Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s all-star group was inducted Saturday night in a taped HBO special that told the stories of Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G. and the Doobie Brothers’ rise to fame and how acts like Nine Inch Nails, T. Rex and Depeche Mode heavily impacted the music industry and generations after them.
Nine Inch Nails’ induction came two months after Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won their first Emmy for their musical contributions to the hit HBO series Watchmen. Reznor and Ross are also Oscar and Grammy winners, only needing a Tony to enter the esteemed EGOT club.
Rick Rubin, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Iovine, David Fincher, Mark Ronson and others spoke passionately about Nine Inch Nails’ influence on them and others.
“What a disoriented, strange year we find ourselves in”, Trent Reznor said in his acceptance speech, which you can see below. “As I’ve been wrapping my head around Nine Inch Nails being welcomed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think I was most looking forward to the ceremony itself, where hopefully the whole camp, past and present, was going to get together and have a moment, and we’re all stuck in our little boxes here in our screens. But even now music’s always been the thing that keeps me going.”
Oscar winner Charlize Theron inducted Depeche Mode, whose biggest influence came in the 1980s when their post-punk, synthesizer-dominated music made the Brits a favorite of the goth subculture. Theron thanked the band “for being the soundtrack of my life.”
The British band T. Rex was known primarily for its 1970s hit “Get It On)”, Children On The Revolution”, “Metal Guru” and “Jeepster.” They were inducted by The Beatles’ legend Ringo Starr.
The son of T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, who died in 1977 at 29, was also on hand to pay tribute to his father with a touching speech.
“As I reflect on this incredible honor of my dad and his band being inducted into the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think about how I really didn’t have a chance to know him very well. He was taken away from all of us so early in his life,” Rolan Bolan said. “I discovered his music pretty much the same way you have — through my eyes and ears.”
T. Rex, Houston, B.I.G. and the Doobie Brothers were inducted after being on the ballot for the first time. The Doobie Brothers’ inclusion makes 2020 historic for the band — it’s also their 50th anniversary. The group known for hits like “Listen to the Music” and “Black Water” were supposed to celebrate this year with a tour featuring singer-songwriter Michael McDonald — who sang with the band starting in 1975 before beginning his own solo career — but it was postponed because of the pandemic.
“It seems unreal, but it’s been quite a trip and we aren’t done yet,” Tom Johnston said.
As she inducted Whitney Houston into the Rock Hall, Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys gave a beautiful, heartfelt speech about one of the best singers in pop history.
“We all know what a miraculous singer Whitney was, perhaps the greatest voice of our all-time. We all know how her unprecedented success brought Black women into the absolute highest reaches of the music industry’s pantheon,” said Keys, who wrote a song for Houston’s last album.
Houston’s mother and aunt, Cissy and Pat Houston, accepted the award on the late star’s behalf.
Also inducted posthumously, The Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death in 1997 at 24 and in a few years became one of the top voices in rap and pop. He was inducted by close friend and collaborator Diddy.
“Nobody has come close to the way Biggie sounds, to the way he raps, to the frequency that he hits. Tonight, we are inducting the greatest rapper of all-time,” Diddy said.
Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Brad Paisley also made appearances during the TV special. Top-notch music manager Irving Azoff and Jon Landau, who manages Springsteen, both earned the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
The 2020 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame annual induction ceremony was originally supposed to take place in May at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, the city where the rock museum is located.