LOS ANGELES — “This is a great honor, considering the legends that came before us, and who are with us this year,” Ann Wilson of Heart said privately after the legendary Seattle rock band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Thursday night at the Nokia Theater. “It’s also special because it’s recognition of Seattle music, and of all the musicians and bands that will join us in the Hall of Fame in years to come.”
Wilson’s comment was a reference to the fact that Seattle bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam will be eligible for nomination in the coming years.
Heart and Quincy Jones, Seattle band leader, composer and producer, were both inducted Thursday. Also included in the class of 2013 were Rush, Albert King, Randy Newman, producer Lou Adler, Public Enemy and Donna Summer.
Chris Cornell of Soundgarden gave Heart’s induction speech. He emotionally talked about what heroes and role models Ann and Nancy Wilson had been to him, and other musicians in Seattle. “For me, and for countless other men and women,” Cornell said. “They have earned, at long last, their rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
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Heart qualified for the Hall 13 years ago but first made the shortlist of nominated bands only last year. They lost last year, but this year were finally selected for rock’s most prestigious honor, becoming one of the only Northwest acts to be inducted, after the Ventures and Jimi Hendrix.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, Ohio, but this year’s ceremony was in Los Angeles. Many area Heart fans made the trek, and they were prominent with their T-shirts, cheers and applause.
The night featured the first performance of the original lineup of Heart in more than 30 years. Ann and Nancy Wilson played with original band members Steve Fossen, Michael Derosier, Howard Leese and Roger Fisher on a searing performance of “Crazy On You.” The Heart fans in the crowd stood and cheered.
In her acceptance speech, Nancy Wilson thanked her parents for their encouragement, but she also noted the challenges that women face in music careers, balancing multiple demands.
“I’ve seen many a parent/teacher conference, as well,” said the mother of twins. “I think we’ve earned this medal of honor.”
Her sister Ann spoke of how they grew up in a time “when Seattle wasn’t the center of the rock and roll universe.”
Wilson said she never took for granted the power of a voice to move an audience, or the chance to connect with listeners. And then she did just that, performing “Dreamboat Annie” with Nancy. Later, they brought out Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and Chris Cornell for “Barracuda.” It was a dream-team Seattle band and one of the highlights of the night.
Oprah Winfrey made a surprise appearance to induct Quincy Jones. Though she didn’t talk about his Northwest connection, Quincy did, in a long, emotional speech.
“To me, that journey (in music) began in Bremerton,” he said. “You know Bremerton, Washington, don’t ya?”
Scattered applause followed but also bewilderment from many in the Los Angeles crowd.
Jones talked about taking the Beatles to the Apollo Theater, about hanging with Frank Sinatra, and how those outside the United States know more about our music than residents. He also spoke of how he got his start with band leader and record producer Bumps Blackwell in Seattle. Adler had also cited Blackwell, who produced Little Richard’s early hits, earlier in the evening.
Jones joked that he wasn’t sure if he’d live long enough to get inducted into the Hall, which was a running comedic routine with many of this year’s inductees, including Randy Newman and Adler. Summer and King, of course, did not live to see their induction.
The final inductees of the night were the members of Rush. The crowd contained many of their fans, and they were loud. In another Seattle connection, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl did the honors for Rush, and then later dressed in an elaborate costume and played as a member of the band on one song.
Backstage, Chris Cornell spoke about his own band’s prospects for induction, but he also said that, as of Thursday, the Hall meant more to him because Heart was in it.
“Now, I believe a bit more in my induction, if that happens,” he said.
In her speech, Ann Wilson noted that she grew up in a world where she had “the wrong gender, looks, DNA and hometown for music-business success.”
As of this week, with Heart now bringing home statues from rock’s highest honor, that world is forever changed.
Charles R. Cross: