Back in March of this year, just a little over a month after it was announced that Dolly Parton was among the 17 nominees on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 ballot, the 76-year-old country legend made the shocking and unprecedented announcement that she was “respectfully” withdrawing from nominations – because she didn’t feel “worthy” of the honor. However, two-thirds of the ballots had already been mailed out to Hall voters, so she remained in the running — and while Parton’s issue with her eligibility seemed to stem from her concern that she wasn’t “rock ‘n’ roll” enough , many of those voters thought otherwise. Parton was voted into the Hall anyway, and so, when she appeared at Saturday’s induction ceremony, she wanted to make sure she was truly qualified — announcing plans for a rock album and even debuting a new rock song.
“I’m sure a lot of you know that back when they said they were going to put me in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I didn’t really feel like I had done enough to deserve that and I didn’t understand it at the time,” Parton told the audience (shortly after being inducted by Pink, who praised Parton’s “sheer genius”). “When I always thought about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I thought it was just for people in rock ‘n’ roll. And I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I’m gonna have to do a rock album — because my husband of 56 years is a huge rock fan… and he’s always said, ‘You should do a rock album.’ And I thought about it a few times, but timing is everything. And then when this all came up… I thought, ‘Well, since I am gonna be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I’m gonna write a song for tonight’ — which I’m gonna sing in a minute.”
With that, Parton excused herself to change out of her sequined minidress, almost leaving her trophy behind at the podium and joking, “See what this means to me?” I almost forgot it!” But when she returned to the stage, she was in serious rocker mode, looking like she’d borrowed an outfit from Rob Halford of fellow Class of 2022 inductees Judas Priest. “I’m a rock star now!” she declared, rocking a figure-hugging, bellbottomed, black patent leather catsuit dripping with metal chains. “I figure if I’m gonna be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I have to earn it,” she explained.
Accompanied by Kent Wells (who Parton said will be producing her rock record) and the Zac Brown Band, Parton proceeded to debut her new rock single, simply and aptly titled “Rockin’,” which shouted out many of the rock ‘n’ roll architects who entered the Hall via the inaugural Class of ’86. “I grew up lovin’ Elvis, and wild-man Jerry Lee/Chuck Berry, Little Richard/They all cast a spell on me/Carl Perkins and those blue suede shoes had no place on the farm… I was just a child, but I went hog-wild/For the rhythm and the beat,” she sang. “I’ve been rockin’, rockin’, rockin’ since the day I was born/I’ll be rockin’ till the day I’m gone/I still got rock ‘n’ roll down in my country soul/And I ‘ll be rockin’ till the cows come home.”
“And you thought I couldn’t rock!” she quipped, punctuating her statement with a Pete Townshend-like windmill strum across her electric guitar.
Parton’s Rock Hall tribute, which closed Saturday’s ceremony, also included Pink and Brandi Carlile dueting on “Coat of Many Colors” and Sheryl Crow and Brown singing “9 to 5.” But the epic closer was a group number of “Jolene” — certainly a bona fide rock classic, considering that it has been covered by the White Stripes, Miley Cyrus, and even post-punk/gothic bands the Sisters of Mercy and Strawberry Switchblade. The all-star performance featured Brown, Carlile, Crow, and fellow 2022 inductees Eurythmics (with Annie Lennox in a red cowboy hat), Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, and Halford. (Halford seemed especially delighted to share the stage with Parton, as he cuddled up to the country legend, beaming.) “That was fun!” Parton gushed enthusiastically, hardly seeming like an artist who just announced that she’s retiring from touring.
“We’ve got a star-studded stage! I feel like a hillbilly in the city,” Parton giggled. Earlier, during her acceptance speech, she asked the A-list audience, “Any of you rock stars gonna help me out on [my rock album]? Well, good — ’cause I’m gonna hold you to it!” Surely everyone who shared the stage with her Saturday would be eager to volunteer their services.
