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EW's report from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony

Bonnie Raitt, Patti Smith, Eric Clapton, Lil’ Kim, and others celebrate in New York City

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Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge
Steve Azzara/Corbis Sygma

Is there a link between rock & roll and memory loss? If you were at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Fifteenth Annual Induction Ceremony at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria on March 6, you might think so. Ray Charles called the organization the ”Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame” three times during his speech to induct Nat King Cole; Paul McCartney said, ”We had some good times back then, I think,” before introducing new Famer James Taylor; and inductee Bonnie Raitt remarked, ”I didn’t know I lived that long,” after Melissa recounted her many contributions.

Everyone knows the hard-rock life can take its toll. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian was kidding when he said, ”Everybody run, we’re actually getting out the autoharp,” but their lackluster performance of ”Do You Believe in Magic” made you want to do just that. Others fared better. Third-time inductee Eric Clapton (previously honored as part of the Yardbirds and Cream) turned in a strong set, as did Taylor and Raitt. And despite singer Maurice White’s battle with Parkinson’s, Earth, Wind & Fire lit up ”Shining Star.”

”Yo, when the TelePrompTer’s broke, I freak out,” exclaimed Lil’ Kim, who stumbled during her tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire. Kim was the only new-school presence at the decidedly old-school affair: Paul Simon inducted ’50s doo-woppers the Moonglows; Robbie Robertson celebrated Clapton, and Diana Ross presented Billie Holiday’s ”early influence” award.

Despite the geezer contingent, age hadn’t mellowed everyone. Patti Smith, honoring Clive Davis, characterized the 66-year-old Arista chief as ”one of those Spinal Tappers who puts his amp to 11…he plays [music] so loud.” (Label mate Whitney Houston, slated to serenade Davis with ”I Will Always Love You,” was a no-show, due, said a spokesperson, to voice problems.)

Lest there be any doubt that rock & roll is indeed your father’s music, James Taylor set the record straight. Asked in the pressroom if he’d like to see some younger inductees, he quipped, ”No, this isn’t for young people.”