Perhaps the most diverse Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class ever also made room for EDM, deep blues, the poet laureate of soul, and hip-hop tonight at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.
Kraftwerk were recognized as an early influence, after helping pioneer synth-based and electronic-dance music. Founded in 1970 in Dusseldorf, Germany, the group melded machine-based avant-garde ideas with rock while building and recording in their own self-constructed Kling Klang Studio.
They were nominated for induction an astonishing six times before finally receiving this award. Ironically, Depeche Mode – a band directly influenced by Kraftwerk early on – advanced into the Rock Hall a year ago. They were inducted at the ceremony in a video tribute hosted by Pharrell Williams.
It’s difficult to overstate how far-flung Kraftwerk’s impact was. They were musical forebears to new wave and synth-pop groups like New Order and OMD, and were also sampled by early hip-hop star Afrika Bambaataa on the groundbreaking 1982 single “Planet Rock.” Guitarist Chris Stein later told Mojo that Blondie was “thinking about Kraftwerk and Eurodisco” while making “Heart of Glass.”
U2 covered their song “Neon Lights,” while Coldplay sampled “Computer Love” on “Talk.” David Bowie‘s “Heroes”-era song “V-2 Schneider” was reportedly a nod to Kraftwerk’s cofounder Florian Schneider. “Kraftwerk are to contemporary electronic music what the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are to contemporary rock music,” Moby told The New York Times in 2009.
Charley Patton, known as the father of the Delta blues, was also honored for his early influence on rock by Gary Clark Jr., who performed Patton’s “High Water Everywhere.” The blues pioneer had his first session for Paramount Records in 1929, later mentoring legends like Robert Johnson, Son House and Howlin’ Wolf. Along the way, he paved the way for electric blues and the British Invasion, heavy metal and then hip-hop.
A pair of rap legends were also honored, as Jay-Z was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and LL Cool J earned the Musical Excellence Award. Dr. Dre inducted LL Cool J, who performed a searing set with Eminem and Jennifer Lopez guesting. Jay-Z was inducted by comedian Dave Chappelle but did not perform.
The soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron was given the early influence award, as well. He was inducted by rapper Common via a video message. Clarence Avant, an influential music executive, entrepreneur and film producer, earned the Ahmet Ertegun Award, and was inducted by Lionel Richie.
There was also an “In Memoriam” segment that featured Brandi Carlile singing the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream” onstage. Don Everly died in August (brother Phil died in 2014).
The 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air on Nov. 20 on HBO alongside a radio simulcast on SiriusXM Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Radio.
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