The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – which began 40 years ago and started inducting artists into its ranks in 1986 – welcomed the Class of 2023 to its extensive roster on Friday (Nov. 3) evening at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine and The Spinners were all inducted, along with DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray for musical influence; Chaka Khan, Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin for musical excellence; and Don Cornelius for the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
The eclectic Rock Hall Class of 2023 brought out performers and presenters who spanned hip-hop, rock, pop, R&B and country: Adam Levine, Brandi Carlile, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Common, Dave Matthews, Elton John, H.E.R., Ice-T, LL Cool J, Miguel, New Edition, Olivia Rodrigo, Queen Latifah, Sia, Stevie Nicks and St. Vincent.
For the first time ever, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame livestreamed its induction ceremony, giving fans the chance to watch the ceremony in real time. The 2023 RRHOF ceremony streamed live on Disney+ starting at 8 p.m. ET, and is still available on-demand. Audio from the ceremony streamed live on Apple Music 1. In previous years, fans had to wait until the show was broadcast at a later date. Those who do want to watch it on TV can catch an edited broadcast of highlights on ABC on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2024, from 8-11 p.m. ET.
The 2023 ceremony marked another first. Willie Nelson – who recently celebrated his 90th birthday — becoming the oldest living inductee to accept his honor in person. Harry Belafonte was older (95) when he was inducted, but he didn’t attend the ceremony.
These are the best moments from the Class of 2023’s induction.
Sheryl Crow Opens the Show With Olivia Rodrigo
Sheryl Crow opened the 2023 ceremony with Olivia Rodrigo by her side. With Crow on electric guitar and Rodrigo on acoustic, the duo delivered a fist-pumping duet on “If It Makes You Happy.” Rodrigo was all smiles, and after the “I still get stoned” lyric, the audience roared its approval. After a hug, they left the stage, with Laura Dern, of all people, coming out to give a heartfelt induction speech.
Stevie Nicks & Peter Frampton Rock Out With Sheryl Crow
After the Rodrigo duet and a speech from her pal Laura Dern, Crow was back on the stage for a one-two punch. Crow blended her voice with fellow Hall of Famer Stevie Nicks on “Strong Enough,” after which Peter Frampton — whom Crow described as “one of my heroes” — joined Crow and Nicks to rock out to “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”
Miguel, Adam Levine and Carrie Underwood Pay Homage to George Michael
George Michael – who died seven years ago on Christmas Day – was a vocal dynamo, the rare pop star whose celebrity was matched by their vocal prowess. So it only made sense that the night’s most vocally impressive moment came during his homage. After an induction by Wham! bandmade Andrew Ridgley, who got a big laugh describing Michael as “the not quite so good looking one in Wham!,” Miguel crooned “Careless Whisper,” followed by Adam Levine singing a slinky “Faith.” But Carrie Underwood stole the show with a soul-rending “One More Try,” imbuing it with all the hurt, yearning and quiet grace of Michael’s original.
Big Boi, St. Vincent Celebrate Kate Bush
Big Boi – who’s been stumping for Kate Bush’s unique genius way before her Stranger Things breakthrough – was the natural choice to offer an induction speech for the art rock icon, who sadly didn’t attend the ceremony in person (but sent in a heartfelt thanks). “I’m the White House press secretary for Kate Bush,” the OutKast MC joked. “It does not surprise me at all that she’s enjoyed a huge surge of popularity decades after she arrived on the scene,” he said, noting that if you’d only heard her for the first time in recent years, “Why wouldn’t you think she’s a current artist?” St. Vincent, who said Bush’s 1989 classic The Sensual World left her “forever changed,” sang a haunting version of “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).”
