N.W.A. Responds to Gene Simmons, Robert Lamm Talks Peter Cetera’s Absence at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
It wouldn't be a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony without some memorable quotes, both onstage and off. Last night (April 8) saw new inductees N.W.A. take Gene Simmons to task for his recent comments about rap, while Chicago's Robert Lamm, Steven Van Zandt and the Black Keys had their share backstage.
The ongoing question of whether or not hip-hop acts should be included in the Hall was defiantly answered by the West Coast rappers. "I want to say to Mr. Gene Simmons that hip-hop is here forever," MC Ren said, as reported in Billboard. We're supposed to be here." Last month, the Kiss bassist announced that he was "looking forward to the death of rap. I’m looking forward to music coming back to lyrics and melody, instead of just talking."
Ice Cube expanded on MC Ren's words. "The question is, 'Are we rock 'n' roll?' And I say -- you goddamn right we rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll is not an instrument. It's not even a style of music. It's a spirit that's been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop. Rock 'n' roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and life. That is rock 'n' roll and that is us."
A good portion of the backstage conversation was dedicated to the former members of bands who were not in attendance. Lamm talked to Rolling Stone about the musical differences that led to Peter Cetera skipping the evening. The problem, he said, was that Cetera wanted to sing "25 or 6 to 4" in a different key, but transposing it for their horn section was "not something that we wanted to do for a one-off."
Lamm also revealed that Cetera took offense to saying that Cetera would "certainly sing, at least I imagine" with the band for the first time since 1985. "[H]e got completely crazy about it," Lamm said. "Like I shouldn't be speaking for him. I wasn't speaking for him. So I apologized. I'm sorry if he felt I overstepped my responsibility. Anyway. That's all insignificant stuff. It would have been lovely to have him here, and we've always made that plain."
The Black Keys, who inducted the Steve Miller Band, were somewhat bemused by the evening. After drummer Pat Carney compared it to "a Viagra commercial," guitarist Dan Auerbach sneered at Ritchie Blackmore's refusal to show up on the grounds that the current members of Deep Purple did not want to perform with him. "Making a stand, huh?" Auerback said. "Good for him. I love when millionaires make stands."
All the sniping seemed to raise the hackles of Steven Van Zandt, who inducted Brill Building songwriter Bert Berns. As far as he's concerned, former band mates should put their differences aside -- as Cheap Trick did -- and acknowledge the importance of the evening. "[I]t's the greatest honor of your life," he told Rolling Stone. "It's going to be the first line of your epitaph. Let me tell you something — being on the committee — it's hard to get in, okay? It's hard to get in. And when people don't show up, man, that pisses me off. Because it's hard to get in."
The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be broadcast on HBO on April 30.
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