During this year's electrifying Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY on November 3, Audacy got a unique chance to mingle backstage with some of the honorees, performers, and artists in attendance throughout the night.
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Check out some of the conversations surrounding the epic night below, with Wham!'s Andrew Ridgeley, Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow, Michael Bivens of New Edition, Peter Frampton, and Rock Hall CEO, Greg Harris.
Andrew Ridgeley, half of the musical duo Wham!, was on hand at the ceremony on Friday night to accept the 2023 Rock Hall induction for his late friend and musical partner, George Michael.
“It was a privilege. I would’ve felt slightly put out for someone else to be doing it, to be honest," says Andrew. "But yeah, he would’ve really appreciated it, to have the respect and the accolades of his peers and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” Ridgeley adds, "The fact that Wham!’s music has endured is a testament to its quality, to the vitality that exists within it. I’m always amazed that it does appeal to youngsters in the way it does. Plenty say it’s just uplifting stuff... that appeal is timeless so it’s a great thing and we’re very, I’m very privileged to be in that position."
Discussing the group's crossover appeal, Ridgeley says being accepted by those from all walks of life "was particularly valuable for George and poignant. He revered a whole host of Black music and Black artists. It meant a great deal to him... He had two or three records that he grew up to, and Black music was a big part of that. so I think that occasion was an extraordinary occasion in itself, but it meant a great deal to him.” With his solo album Faith becoming the first by a white artist to top the Black Billboard Charts, Andrew admits, "that occasion was an extraordinary occasion in itself, but it meant a great deal to him.”
Superstar Country singer and songwriter Chris Stapleton could have been considered part of the house band for the evening, joining 2023 inductee Willie Nelson on stage to perform his 1973 single “Whiskey River,” also joining Sir Elton John, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and 2023 inductee Sheryl Crow for a stirring rendition of The Band’s “The Weight,” and Dave Matthews, Willie, and Sheryl again for Nelson's hit, “On the Road Again.”
"Well, I’m here because Willie Nelson asked me to be here, but I got to play with Elton tonight," Stapleton explains. "That kind of came up last minute and Sheryl and Brittany as well... looking out in the audience, and [Led Zeppelin's] Jimmy Page is sitting there, so you can’t help but be inspired by these things. This is legendary stuff, that’s rare. Just walking up and down the hallways with the people that you pass. Flavor Flav was behind me in the hallway. It’s a very unique thing to get to come to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and do anything. So of course, lots of inspiration, lots of starstruck moments."
Addressing the influx of Country music in the halls of Rock with Dolly Parton's induction in 2022 and now Willie Nelson, Chris says pointedly, “I think it’s safe to say that my perspective is music is music, and there’s two kinds: There’s good and bad. If we all realize that we’ll be in a lot better shape.“
It was a huge night for Sheryl Crow, as the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee took the stage to perform her hits “If It Makes You Happy” alongside Pop star Olivia Rodrigo, “Strong Enough” with Stevie Nicks, “Winding Road” with Nicks and guitar god Peter Frampton, “On the Road Again” with fellow inductee Willie Nelson, alongside Chris Stapleton and Dave Matthews, and The Band’s “The Weight” with Elton John, Chris Stapleton and Brittany Howard.
Addressing her backtracking on not releasing any more albums, Sheryl tells us she needs to “keep [her] mouth shut” when making proclamations like that. “I had no intention of making another record, really after singing with Johnny Cash in a booth doing 'Redemption Day' and having made that record with so many of my heroes, I felt like ‘okay that’s a nice statement to go out on. I wanna just put songs out, people don’t listen to albums.’ This year, when the whole AI thing started coming out and particularly with The Beatles thing and also having witnessed how AI is being used in my artform, I wrote a song about it.”
“I was terrified,” she adds. “Where do I go when I’m terrified? I go to my studio. I had this song and I felt really impassioned by it, but I didn’t want to produce it, so I called Mike Elizondo and said, ‘Will you produce this song?’ He took it and made it into this incredible movie, cinematically I mean, and I found myself just writing one thing after another -- and lo and behold, I have 10 songs. So, you really can’t believe anything I say.”
Crow's Evolution is set for release on March 29, 2024 featuring nine all new tracks including the first single, "Alarm Clock."
“There are lots of things on the record that are very timely but also I’m at that point where I look back more than I look forward," Sheryl explains. "I have to remind myself that there’s a lot more years in front of me and more creativity to be had, but you get to a certain point when you start looking back and it changes your perspective, especially when you’re raising people and so 'evolution' is very apropos for what’s on the record.”
Looking back on her road to the Rock Hall, Sheryl says, “It’s a weird thing when you reflect on 37 years. I started out with the big hair with Michael Jackson. Before that, I was a school teacher. I think what it’s taught me is that I’m a big believer in manifesting. I do believe we manifest the events in our lives by virtue of how much energy and how much attention we put on something. For me, all of my energy went into expressing my experiences through music and through words -- and lo and behold, I got back what I put out. So, I’ve been really blessed, but I am a believer in manifesting. I didn’t manifest, ‘I wanna be famous and get the best tables in the best restaurants,’ but I did wanna be really good.”
New Edition was also in the building at the ceremony to perform a tribute to 2023 inductees The Spinners and this year's Ahment Ertegun Inductee, late Soul Train TV presenter Don Cornelius, with a medley of the tracks “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” and “The Rubberband Man.”
“We are paying tribute to the legendary Spinners tonight, y’all. Let’s give it up for The Spinners and everything they laid as a blueprint for all of us R&B soul groups to follow,” said singer Michael Bivens, talking with the press backstage before the event. “We just wanna emulate that tonight. We have some fabulous voices in this group that’s been singing for 40 years. The ultimate professionals that hit the notes, hit the routines and bring that soul.”
“We just wanna say thank you, continue supporting New Edition, continue celebrating 40 years,” Bivens added. “It means everything for us to be living, breathing this brotherhood and showcasing our talent. It’s what we were put here to do. This was our dream, and this dream has come true. Tonight will be one of the biggest performances of our career, and we’re just happy to be sharing it with you. We hope when we come on, you stand up with your cameras and go click, click, click at that television screen and get down with the New Edition family. We love you.”
Rock legend Peter Frampton took the stage alongside Stevie Nicks and 2023 inductee Sheryl Crow to perform Sheryl’s hit “Every Day is a Winding Road.”
Frampton was on the road with a farewell tour just before COVID lockdowns in 2020, but it seems there’s still plenty of energy left in him to continue on. “I thought that was going to be it,” he says, “because I’ve always said, I made a deal with myself that if I can’t play at the top of my game, I don’t want to play and disappoint people. Well, I have to play. So, things have changed, my hands are affected by my muscle disease, but I’ve adapted and I’m still playing pretty good. So, I’m loving it.”
Performing with Sheryl Crow during her special night was a treat for Frampton, who admits he was drawn to her from “the very first single." Peter adds, "I loved the whole album, so it was one of those things. And I love seeing a girl playing bass, and she said she writes, has written quite a few songs on bass and guitar, piano. She does the whole thing. She writes the songs, she writes the lyrics and plays them too with the help of fantastic players in her band, or whomever she’s recording with. She’s the whole package. She deserves this so much.”
Finally, Greg Harris, President and CEO at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum tells us he can’t wait for your visit Cleveland, as they continue to expand their footprint. “It’s an amazing place... The induction is a magical moment and then we keep that moment in Cleveland all year long, and we honor and cherish these artists in our Hall of Fame. We get fans connected to them each and every day,” says Harris. “The museum is now 28 years old, and we’ve had over 14 million visitors to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Visitors come from over a hundred foreign countries every year, and all 50 states. It’s a really incredible place, and we are now looking to grow. We’re doing a 50,000 square foot expansion of our museum. We broke ground on October 5, and we were joined by Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, who was at our original groundbreaking 28 years ago as well as Michelle Phillips from the Mamas & the Papas, Gina Schock [and Charlotte Caffey] from the Go-Go’s, and Martha Reeves from Martha and the Vandellas.”
“Our goal is to be the best music cultural museum experience in the world, and we do that each and every day for these visitors. We tell the stories of the music, we connect them with the artifacts, we connect them with the context, and we connect it with the broader social history and importance of Rock & Roll and why it matters to all of us. We shine a light on our 378 Hall of Fame inductees in a special floor that is dedicated just to the inductees. We have a plaque gallery, we have a special Hall of Fame inductees gallery where this year’s class - we opened the exhibit yesterday - so we’ll honor these 13 on that space for the next year. We have an immersive theater on that floor that has the greatest moments from induction ceremonies of the past as edited together by the great filmmaker Jonathan Demme, and that’s our Hall of Fame floor. In addition to that, there’s six other floors of the museum with just amazing stuff. In addition to having great exhibitions, we also have educational programs.”
Congratulations to all of the 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. For those unable to watch live, the show is available to stream on-demand. Plus help ring in the new year with a special featuring performance highlights and standout moments on Monday, January 1, 2024 from 8-11PM ET on ABC.