NEW YORK (AFP) – Grunge icons Pearl Jam and folk legend Joan Baez pushed Friday for a new generation of activism as they entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Tupac Shakur was honored posthumously as the first solo rapper in the rock shrine, which also inducted progressive rock pioneers Yes, arena packers Journey and the experimental Electric Light Orchestra at a New York concert.
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder seized on the platform to issue a call to arms on climate change — saying that rising temperatures were not, in the phrasing of industry-friendly President Donald Trump, “fake news.”
“We cannot be the generation that history will look back upon and wonder, why didn’t they do everything humanly possible to solve this biggest crisis of our time?” the long outspoken singer told the audience at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Pearl Jam, which like Tupac was inducted in the first year of eligibility, invited all five drummers from the band’s career for the gala and played for the first time in 25 years with the original one, Dave Krusen.
But not all band drama appeared settled at the Hall of Fame. Steve Perry, Journey’s most recognizable vocalist, praised his former bandmates in a rare appearance but then did not perform, letting current frontman Arnel Pineda lead tunes including “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Truth to power
One of the leading protest singers in the 1960s, the 76-year-old Baez acknowledged that many young people — even her own granddaughter — did not remember her music.
But she said she was proud to have devoted her life to speaking “truth to power,” from campaigning against the Vietnam War to fighting for civil rights in the United States.
“Now in the new political cultural reality in which we find ourselves, there is much work to be done, where empathy is failing and sharing has been usurped by greed and lust for power,” she said.
“Let us build a bridge, a great bridge, a beautiful bridge to once again welcome the tired and the poor,” Baez said, juxtaposing lines from Trump and the immigrant-welcoming poem on the Statue of Liberty.
“I want my granddaughter to know I fought against an evil tide and had the masses by my side,” she said.
Taking up her guitar, Baez sang “Deportees,” folk great Woody Guthrie’s ode to Mexican laborers, with Americana artists the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter backing her up.
Tupac, who was killed in 1996 at age 25 in a still murky Las Vegas shooting, was inducted by his contemporary Snoop Dogg, a fellow force in creating gangsta rap in California.
“You’re gonna live forever. They can’t take this away from you, homey,” Snoop Dogg said as he hoisted the Hall of Fame trophy toward the sky.
Snoop Dogg called Tupac “the greatest rapper of all time” and described themselves as “two black boys struggling to become men.”
Portraying Tupac as more complicated than caricatures, Snoop Dogg said: “To be human is to be many things at once — strong and vulnerable, hard-headed and intellectual, courageous and afraid, loving and vengeful, revolutionary and, oh yeah… gangsta!”
Chuck Berry tribute
The concert opened with a tribute to rock ‘n’ roll father Chuck Berry, who died last month at age 90 and was inducted at the now Cleveland-based Hall of Fame’s inauguration in 1986.
Electric Light Orchestra, known for its marriage of rock and classical, brought strings into a cover of Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” before going into the band’s most recognizable hit, “Evil Woman.”
The most visibly moved artist Friday was Nile Rodgers. His disco band Chic has been nominated a record 11 times without sealing a spot in the Hall of Fame — but he was given a separate award for production.
Rodgers, who has worked with top names from David Bowie to Madonna to Daft Punk, said he had sold more than 300 million albums over his career.
“I just wanted to have one hit record. My life has been so amazing,” Rodgers said before fighting back tears.
The night’s most unusual remarks came from keyboardist Rick Wakeman of Yes, whose free-flowing prog rock has rarely been described as lighthearted.
Turning into an off-color comic, the Englishman joked he was happy as Brooklyn was the spot of his first sexual experience.
“It wasn’t good. It never is when you’re on your own,” Wakeman said to roaring laughter.