition of "We Will Rock You." They also enlisted Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to sing a version of "Tie Your Mother Down."
Meanwhile, Ricky Martin did the honors for Ritchie Valens, who broke pop barriers with Latin-influenced hits like "La Bamba" before his untimely death in 1959. And U2 frontman Bono honored Blackwell for his induction into the non-performing category.
To be eligible for the Rock Hall, artists must have released their first album in 1975 or earlier. The nominees are chosen by a 70-member committee of rock 'n' roll historians, record company execs and journalists, with ballots then mailed to 1,000 recording industry types for the final decision.
The ceremony will air on VH1 Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET.