U2 headlines 2005 Rock Hall: Pretenders, O'Jays, Percy Sledge, Buddy Guy also inducted

Tuesday, March 15th 2005, 8:22 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Minutes after U2 was officially bumped up to legendary status after a raucous, sentimental induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Irish quartet headed to the media room to answer questions about their momentous honor.

But perhaps only a rock band fronted by Bono would first be asked about everything but music.

``Bono! ... What about the Nobel Peace Prize?'' one reporter called out, querying as to whether Bono's mission to eradicate third-world debt would get him the honor.

``Rock star is already having the cream of the cake,'' Bono replied.

Another wondered whether Bono assume the presidency of the World Bank, as the latest Bono-leading-the-free-world rumor would suggest.

Over U2's 30-year journey from the streets of Dublin to becoming the world's most important rock band, there have often been times when Bono's charisma, his charitable efforts (and more recently a fashion line) have eclipsed his collaborators and lifelong friends: U2's other members, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

But on Monday evening, if not always clear to others, their rock peers recognized the collaborative achievements of perhaps the most groundbreaking rock group in the past two decades.

``Uno, dos, tres, catorce,'' said Bruce Springsteen, quoting the Spanish countdown in U2's recent hit ``Vertigo,'' as he inducted the band into the rock hall with a loving, humorous tribute.

``The translation is one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for rock 'n' roll. The whole had better equal a lot more than the sum of its parts _ or else you're just rubbing two sticks together.''

On a night when The Pretenders, The O'Jays, Percy Sledge and blues legend Buddy Guy received key to rock's exclusive club, U2 was clearly the evening's star attraction.

``They are the keepers of some of the most beautiful sonic orchestration in rock and roll,'' Springsteen said of the band.

Though they weren't inducted until after midnight, there was hardly an empty chair in the ballroom when they were honored last; and when the group performed some of their biggest hits, including ``I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'' with an assist from Springsteen himself it _ everyone, from celebrities like Catherine Zeta-Jones to grizzled industry folk jumped out their seats to cheer them on.

But they were hardly the evening's only highlight.

The O'Jays are best know for their work with Philly soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but the gospel-styled singers are actually from Canton, Ohio. ``Back Stabbers'' was a big hit in 1972, with ``Love Train'' and ``For the Love of Money'' other well-known songs.

After film clips showed them in wild tuxes during the 1970s, the quartet wore simple black suits to perform a medley including each of those songs. They were inducted by singer Justin Timberlake.

``Anyone who's ever written, produced or performed something soulful stands in the shadows of these giants,'' Timberlake said.

If nothing else, Sledge's voice has been the backdrop to countless romantic encounters. The Southern soul singer is best known for ``When a Man Loves a Woman.''

Rod Stewart called it ``one of the best performances I've ever heard and I'm sure you've ever heard.''

The Pretenders came from the same rock generation as U2. Ohio native Chrissie Hynde was a tough but tender role model for women, singing ``Brass in Pocket,'' ``Precious'' and ``Back on the Chain Gang.''

The band formed after Hynde moved to London to be part of its fertile music scene. She's soldiered on, with drummer Martin Chambers, after guitarists James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon died as drug casualties.

``They went through all the heartache that rock 'n' roll is built on _ they lost two band members and they never gave up,'' said Neil Young, who inducted the band and sat in for a ferocious performance of ``My City Was Gone.''

Hynde told the audience she knows the Pretenders have sounded like a tribute band for the past 20 years. ``We are a tribute band,'' she said. ``We're paying tribute to James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon, without whom we would not have been here.''

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of rock 'n' roll, the hall _ also celebrating its 20th induction dinner _ brought Bo Diddley in to perform the Bo Diddley beat with fellow guitarists Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson.

Now a stooped old man, Jerry Lee Lewis moved slowly to the stage to perform ``Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.'' But he still managed to kick over his stool and sit on the piano keys.

Guy dominated the Chicago blues guitar scene, and he was ushered into the hall by some pretty decent guitar players themselves _ Eric Clapton and B.B. King. Later, both joined Guy onstage for a rollicking rendition of ``Let Me Love You Baby.''

Backstage, Guy noted that few black blues musicians have not been able to enjoy the success he has had in their lifetimes.

``My mother told me before she died ... if you've got any flowers, give 'em to me now, so I can smell 'em. So y'all give this to me tonight, I can smell this, man!''

The dinner offered a clash of celebrity cultures: Mariah Carey breezing in, offering a brief kiss to ex-husband Tommy Mottola, Richard Gere sharing a laugh with King, The Edge checking his Blackberry during the O'Jays' performance.

Highlights of the induction ceremony will be televised Saturday on VH1.

Frank Barsalona, credited with creating the first big rock 'n' roll booking agency, and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein were inducted in the nonperformer category.

Musicians, industry professionals and journalists vote on the inductees. Hall of fame members are permanently enshrined in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.