Brooklyn's Barclays Center was abuzz as the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony got underway on Friday (11/3). Presenters, media and inductees funneled in early and by late afternoon, the electricity in the air was palpable. For the first time in its 38-year history, the production was streamed live thanks to Disney+.

Rock Hall Chairman John Sykes addressed the press room first, reminding everyone that the "spirit and attitude" of rock 'n' roll transcends genre, a theme that has permeated every induction since the Hall's inception (and has, at times, also been a source of contention—just ask Gene Simmons).

This year’s inductees included Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Rage Against the Machine, Al Kooper, Willie Nelson, George Michael, Chaka Khan, Link Wray, Bernie Taupin, DJ Kool Herc, Don Cornelius and The Spinners. The list of special guests, presenters and performers was equally impressive and made for an unforgettable evening (we’ll get to that).

Actress Laura Dern kicked off the ceremony, inducting Crow, who she referred to as a “badass goddess.” Crow was joined by Olivia Rodrigo for a performance of “If It Makes You Happy” and later, Stevie Nicks and Peter Frampton for "Strong Enough" and "Every Day Is a Winding Road." Backstage, Frampton joked that his co-performers "kept kissing him,” which he didn’t seem to mind.

The mood shifted as DJ Kool Herc, the “Godfather of Hip-Hop,” stepped up to accept the Musical Influence honor from LL COOL J. Before Herc, who was joined by his sister, Cindy Campbell, could make it to the stage, he began to cry, clearly swept up in the emotion of it all. Watching from the press room, Chuck D—who was onsite with fellow Public Enemy luminary Flavor Flav, stood frozen, watching hip-hop history unfold before his eyes. As LL explained to the crowd, DJ Kool Herc was pivotal to the birth of hip-hop culture when, on Aug. 11, 1973, he threw his famed Back to School Jam at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx.

“Herc used two turntables to isolate these hot instrumental breaks of classic soul and R&B tracks like James Brown’s ‘Give It Up & Turn It Loose’ and kicked the dance floor into a frenzy,” LL said. “Soon, all of New York City knew him as DJ Kool Herc. Herc had learned about the dancehall music and toasting he heard in his native country of Jamaica. He moved to the Bronx with his family when he was 12 and molded the music into a new form that evolved into a street culture. DJ'ing, rapping or MC'ing, B-boying, better known as breakdancing, and writing, better known as graffiti—Herc has his hand in every area of hip-hop.”

A performance by Chaka Khan, who embraced hip-hop in its infancy with the video for 1984’s “I Feel for You,” which featured B-boys, graffiti and turntables, made for a seamless transition. After being introduced by Jazmine Sullivan, Khan performed the aforementioned track with Common and “Sweet Thing” with H.E.R. and Sia. Back in the press room, she posed with the always-enigmatic, kaleidoscopically dressed Sia but left before fielding any questions. This was a trend that continued throughout the evening, with artists opting to pose for a few photos before being whisked away without so much as a word.

The members of New Edition did come back and answer a few questions, though Bobby Brown remained tight-lipped. The group briefly expressed how grateful they were to be performing in honor of The Spinners.

Moments later, Outkast’s Big Boi took the stage to induct Kate Bush. The British chanteuse posted a statement to her website that read in part: “I’m afraid I won’t be able to attend the ceremony tonight, but for me the real honor is knowing that you felt I deserved it. The RRHOF has welcomed me into the most extraordinary rostrum of overwhelming talent. When I was growing up, my hero was Elton John. I pored over his music, longed to be able to play piano like him and longed to write songs that could move people in the way his work moved me. That little girl in South East London could never have dreamed she’d be sharing the event tonight with Bernie Taupin, Elton’s writing partner, an incredible lyricist who inspired me to keep writing songs—to keep trying.” She concluded with, "Music is at the core of who I am and... being on the journey of trying to create something musically interesting is rife with feelings of doubt and insecurity. I’m only five foot three, but today I feel a little taller."

