Run-DMC, Jeff Beck also inducted

CLEVELAND — Metallica, whose monstrous sound continues to assault the senses and push heavy metal to its limits, headlined a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night that felt much more like a concert than an awards show.

For the first time, the no-holds-barred show, back in Cleveland following a 12-year holdover in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, was open to the public. Nearly 5,000 fans partied in the balconies inside renovated Public Auditorium as 1,200 VIPs dined below at tables costing as much $50,000 each.

Metallica’s thrashing music has inspired headbangers for nearly three decades, and the band, whose members have survived some of the dark themes found in their raging music, got top billing in an eclectic 2009 class that included rap pioneers Run-DMC, virtuoso guitarist Jeff Beck, soul singer Bobby Womack and rhythm and blues vocal group Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson was inducted as an early influence. Drummer DJ Fontana and the late bassist Bill Black — both of Elvis Presley’s backup band — and keyboardist Spooner Oldham made it in the sidemen category.

With two turntables and a microphone, Run-DMC broke down the barriers between rock and rap with unique style. With sparse, stripped-down lyrics above pounding beats, the trio of Joseph “DJ Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell changed rap in the 1980s by taking the realities of the streets to the suburbs.

“They broke away from the pack by being the pack,” said rapper Eminem, looking like the band’s lost member by sporting the group’s trademark black fedora and black leather jacket. “They were the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool.”

Any chance of a Run reunion ended with Mizell’s death in 2002, when he was shot dead outside his studio. His murder remains unsolved.

Mizell’s mother, Connie, accepted the award on his behalf.

Simmons thanked Mizell, who allowed the group to set up their equipment in her Hollis, Queens, living room.

“She never told us to turn the music down once,” Simmons said.

Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones introduced Cleveland’s Womack, and recalled a night in New York when he and Womack hid as some Hell’s Angels gang members were roughing up Wilson Pickett.

Little Anthony and the Imperials, who began their career singing on street corners of Brooklyn, opened the program with a gorgeous medley of hits “Tears on My Pillow,” “Hurt So Bad,” and “I’m Alright.” Many in the crowd mouthed the familiar tracks as lead singer Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine’s falsetto filled the room.

Longtime friend Smokey Robinson presented the doo-wop group, calling their induction “long overdue.”

Gourdine thanked his music teacher, “wherever you are” during his induction speech.

Dubbed the “Sweet Lady with the Nasty Voice,” the 71-year-old Jackson got her start as a country singer. She was a flamboyant dresser, and her choice of skirts and high heels rankled some hardcore fans. It was Elvis Presley, with whom she toured in the 1950s, who persuaded her to sing rock songs.

“She could really rock and still kept her femininity intact,” said presenter Roseanne Cash. “She’s the prototype for so many of us.”

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