• News/ 

    Madonna, Mellencamp Rock!

    It's official: Madonna's like a rocker.

    The Queen of Pop joined fellow headliners John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five and the Ventures as the latest class of immortals in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Monday night.

    Some media critics have carped that Rock Hall organizers lowered their standards in choosing a pop star known more for simulating orgasms on stage than rocking out while overlooking more deserving veteran artists. Still, the crowd at New York's Waldorf Astoria justified its love for the Material Mom, warmly embracing her during the enshrinement ceremony.

    The "Borderline" singer—who turns 50 this August—received a fawning intro from Justin Timberlake, who collaborated with Madonna on the first single from her upcoming album, Hard Candy, and also cowrote six of the tracks.

    "The truth is nobody's gotten into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame looking this fine," the "Sexy Back" star said. "You're no museum piece."

    Timberlake ticked off Madonna's accomplishments, from reigning over the pop charts to her ever-morphing music and boundary-pushing antics, including the famous Britney Spears smooch.

    "She changed the way the world sounded, she changed the way the world looked and she still found time to have kissed someone I may or may not have kissed myself while I was in the audience. Of course you all know who I'm talking about: Sean Penn," he quipped to a collective groan from the peanut gallery.

    Timberlake also noted that during their recent work together, he was ailing one day, prompting Madonna to order him to "drop 'em," pull out a syringe and give him a B12 shot—in his derriere.

    "She looked at me and said, 'that's top shelf," he said. "And that was one of the greatest days of my life."

    For her part, Madge thanked all the "naysayers" for inspiring her to become the pop force she is today, with more than 200 million albums sold worldwide.

    "They helped me because they made me question myself and pushed me to be better," she said. "I know that I would not be here right now without all of you, because life, like art, is a collaboration, and I did not get here on my own. And why would I want to?

    "I have gone on to do so many things in my life, from writing children's books, to designing clothes, to directing a film. But for me it always does, and it always will, come back to the music," Madonna continued.

    In what will surely go down as one of the more bizarre highlights in Rock Hall history, fellow Michigan exports Iggy & the Stooges performed ear-splitting punk versions of two of her hits, "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light."

    During the latter song, the sinewy frontman stuck out his tongue at the "Erotica" performer and concluded with lines from "Like a Virgin"—"You make me feel shiny and new, like a virgin touched for the very first time"—before snaking off backstage.

    Billy Joel did the honors for pal Mellencamp, praising the roots rocker's three-decade-plus career for giving voice to Middle America through such classic anthems as "Hurts So Good," "Jack and Diane," "Crumbling Down," and "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."

    "They need to hear stories about frustration, alienation and desperation. They need to hear somebody out there feels the way they do in a small town," said Joel.

    Mellencamp, 56, reflected on the health crises he's had in his life—particularly the childhood bout of spina bifida that nearly left him paralyzed. He recalled his grandmother telling him, "Buddy, you're the luckiest boy in the world."

    The Indiana native then jammed out three of his jukebox classics, "Pink Houses," "Small Town" and "Authority Song," joined on the last tune by his 12-year-old son, Speck, on guitar.

    Patti LaBelle kicked off the evening with a rousing cover of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and Jerry Butler singing another one of their gems, "Only the Strong Will Survive."

    Hailed as the architects of the Philly Soul sound, the songwriters were feted with the Ahmet Ertegun Award and inducted in the nonperformer category for their seminal work with such R&B acts as the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and Billy Paul.

    Ben Harper joined forces onstage with James Cotton for a medley honoring late harmonica great Little Walter, who was inducted posthumously in the sideman category for his contributions to Muddy Waters' recordings.

    "The first time I heard Little Walter was through Muddy Waters," Harper said backstage. "I was exposed to blues music when I was really was like a family member in my household, blues first and foremost."

    Leonard Cohen—the poet turned folk-rock hero for such songs as "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire" and "Everybody Knows"—picked up his Hall pass from Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed, who compared Cohen's lyrics to the poets of the Beat generation.

    Still going strong after 50 years, the Ventures rode a wave of surf-inspired instrumental hits, including '60s smashes "Walk—Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O," into the Rock Hall.

    And it was a bittersweet affair for surviving members of the Dave Clark Five, the London quintet in the vanguard of the British invasion.

    After being introduced by Tom Hanks, the group paid tribute to keyboardist and singer Mike Smith, who died of pneumonia a little less than two weeks before the group's induction.

    The night drew to a close with Joan Jett performing the Dave Clark Five hit "Bits & Pieces" and Mellencamp and John Fogerty teaming for a cover of "Glad All Over."

    Next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place in Cleveland, site of the actual museum and considered one of the birthplaces of rock and roll.