NEW YORK – The late rapper Tupac Shakur and Seattle-based rockers Pearl Jam lead a class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees including folkie Joan Baez and 1970s favorites Journey, Yes and Electric Light Orchestra.
The rock hall, in downtown Cleveland, also said Tuesday it would give a special award to Nile Rodgers, whose disco-era band Chic failed again to make the cut after its 11th time nominated.
Baez will be inducted only months after her 1960s paramour, Bob Dylan, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The hall’s 32nd annual induction ceremony will take place on April 7 at the Barclays Center. HBO will show highlights later, with SiriusXM doing a radio broadcast.
Shakur was shot and killed after attending a boxing match in Las Vegas in 1996. His death has spawned conspiracy theories but remains unsolved. “Changes,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” and “Life Goes On” are among his best-known songs. He was 25 when he died and left behind a trove of music that was released posthumously.
Pearl Jam exploded in popularity from the start in the early 1990s behind songs including “Alive,” “Jeremy” and “Even Flow.” After Nirvana, it is the second band with roots in Seattle’s grunge rock scene to make the hall. Behind singer Eddie Vedder and other original members Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam remains active and is a popular live act.
Vedder is no newcomer to rock hall ceremonies, having given induction speeches for Neil Young and the Ramones.
Baez was a political activist and mainstay of the folk movement, performing at the first Newport Folk Festival at age 19 in 1959. She was known primarily as an interpreter of others’ songs, introducing Dylan to a wider audience at the beginning of his career. Their affair ended badly in 1965, for which Dylan later apologized.
Baez’s own “Diamonds and Rust” in 1975 was one of her biggest hits.
“I never considered myself to be a rock and roll artist,” Baez said Tuesday. “But as part of the folk music boom which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the ’60s, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon. I very much appreciate this honor and acknowledgement by the Hall of Fame.”
Journey’s 1981 song “Don’t Stop Believin’” was given new life by being featured in the closing scene of HBO’s “The Sopranos” and became a favorite of a new generation. Its 6.8 million iTunes sales makes it the most-bought song on that platform from the pre-digital era, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Former singer Steve Perry, estranged from the band for many years, offers some potential rock hall drama: Will he show up for his induction?
Guitarist and co-founder Neal Schon told Billboard he’s reached out to Perry.
“I would hope that Steve would at least do something with us,” Schon said. “He went and sang a couple songs with the Eels last year to let people know he can still sing, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I’m not counting on anything.”
There was no immediate response Tuesday to a call to Perry’s lawyer.
Britain’s Yes, known for its complex compositions, was a leader of the 1970s progressive rock movement. Yes’ hits include “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and its fans have waged a vociferous campaign to see them honored. Founding bass player Chris Squire, the one constant in many years of personnel changes, died in June 2015.
Alan White, the band’s drummer for 44 years, said from his home in Seattle that it was wonderful to get the recognition and thanked fans for their advocacy.
“It means a lot,” he said.
Electric Light Orchestra got its start melding classical influences to Beatles-influenced pop and charted with “Evil Woman,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” The band essentially exists now in leader Jeff Lynne’s imagination and home studio and had a mildly successful comeback a year ago.
Chic, led by Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards, has become the rock hall’s version of Susan Lucci and her long quest to win a Daytime Emmy. While Shakur, Baez, Pearl Jam and ELO were elected this year in their first time on the ballot, Chic has endured years of disappointment.
The hall’s award for musical excellence to songwriter and guitarist Rodgers is no consolation prize. When disco cooled, Rodgers became one of the hottest producers in the business, behind the boards for some of the ’80s most indelible albums: David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the B-52’s “Cosmic Thing.”
Rodgers, in an interview with “Good Day, New York,” said he’s flattered to get the award but it felt a little odd.
“So they plucked me out of the band and said, ‘You’re worthy, but the band’s not worthy,’” he said. “And that sort of makes you feel a little weird, because I wouldn’t know David Bowie or INXS or Duran Duran or Madonna or Paul Simon or any of these people unless I was in Chic. They were all Chic fans.”