Dave Matthews Hails Willie Nelson, the Outlaw Country Saint
Dave Matthews – a longtime friend of Willie Nelson and performer at his Farm Aid benefit concerts – gave a fiery induction speech to Willie Nelson, saying Nelson is one of the people who gives him hope in a world that “drops bombs on children and calls it collateral damage or self-defense.” He also hailed Nelson for doing TV commercials to pay off his tax debts. “[He was] taking the money from the corporations and giving it to the government, which is what you should be doing anyway.”
Sheryl Crow, Chris Stapleton and Dave Matthews Join Willie Nelson for a Jam
Incredibly, 90-year-old Willie Nelson is still not only performing, but playing acoustic guitar, too. But he always did stand out from the crowd and buck trends. “Now that Johnny [Cash] and I have been inducted, I want to give a plug for Waylon [Jennings] and Kris [Kristofferson],” Nelson said, urging Rock Hall voters to induct his fellow Highwaymen.
The country outlaw turned elder statesmen sang three of his most beloved songs: “Whiskey River” with Chris Stapleton; “Crazy” with fellow inductee Sheryl Crow; and “On the Road Again” with Dave Matthews, Crow and Stapleton. It was a touching, impressive showing from a man who began writing classics 60-some years ago, and continues to inspire artists, activists and tokers to this day.
DJ Kool Herc Tears Up
DJ Kool Herc took the stage with his sister Cindy Campbell, which was only appropriate. After all, Herc’s culture-changing DJ set at a South Bronx housing project on Aug. 11, 1973 — often cited as the beginning of hip-hop – was a party to raise money for his sister’s back-to-school wardrobe. The full-circle moment was not lost upon him. “There’s tears in my eyes, I’m sorry,” he said, pausing a moment to collect himself. “Some people is not here,” he said, mentioning James Brown, Harry Belafonte, Marcus Garvey and others. “A lot of people, man. I love ‘em.”
New Edition Sings The Spinners, Fetes ‘Soul Train’
The Spinners melded the soul of Detroit and Philadelphia and paved the way for generations of vocal groups. New Edition, dapper as all get out in crushed red velvet suits, delivered a medley of hits from the influential group, starting with “I’ll Be Around” and wrapping with a Soul Train-styled dance off that served as a fitting segue into a Don Cornelius tribute.
Chaka Khan Medley Brings Out Sia, H.E.R., Common
After far too many nominations, Chaka Khan finally got her Rock Hall flowers and then some at the ceremony. The video montage boasted Michelle Obama and Joni Mitchell, with the former calling her “transcendent” and the latter calling her “exceptional” and “the GOAT.” When Khan hit the stage, it was hard to believe she’s a great grandmother: A duet with H.E.R. on “Sweet Thing” was, to crib Mrs. Obama’s word, transcendent; Common filling in for Melle Mel on “I Feel for You” was inspired; and her duet with Sia (and Sia’s enormous wig) on “I’m Every Woman” was a bizarre treat.
Jimmy Page Makes Surprise Appearance to Rip Through Link Wray
Jimmy Page – one of the best and most influential guitarists of all time – made an unannounced appearance at the Rock Hall to induct the late Link Wray. Page appeared in a video montage about the power chord pioneer, calling Wray his “hero” and saying, “if ever there was a guitarist who deserved this, it was Link Wray.” But when the lights came up and the Led Zeppelin legend was on stage in the flesh, the crowd went crazy. Busting into “Rumble,” Wray’s iconic instrumental, Page looked happy as hell playing a song he’s loved his whole life on a double-necked guitar. And the crowd ate up every moment, with Elton John blowing him a kiss as he took the stage to induct Bernie Taupin.
Bernie Taupin Roasts Jann Wenner
“I have to follow Jimmy Page,” Bernie Taupin quipped at the top of his induction speech. The lyricist, best known for his collabortions with Elton John, songs that are some of the best of the rock era, hailed the various artists who inspired him during his speech, from Louis Armstrong to the Louvin Brothers to Willie Dixon to Leonard Cohen to “the incomparable Merle Haggard,” noting that the lattermost was overdue for Rock Hall induction. The Louvin Brothers have inspired more than just his music – the night before his induction, Taupin attended a celebration of his art at Chase Contemporary, an art gallery in Manhattan. The exhibit, titled Ragged Glory, featured more than a dozen of his art pieces, which encompassed everything from American flags wrapped in twine to busted-up guitars covered in paint and words — one of those pieces bore a reference to the Louvins’ stone-cold classic Tragic Songs of Life.