Big Boi described Bush’s impact on pop music but also explaining why he was the perfect person to induct her; a longtime Bush devotee, he told the story of meeting her in London and being able to have dinner with her and her family. (The two have a collaboration that has yet to see the light of day.)

St. Vincent then performed Bush's “Running Up That Hill,” from Bush's 1985 Hounds of Love, which found new life after its prominent placement on Stranger Things last year. The stirring rendition provided a magical moment for anyone who’s ever connected with Bush’s music.

The star-studded performances kept coming. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page pulled out his double-neck guitar for Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Page's first live performance in more than 10 years; Dave Matthews played an acoustic version of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away," and Chris Stapleton joined Nelson for “Whiskey River,” Crow jumping in for “Crazy” and “On the Road Again."

Miguel, Adam Levine and Carrie Underwood performed a medley of George Michael's hits. Wham!'s Andrew Ridgeley accepted the honor for Michael, who died in 2012. “We achieved as Wham! our burning boyhood ambition,” Ridgeley said. “Wham! was the realization of everything I'd ever aspired to, and the realization for George was that stretching before him along a gilded and infinite path lay his destiny.”

When it was time for Sir Elton John to induct Taupin, his songwriting partner of more than 50 years, the “Rocket Man” said meeting him was “one of the greatest things,” one that changed his life, adding, “It’s been a privilege to write with him.” Taupin shared in John’s sentiment, saying, “In 1967 I became the luckiest man alive and got another best wife a man could ever hope for. We’re kind of metaphorically still married.” John proceeded to perform several of the duo's hits, including “Tiny Dancer” and “Bennie and the Jets.” And just when it seemed the energy in the room was at its peak, the proceedings took another solemn turn.

John, Crow, Stapleton and Brittany Howard convened to perform “The Weight” by The Band to accompany the In Memoriam segment, which was entirely too long—we’ve lost so many incredible people over the last year. The Band’s frontman, Robbie Robertson, died at age 80 in August. He was honored alongside—deep breath—Tina Turner, Sinéad O’Connor, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, Christine McVie, Tom Verlaine, Harry Belafonte, Gordon Lightfoot, Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo, Smashmouth's Steve Harwell, Rodriguez, Luscious Jackson’s Vivian Trimble, De La Soul’s Trugoy The Dove, The KinksJohn Gosling, Seymour Stein, Clarence Avant, Jerry Moss, Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, Modest Mouse’s Jeremiah Green, Andy Rourke and many more.

Any tears shed likely dried, however, when Ice-T took the stage to induct Rage Against The Machine. With his signature bravado, the Original Gangster let fly at least one “motherfuckin'” and “shit,” which undoubtedly thrilled Disney. Guitarist Tom Morello, who was the only member of Rage to show up, thanked fans and his 100-year-old mother, Mary Morello, before bestowing his wisdom onto the younger generation.

“The world is worth fighting for,” he said. “Dream big and don’t settle. Don’t wait for us. Rage is not here, but you are. You’re the ones who must testify.” He ended with, “History is like music—it’s not something that happens; it’s something you make.” Mic drop. Behind the scenes, he posed for photos with a sign that read simply, “Cease fire!,” the only statement he made backstage.

As the evening (finally) wrapped up, Queen Latifah helped welcome to the stage Missy Elliott, the first female solo rapper to be inducted. As Latifah understated, “She more than deserves that honor.” From there, Elliott proved the point, dazzling the crowd with performances of “Work It,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Get Ur Freak On,” a fiery finale to the evening's dizzying spectacle. Honestly, we still can't believe they let us in.

Pictured: Sheryl Crow, Chuck D, New Edition, Jimmy Page, Ice-T

Fire up the grill. (5/24a)
Another week, another iteration (5/24a)
They're in the money. (5/24a)
A game of Monopoly on Capitol Hill (5/24a)
Redrawing the Mason-Dixon Line (5/24a)
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
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