Saturday’s ceremony featured other surprise guests, like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Ed Sheeran accompanying Class of 2022 inductee Eminem on the “Dream On”-interpolating “Sing for the Moment” and “Stan,” respectively; Sara Bareilles singing “Nobody Does It Better” and Olivia Rodrigo doing “You’re So Vain” to honor inductee Carly Simon, who skipped the event because she is mourning the recent deaths of her two sisters; Dave Grohl, who joined his inductee pal Lionel Richie for a Faith No More-like rendition of the Commodores’ “Easy”; and Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, who played “one last one for the Killer” and paid tribute to the late Jerry Lee Lewis with “High School Confidential” and “Great Balls of Fire.”
While many of the speeches, including obviously Parton’s, were lighthearted and fun, there were more serious moments at the podium. The night began on a somber note with Duran Duran announcing that their original guitarist, Andy Taylor, was unable to attend the ceremony because he is battling stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. Later, Richie got slightly political during his speech, recalling instances in his career when he was told by people in the industry that he “wasn’t Black enough” and stating, “Rock ‘n’ roll is not a color.” It’s a feeling. It’s a vibe.”
And when Mellencamp presented high-powered entertainment attorney Allen Grubman with the Hall’s industry-focused Ahmet Ertegun Award, he mentioned that Grubman is Jewish and said, “I’m a gentile whose life has been enriched by countless Jewish people. … Guys, I cannot tell you how f***ing important it is to speak out, if you’re an artist, against antisemitism, against all forms of bigotry, all forms of hatred. Whenever you hear hate speech, whenever you hear someone saying derogatory about someone else, we’re all human beings. I don’t give a f*** if you’re Jewish, black, white, tutti-frutti. I don’t care. Here’s the trick: Silence is complicity. Can I say that again? Silence is complicity. I want to say I’m standing here tonight loudly and proudly, and in solidarity with Allen, his family, and all of my Jewish friends, and all the entire Jewish people of the world. F*** antisemitism, and f*** anybody who says anything in that manner.”
On the lighter side, perhaps the funniest one-liner of the night was when Priest’s Halford introduced himself with “Hello, I’m the gay guy in the band,” or when Robert Downey Jr., who surprisingly inducted Duran Duran, recalled a “surreal moment” at his 50th birthday party when Duran Duran “played a short set and I shit you not, halfway through ‘Rio,’ a prominent Hollywood director’s wife tore off her bra and tossed it onstage.” But the most entertaining speech overall had to be by Eminem, who — after mentioning his near-fatal 2007 overdose and instructing his daughter Hailie in the audience to “plug your ears” as he admitted, “Drugs were f***ing delicious” — proceeded to spend at least three solid, breathless minutes rattling off a long, alphabetical list of the rap artists who inspired him, from 2 Live Crew and 3rd Bass to the Wu-Tang Clan. “I know that this induction is supposed to be me, like, talking about myself and shit, but f*** that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without them. I’m a high school dropout with a hip-hop education, and these are my teachers and it’s their night just as much as it is mine.” (In a related funny but much less humble moment, Dr. Dre, who inducted Eminem, claimed that Eminem had wanted Dre to mention that Eminem has “a huge penis.”)
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 included Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo (who were inducted by Sheryl Crow), Duran Duran, Eminem, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie (inducted by Lenny Kravitz), Carly Simon (inducted by Sara Bareilles) , and Eurythmics, who were inducted by U2’s The Edge and gave the most fiery performance of the night with “Would I Lie to You,” “Missionary Man,” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” The Musical Excellence Award went to Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (inducted by Janet Jackson) and Judas Priest (inducted by Alice Cooper). Along with Grubman, Sylvia Robinson and Jimmy Iovine also received the Ahmet Ertegun Award, the latter presented by Springsteen. The Early Influence Award went to Harry Belafonte and Elizabeth Cotten.
The 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony took place Nov. 5 at Los Angeles’s Microsoft Theater — the first time the event had been staged in LA since 2011. The show will be broadcast on HBO on Nov. 19.
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