With plenty of punk attitude and energy, Green Day thrashed its way into the Rock Hall.
The Bay Area trio, which formed as teenagers and helped make punk rock radio friendly in the 1990s, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday night during a star-studded event they briefly turned into one of their high-intensity shows with a powerful set of some of their most memorable hits.
From the opening power chords of “American Idiot,” Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool had the crowd at Cleveland’s Public Hall dancing in the aisles.
Green Day was inducted along with Ringo Starr, the Beatles’ drummer going in as a solo artist, underground-icon Lou Reed, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The “5’’ Royales.
Brash and belligerent, Green Day blasted onto the music scene just as Seattle’s grunge sound was growing stale. The band borrowed riffs from punk pioneers like The Stooges and Sex Pistols, flavored them with some power chords and pop hooks and helped redefine a genre.
During their acceptance speeches, the band members thanked “the hundreds of people who let us sleep on their floors.”
Armstrong got emotional when thanking his sons and wife, and closed with a message to the band’s manager.
“I want to apologize for the hotel rooms and for Tre’s drums catching on fire,” he said.
Reed was both daring and provocative as a songwriter and lyricist, pushing boundaries with ballads about forbidden subjects like drugs, prostitution and suicide. Reed’s songs like “Walk On The Wild Side,” ‘‘Vicious” and “Heroin” remain vibrant today. Although he died in 2013, Reed continues to influence a young generation of musicians touched by his rebel ways.
Patti Smith remembered Reed the poet and recalled being at Rockaway Beach when she got the news of his death. She rode the subway back to New York City, Reed’s city.
“People were crying on the street,” Smith said. “You could hear his voice coming out of cafes. Everyone was playing his music. Strangers came up to me and hugged me. It was as if the whole city was mourning. … Thank you, Lou, for brutally and benevolently injecting poetry into your music.”
Withers was inexplicably left off the hall’s ballot for years, perhaps an unfortunate oversight. But the 76-year-old, who walked away from the music industry in the 1980s, is now part of musical royalty with a catalog of timeless songs like “Lean On Me.” And “Just The Two Of Us.” During his induction speech, Stevie Wonder said he would often hear Withers’ music and say, “I wish I could have written that song.”
Wonder then performed “Ain’t No Sunshine” with Withers sitting next to him on stage enjoying every second.
Jett couldn’t keep her rough rocker edge for long. After being introduced, Jett, the black-leathered girl you might not bring home to meet your mom, was moved to tears.
“I tried not to cry and be tough,” she said, her black mascara starting to run.
Jett opened the show with a rip-roaring version of “Bad Reputation” and was joined by Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl for a blistering “Cherry Bomb,” one of her hits with The Runaways, a band that broke down barriers for women in rock.
Jett said music is what has always moved her.
“I come from a place where rock and roll means something,” she said. “It’s more than music, more than fashion, more than a pose. It’s a subculture of rebellion, frustration, alienation and the groove. … Rock and roll ethic is my entire life.”
Sadly, Vaughan died in 1990 at the height of his blossoming career in a helicopter crash. Armed with his signature Stratocaster, the Texas bluesman was an unstoppable force on six strings.
John Mayer called it the “honor of a lifetime” to induct Vaughan, whom he called “the ultimate guitar hero.”
“Stevie used his guitar to lead him out of town,” said Mayer, who later traded licks on “Texas Flood” with Gary Clark Jr. “He gave me hope because heroes give you hope. While Jimi Hendrix came down from outer space, Stevie came up from below the ground.”
Adored by fans, Starr was the steady beat behind the world’s most celebrated group and the 74-year-old is the last of the Beatles to have his work outside the band recognized. Starr is being inducted by Paul McCartney, whose influence helped get his former drummer enshrined. Starr put out a string of pop hits, including “It Don’t Come Easy,” ‘‘Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen.”