The 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction on April 13 was memorable and impactful. The four and a half hour ceremony at Cleveland’s Public Hall featured amazing, all-star performances and the induction of Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues and iconic jazz singer Nina Simone.
During Howard Stern’s hilarious speech while inducting Bon Jovi, he took a short break from his jokes to make a serious point.
“If I can be emotional for a second, yes, rock & roll musicians, what they do are really important,” he said. “I love most of the bands being inducted tonight. Bands like the Moody Blues, The Cars, Dire Straits. These guys comforted me through many lonely days in high school.”
At the flip of a switch, he was back to poking fun at Jon Bon Jovi’s failure in buying the Buffalo Bills, but those watching this unforgettable speech knew that even Stern couldn’t deny getting caught up in the moment of the celebration.
After Stern’s speech, Jon Bon Jovi and the original lineup walked onto the stage for the first time since their split in 2013. Any tension from that “break up” was not felt as they stood there together smiling in the limelight. The first to speak was Alec John Such, the original bassist who left in 1994 and has only been seen once in a 2001 Bon Jovi show. “We had so many great times together, and we just wouldn't be here if it wasn't for those,” he said. “Love 'em to death, always will.” He passed the mic to his replacement, Hugh McDonald, and then Richie Sambora. Sambora did not prepare any kind of text, but he spoke from his heart and touched the whole audience:
“The hardest thing to do, I believe, is to find four guys with yourself that will go through anything, that will work hard, that'll go crazy, whatever it took,” he said. “And we did that for a really long time. But boy, was it fun. If I wrote a book, it would be the best time I ever had.”
Drummer Tico Torres, and keyboardist David Bryan, were short and sweet with their speeches, but Jon Bon Jovi took a different strategy. He took the crowd on a journey of the entire band’s history; from their first meeting until their most recent record.
“I’ve been writing this speech since I first strummed the broom and sang at the top of the stairs of my childhood home,” said Jon Bon Jovi. “I’ve actually written it many ways, many times. Some days I write the 'thank you' speech, other days, I write the 'f*ck you' speech.”
Once he finished, the band launched into “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Current guitarist Phil X and touring percussionist Everett Bradley joined the inducted members—creating a remarkable lineup of Bon Jovi past and present. They also performed “It’s My Life” and one of their more recent hits, “When We Were Us.” They ended with a very memorable “Livin’ on a Prayer” singalong. This was such a rare moment to see every Bon Jovi member together, and we’ll probably never see it again.
Brandon Flowers of the Killers inducted the Cars, saying how they changed his life as a teenager: “The Cars were the first band I fell in love with,” he said. “And you never forget your first…They achieved greatness and left a comet trail behind them, writing and recording songs that have transcended into classics.”
The Cars are originally a Boston band, but the core of the group formed when Benjamin Orr met Ric Ocasek. They bonded over a shared love of music and played together consistently. Orr passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2000 and his band mates spoke of him out of love and respect.
“His incredible voice, solid bass playing, and good humor was such a huge part of the band's success,” said guitarist Elliott Easton. "Cleveland was Ben's hometown, and I know whenever he is, he's so proud of this special occasion and even more so that we're here of all places.”
Besides a small reunion tour in 2011, the Cars haven’t played together since their break up in 1987. During the ceremony, Weezer’s Scott Shriner sat in with them on bass. They were a little rusty while playing “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “You Might Think,” but they found their feet with “Moving In Stereo.” They ended with “Just What I Needed” while fans danced in their seats. If this was the last they’d ever perform together, they went out with a bang.
Steve Van Zandt then took the stage, and surprised everyone with a game-changing announcement. The Hall of Fame will begin inducting single songs from rock history.
“We all know the history of rock and roll can be changed with just one song, one record,” he said. “This year, we are introducing a new category to the Rock Hall. We’re calling it The Rock and Roll Singles. It’s a recognition of the singles that shaped rock and roll, a kind of Rock Hall jukebox by artists that aren’t in the Rock Hall, which is not to say these artists won’t ever be in the Rock Hall. They just aren’t at this moment."
The new category was effective immediately and Van Zandt read off a list of the first six singles: “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner’s King’s of Rhythm, “Rumble” by Link Wray, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum and “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf.