On the eve of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2021 induction ceremony, several honorees — The Go-Go’s, LL Cool J and “the Black Godfather” Clarence Avant — gathered to celebrate the unveiling of an inductee signature panel that will live on display in the Hall long after the gala ends.
The short ceremony, which took place in the Hall’s main concourse, hosted a crowd of trustees, previous inductees including Heart bassist Steve Fossen, and family members of Randy Rhoads, Billy Preston, The Everly Brothers, Gil Scott- Heron, Sam Moore and more. While traditionally held outside, the event was moved indoors due to poor weather, as was a fan event with inductees the Go-Go’s.
But the bad weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those about to rock.
“How lucky are we? We’re in the city of Cleveland where it all began,” marveled Rock Hall chief John Sykes, a co-founder of MTV and president of entertainment enterprises at iHeartMedia. “You look around at the inductees… they don’t look alike, their music doesn’t sound alike… but all have one thing in common: they changed the sound of young America.”
Chuck D, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, was on hand to make a few remarks addressing hip-hop’s inclusion in the festivities. He said: “I don’t go to World Series. I don’t go to NBA Finals. I don’t do the Super Bowl. This is where I [expletive] go. The sports world got itself together where you go to every High School and they talk about the (expletive) sports team. But the arts are very important in this country.”
He continued: “I’ve been near rap music and hip-hop, and I’m a part of something that started before me that allowed me to even be down into the house that my man LL Cool J built at Def Jam records. I said ‘built,’ because I was fortunate to put some electricity into it before Jay-Z put in the solar panels,” Ridenhour said. “People sometimes, they say ‘Rap is not rock,’ but this is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We the roll, baby. Rock and roll.”
LL Cool J (James Smith) took to the stage paying respect to Avant, encouraging all in attendance to watch the 2019 documentary, “The Black Godfather.” He then took a beat to appreciate the moment.
Said LL: “Personally I want to say that it’s amazing to be here, and I know you are all fans of rock, of hip-hop, of jazz of blues, and all the different music, but I just want to say there’s so many people who gave me so much love and kept saying, ‘We got to get you in there.’ And I want to acknowledge those people I respect and love all the genres. I have complete love for it and I’m here to represent hip-hop in the best possible light.”
All five members of The Go-Go’s — Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin — were also taking in the scene, posing alongside the plaque that includes engraved signatures of every inductee. The ceremony put a cap on a day which included a live interview with SiriusXM Volume personality Lori Majewski and Rock Hall education director Mandy Smith.
“Yesterday when we were rehearsing our set in the arena, we all looked up at our faces on the screen and thought, this is so … weird,” Carlisle said. “It’s totally surreal. We started in 1978 and had no idea what we were doing, we really didn’t. I guess we’re the embodiment that anything is possible. It was a dream of all of ours to be here.”
Earlier in the day, the band regaled listeners with rock and roll tales, including Carlisle remembering a night when she and fellow inductee, Foo Fighters guitarist and Germs alum Pat Smear, stalked Queen singer Freddie Mercury.
“I met Pat Smear trying to get Freddie Mercury’s autograph at the Beverly Hilton,” she recalled. “We were, like, 17 years old and I was with my friend Terry [Teresa Marie Ryan], who was Lorna Doom from The Germs, and we saw Pat and [singer] Darby [Crash] and said, ‘We know what room Freddie’s in.’ So we were four kids and we knocked on his door. Of course he didn’t answer.”
Carlisle continued: “It’s funny because we were in our first band together, The Germs, and then 44 years later he is here with The Foo Fighters and I am here with The Go-Go’s.”
The group also revealed they had rehearsed for nine hours the day before to get ready for the big night.
“To say we were a bit rusty is an understatement,” cracked Wiedlin.
Asked who they wanted to meet at Saturday night’s ceremony, the band may have let a surprise appearance or two slip by name-checking Eminem and Pharrell Williams.
In the company of Rock Hall greats was a place the Go-Go’s weren’t sure they’d ever see.
“We’d kind of given up on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” said Schock. “Of course, when you give up, it happens. We were all pleasantly surprised to say the least.”
Added Valentine: “I felt we had been dismissed and overlooked a lot. We’d see ‘women who rock’ and we’d be a footnote. The thing that always made it okay was hearing from fans and people. Knowing that you made an impact and affected someone’s life is a really wonderful feeling. That made up for a lot of rejection, I think.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony honoring inductees Tina Turner, Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, the Go-Go’s, Todd Rundgren, Carole King, Kraftwerk, Charley Patton, Gil Scott-Heron, LL Cool J, Billy Preston, Randy Rhoads and Clarence Avant will take place on Saturday (Oct. 30) at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and air later this year on HBO.
Pictured (from left): Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey and Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s.