Taupin couldn’t resist a jab at Jann Wenner, the Rolling Stone founder (who is no longer part of the magazine) who helped get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame started in the ‘80s. Earlier this year, Wenner gave an interview that was dismissive of women and Black artists, saying they weren’t as “articulate enough on this intellectual level” as white men when speaking about rock n’ roll. The lambasted comment, which he later apologized for, resulted in Wenner being ousted from the Rock Hall’s board of directors. During his induction, Taupin hailed all the “articulate women” and “articulate Black artists” in the Rock Hall who inspire him.
Elton John, Brittany Howard, Sheryl Crow & Chris Stapleton Honor Robbie Robertson
After a montage of the artists we’ve lost over the last year, an all-star roster came out to pay homage to the late Robbie Robertson, “This is for you, Robbie,” Sheryl Crow said as she and Chris Stapleton kicked off a moving rendition of The Band’s “The Weight.” Brittany Howard, whose voice is reliably unimpugnable, came out to deliver a jaw-dropping verse, and toward the end of the song, the lights revealed Elton John had returned to the ivories, joining the band to close out a song that is part of the gospel of rock n’ roll.
Tom Morello Stirs Up Some Trouble at the Rock Hall
“I’m far from a mother—kin’ cop, don’t get it twisted,” Ice-T told the crowd as he took the stage to induct Rage Against the Machine. “I think Rage has the best rock lyric of all time: ‘F–k you I won’t do what you tell me,’” the rap icon opined. RATM, never one to play by anyone’s rules, didn’t show up in full, but Tom Morello was present to accept the honor, explaining that he was there to “celebrate the fifth member [of the band], which is Rage Against the Machine’s incredible fans.”
Morello said he genuinely believes music can change the world, noting that “organizers, activists, public defenders and presidents of Chile and Finland have all spent time in our mosh pits.” He also had some advice: “If you’re a solider or a cop, follow your conscience, not your orders… If you’re a human being, stand up for your planet before it’s too late…. It’s time to change the world or at the minimum stir up a sh-tload of trouble.”
Missy Elliott Brings the Night to a Raucous Close
After a video montage that boasted Cardi B and Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott hit the stage for a brilliant, bonkers medley of her hip-hop hits. By refusing to follow trends and creating new ones instead, Missy Elliott is pure rock n’ roll, and absolutely the best artist to become the first female rapper in the Rock Hall. Her medley – which encompassed “Get Ur Freak On” “The Rain,” Pass That Dutch,” “Work It” and “Lose Control” – had a runaway train energy that forced the audience to start dancing even though the show had sailed past the four-hour mark (and midnight).
“I understand if you need to sit down – Missy will wear you out!” Queen Latifah said before Missy took the podium to deliver her acceptance speech. “I’m still in shock…. Pepa, who is here from Salt-N-Pepa, her and Queen Latifah, [MC] Lyte, Roxanne Shanté, so many, Monie [Love], they gave me their shoulders to stand on. These are the people who inspired me. If it wasn’t for them and their music, I probably wouldn’t be standing here.”
“My mother has never seen me perform in my whole entire career,” Elliott revealed. “It’s not my mother’s fault. I definitely don’t want to be here sayin’, ‘She’s a b-tch,’” Elliott joked, clarifying that she didn’t want her church-going mother to see her “curse” on stage, so she’s previously discouraged her from attending her concerts. But her mother was in the audience tonight, in her Sunday finest on Friday night, looking proud of her Rock and Roll Hall of Famer daughter.