Madonna, Mellencamp head to rock hall - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Madonna, Mellencamp head to rock hall

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Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008 8:40 pm | Updated: 10:08 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

NEW YORK - Madonna, pop music's quick-change artist, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Monday and paid tribute to people who encouraged her and even critics who panned her for helping drive her career.

Heartland hitmaker John Mellencamp, Philly soul producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, literate songwriter Leonard Cohen, British rockers the Dave Clark Five and surf instrumentalists the Ventures were among the other inductees.

Madonna recalled a teacher who encouraged her to follow her dreams when she was only 14.

"Thirty-five years later, people are still encouraging me to believe in my dreams," she said at the Waldorf Astoria induction ceremony. "What more could I ask for?"

Even the people who "said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn't sing, that I was a one-hit wonder, they helped me, too," she said. "They inspired me because they made me question myself repeatedly and pushed me to be better."

Singer Justin Timberlake, who helped produce Madonna's upcoming album, inducted her with an innuendo-laden speech.

"The world is full of Madonna wanna-bes. I might have even dated a couple," said Britney Spears' ex. "But there is truly only one Madonna."

Timberlake told of how he felt ill one day while working on Madonna's new album and she asked whether he wanted a B-12 shot. He said sure, expecting a doctor, to show up, but Madonna pulled out a syringe and said, "drop 'em."

After he pulled his pants back up, "she looked at me and said, `that's top shelf," and that was one of the greatest days of my life," he said.

"Everything he said is basically true," Madonna confirmed, "but I didn't say `drop 'em,' I said, `pull your pants down."

Madonna didn't perform, but asked punk rockers Iggy Pop and the Stooges to sing "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light."

At the end, a shirtless Pop said, "you make me feel shiny and new, like a virgin touched for the very first time," and tossed his microphone of the floor.

Gamble, taking the stage with his longtime partner, invited the audience to answer back his wish for "peace."

"Thank you so much, because that's exactly what our music represented," Gamble told the people gathered at the famed hotel for the annual ceremony, televised on VH1 Classic.

Patti LaBelle performed a chandelier-shaking rendition of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" to introduce Gamble and Huff. The songwriters and producers created a lush, melodic brand of soul known for their hometown and performed by a variety of artists.

Gamble cited one: Billy Paul's tale of the adulterous affair in "Me and Mrs. Jones."

"There's a little 'Me and Mrs. Jones' going on here in New York," he said to laughter.

He dispelled one rumor. The song "MFSB" stood for mother, father, sister, brother, he insisted. For years, others let their imaginations run wild with the initials.

One odd sign of the times: among the favors distributed to guests at Monday's dinner was a box of 30 blank CDs, presumably so people wouldn't have to worry about buying CDs anymore.

The Ventures excelled at what is almost a forgotten art in rock music - the instrumental. Nokie Edwards' twangy guitar gave the band its distinctive sound. They performed their first hit, "Walk, Don't Run," and "Hawaii Five-O."

John Fogerty recalled how he and fellow members of Creedence Clearwater Revival used to hang out in a garage learning the Ventures' songs.

"When the Ventures first hit the radio, I would say I was gone," Fogerty said. "The Ventures went on to record 250 albums. Think about that. These days, some of us would be happy to sell 250 albums."

Cohen, a Canadian, is one of music's most highly regarded, if not best-known, songwriters, through pieces like "Suzanne" and the much-covered "Hallelujah." Damien Rice sang the latter song in tribute.

Lou Reed, who was inducting Cohen, carried a sheaf of papers to the stage and read several examples of Cohen's lyrics.

"We're so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is," Reed said.

Cohen, dressed in a black tux, recited the lyrics to his song "Tower of Song" in a hushed voice.

"This is a very unlikely occasion for me," he said. "It is not a distinction that I coveted or even dared dream about."

Indiana's Mellencamp quickly ditched the stage name Johnny Cougar and became one of rock 'n' roll's most successful artists during the 1980s. "Pink Houses," "Hurts so Good" and "R.O.C.K. in the USA" are among his energetic hits. Mellencamp also joined with Neil Young and Willie Nelson to form the ongoing Farm Aid charity for American farmers.

The Dave Clark Five followed the Beatles in the original British Invasion, with catchy hits like "Glad All Over." Led by drummer and songwriter Clark, the band enters the hall at a tragic time: singer Mike Smith died at age 64 of pneumonia less than two weeks ago.

Little Walter, who died in 1968, joins the hall in its sidemen category. He recorded frequently with Muddy Waters in the 1950s.

"He defined an instrument, he defined a sound, he defined a genre," musician Ben Harper said of Little Walter.

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