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"I'm just sayin', I ain't never shot nobody. I ain't never stabbed nobody. I'm 45 years old and I ain't got no criminal record. The only thing I ever had was music... Hip-hop needs to grow up."
—-Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
RAP IS THE NAME OF FAME GAME
Ahmet Ertegun, James Brown Remembered, Grandmaster Flash Inducted with Patti Smith, the Ronettes, R.E.M. and Van Halen, With Eddie, Alex, David No-Shows
It was the night rap finally got its Hall of Fame props.

In an evening marred by the no-shows of Eddie Van Halen, reportedly in rehab, his brother Alex and David Lee Roth, who apparently resisted entreaties to sing with Paul Shaffer, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night inducted R.E.M., Patti Smith, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Ronettes as well as Van Halen at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

The first show ever to be broadcast live on cable (VH1 Classics) and the Internet (AOL Music), this year’s induction ceremony was also the first without co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, memorialized by Hall of Fame chief Jann Wenner in an opening show montage.

Keith Richards, cigarette dangling from his mouth, inducted The Ronettes by telling of the first time he heard the group backstage before they opened for the Stones. “I started to hear these voices and I thought, ‘Have I overdone it already,’ then realized I was hearing the Ronettes… They touched me then and they touch me now.” Phil Spector, conspicuous by his absence, both from the ceremony and former wife Ronnie's acceptance speech, sent a congratulatory telegram, as he awaits trial on a murder charge later this month. The trio celebrated their induction by performing “Baby I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain” and “Be My Baby.”

The emotional highlight of the evening was Patti Smith, dedicating the award to her late mom and dad, brother Todd and husband Fred “Sonic” Youth, whom she recalled telling her one day she’d be elected, even though he deserved it more. She then performed the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” “Because the Night,” thanking writer Bruce Springsteen and producer Jimmy Iovine, and then “my mother’s favorite song to vacuum to,” “Rock and Roll Nigger,” with the poet priestess urging everyone they can change the world that night. The song made for an interesting prelude to a fiery speech by Reverend Al Sharpton, who thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for recognizing James Brown before everybody else and then praising the Hall as being open to “anyone who can rock and anyone who can roll.”

The Van Halen induction by Velvet Revolver proved anti-climactic, with only bassist Michael Anthony and vocalist Sammy Hagar on hand to accept. Anthony started off by saying, “God bless you to Edward Van Halen… I wish you could be here buddy, but he couldn’t. He’s home getting some help. I love you man.” Velvet Revolver than played a medly of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Runaround,” while Anthony and Hagar joined Paul Shaffer and his Letterman band for “Why Can’t This Be Love?”

Jay-Z inducted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five next, reading the speech from his BlackBerry as the teleprompter was out of order most of the evening. Introducing the band, he noted, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re witnessing history,” marking the induction of the first-ever rap group in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Noted Melle Mel about hip-hop's increasingly violent imagery: "It should mean more than just someone standing on the corner selling dope. I'm just sayin', I ain't never shot nobody. I ain't never stabbed nobody. I'm 45 years old and I ain't got no criminal record. The only thing I ever had was music... Hip-hop needs to grow up."

Flash and the gang, noting the absence of the late Cowboy by placing his hat on a mike stand, took the stage to perform a medley including “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” and “The Message,” that had the room full of tux-clad white men and women on their feet waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care… which they probably didn’t.

Eddie Vedder then inducted R.E.M., noting the dialogue between Michael Stipe and his listeners, “What’s really incredible is how it all happens without ever being able to understand a fucking word he was saying.”

Said Stipe: “My grandmother Stipe said to me R.E.M. stands for ‘remember every moment,’ and this is a moment I will never forget.” The band then played “Begin the Begin,” “Gardening at Night,” “Man on the Moon” with Vedder, ending in a cover of the Stooges’ “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog,” as Patti Smith jumped in on vocals to pay tribute to Iggy’s legendary, recently reformed band, which was nominated this year, but didn’t get voted in.

The finale featured everyone joining in on Patti’s “People Have the Power,” with Keith and Stephen Stills trading guitar licks, while the mike made its way from Stipe to Vedder to Hagar to Spector back to Smith.

With original founders like Ahmet Ertegun no longer with us, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame remains in transition. This year’s edition seemed to attract a lot of the public, with fewer executives than in the past, though Clive Davis and Mo Ostin were among the legendary industryites who made the scene this year.

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