The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced today that seven new inductees will be enshrined in 2017, including three New Yorkers among them – Joan Baez, Tupac Shakur, and Nile Rodgers. Rodgers gets the nod for the Hall’s Award for Musical Excellence, as well four classic rock bands, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, and Yes.
Joan Baez, who is from Staten Island, NY, came to prominence following her performance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. While Baez is a talented songwriter in her own right, she is equally well known for enthralling interpretations of classic songs, helping other songwriters, especially Bob Dylan, achieve greater notoriety; and more importantly, Baez remains a longstanding advocate for human and civil rights.
Yes formed in 1968 in London, and despite undergoing many lineup changes, they have persisted in bringing virtuoso prog-rock to adoring fans around the globe for more than forty years. Led by frontman Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Yes created some of the most iconic music of the prog-rock era, including the hit song “Roundabout” and the epic album Close to the Edge.
Electric Light Orchestra, the brainchild of Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood, began in 1970 in Birmingham, England and went on to sell over fifty million records worldwide. Melding a Beatles-like pop-rock sensibility with grandiose, classically-inclined orchestration became ELO’s hallmark, and led to their success with singles such as “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” “Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Journey entered the rock n’ roll landscape from the psychedelic San Francisco scene in 1973, spearheaded by ex-Santana players Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie; but it was the addition of renowned vocalist Steve Perry, in 1977, that propelled them to rock stardom. Their 1981 album Escape is one of the landmark’s of the stadium rock era and features their international smash hit “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which remains a cultural mainstay today.
Unlike most of this year’s inductees, Pearl Jam did not have to wait long to enter the Hall after becoming eligible. Bassist Jeff Ament, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, singer Eddie Vedder, and drummer Matt Cameron came together to launch Pearl Jam from the Seattle grunge scene into the rock n’ roll stratosphere. On the backs of five platinum albums (Ten, Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, and Yield), decades of fan-centric touring, and dozens of indelible collaborations, Pearl Jam stands as one of the most successful bands in rock history.
Tupac Shakur, who was born in East Harlem, NY, is entering the Hall on the strength of his infamous and poetic brand of “west coast” rap. Tupac first broke onto the scene as a member of Digital Underground in 1991, and was murdered at the age of 25 in 1996, but in the five years between he released two albums that went ten times platinum with All Eyez on Me and Greatest Hits, penned two number one hits with “California Love” and “How Do U Want It,” starred in several Hollywood films, and sold over 75 million records.
In addition to the six performers being inducted in 2017, Nile Rodgers, a New York City native, will receive the Award for Musical Excellence. With bassist Bernard Edwards, he formed the iconic disco band CHIC in 1977, which produced the hits “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” on their way to becoming the cornerstone of the Studio 54 dance scene. Then, beginning with Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” in 1979, Rodgers went on to cultivate a spectacular career as a producer, which saw him work his magic on classic albums for the likes of Diana Ross, David Bowie, INXS, Madonna, the B-52s, Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Daft Punk.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the 32nd annual, will be held at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center on Friday, April 7, 2017. Ticket on-sale dates will be announced in January.