Scandal casts shadow on Rock Hall ceremonies

[11 March 2008]

By Rafer Guzman

Newsday (MCT)

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer

What’s the only thing that could overshadow the induction of Madonna the pop star into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Why, Eliot Spitzer, of course.

On a night honoring the sexually provocative singer, another titillating topic was on the lips of those in attendance: the New York governor’s involvement in a prostitution ring. Filmmaker Ed Burns, who showed up with his wife Christy Turlington, cracked a joke about it to reporters. Even Kenny Gamble, the 64 year-old producer-songwriter, who was inducted with his colleague, Leon Huff, managed to work in an aside about their classic soul hit “Me & Mrs. Jones,” noting “there’s a million little Mrs. Jones going on here in New York.”

The subject was almost enough to overshadow the night’s actual news coming from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan: namely, this year’s seemingly random grab bag of inductees. Two of the biggest names came from the early 1980s, but were seemingly polar opposites: Madonna, the commercially calculating pop star, and John Mellencamp, the principled heartland rocker.

The bulk of the class came from the 1960s: Leonard Cohen, the spiritualist songwriter; The Ventures, the instrumental rock group famous for “Walk, Don’t Run”; The Dave Clark Five, a band more popular in Britain than in the United States; and Gamble and Huff, the team behind the so-called Philly sound.

Little Walter, the pioneering blues harmonica player died nearly 40 years ago, also was inducted.

Adding to the overall oddballery: Madonna didn’t perform but instead chose Iggy Pop & The Stooges, the grimy proto-punk band, to play a musical tribute to her.

Pop and his mates played fuzzy, clomping versions of her early pop hit “Burning Up” and her more recent dance track “Ray of Light.” The music channel VH1, which broadcast the induction ceremony, showed several shots of Madonna rolling her eyes, as if half enjoying and half regretting her choice.

Earlier, Justin Timberlake, who collaborated with Madonna on her upcoming album “Hard Candy,” provided an induction speech extolling the older woman’s creativity, controlling nature and influence on younger musicians. Disparaging the music industry’s “Madonna wannabes,” he also noted that he may have dated some of them.

Other performances included Patti LaBelle singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and Jerry Butler running through a stately version of “Only The Strong Survive.” The Ventures played their lengthy rendition of the “Hawaii Five-O” theme song. Damien Rice sang Cohen’s ballad “Hallelujah.”

Even as New Yorkers wondered whether their governor would resign, it was announced that another New York institution would be leaving. The rock hall induction ceremony will likely move to its hometown of Cleveland next year.

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