HITS Daily Double
"That's what Madonna has done for all of us... given us a shot in the ass when we really needed it."
—-Justin Timberlake


Madonna, Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, Dave Clark Five and the Ventures Head 23rd Class
For once, it wasn’t about controversy, but celebrating the diverse nature of that unwieldy musical form known as Rock and Roll.

In a night that ranged from twangy ‘50s surf-rock and ‘60s British Invasion pop to a seminal folk poet, a heartland rocker and a post-disco, post-punk dance diva, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored its 23rd class of inductees last night at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in a ceremony televised on VH1 Classic.

Madonna, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five and the Ventures were all honored, though only Mellencamp and the Ventures actually took the stage to perform.

Blues harmonica virtuoso Little Walter was posthumously inducted in the Sideman category by Ben Harper, while Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, creators of TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) received the first Ahmet Ertegun award in the non-performer category from the Iceman, singer Jerry Butler.

Justin Timberlake, who collaborated with Madonna on half of her upcoming album, Hard Candy, introduced her with a cheeky, double-entrendre tribute that recalled how the Material Girl gave him an injection of vitamin B-12 during the recording of the album. "That's what Madonna has done for all of us... given us a shot in the ass when we really needed it."

Madonna thanked Sire A&R man Michael Rosenblatt for discovering her in a club. “I pressed my demo in his hand, then we dropped Ecstasy and danced all night,” she recalled, before acknowledging a flushed Seymour Stein (seated next to Lyor Cohen), first manager Freddy DeMann (“He took me back to my hotel in his Porsche, and by the time we got there, he was my manager”), longtime publicist Liz Rosenberg and present manager Guy Oseary, but pointedly, none of the current Warner Bros. execs by name, nor her new deal with Live Nation. She also quoted the Talmud, recalled getting signed by Stein while in his underwear and a T-shirt, hooked up to an IV in a hospital bed, and noted her famous MTV Video Music Awards performance of “Like a Virgin,” which catapulted her to stardom. "I lost one of my high heels and I dove to find it and suddenly it was a dance move. My manager said I had just ruined my career. He’s not around any more." About her legion of wannabes: "Suddenly, I was at Madison Square Garden and every single girl in the audience looked like me," she said. "It freaked me out."

Fellow Detroiter Iggy & the Stooges (still not in the Hall itself), whom Madonna hand-picked to perform, took the stage for punked-up versions of her second single, “Burning Up” and “Ray of Light,” as the bare-chested Ig wandered into the audience, sat on her lap, then gyrated in the face of a bemused Clive Davis.

Ace raconteur Billy Joel introduced Mellencamp by recalling the rocker asking him to perform at an early Farm Aid show in Peoria. "I’m a New York Jew, they hate people like me," he joked. "They’ll kill me. Let me see if I can get another Jew for you. So I called Randy Newman." He also praised the rocker for "outliving the music business."

"As long as I can hear a song that puts a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat, I know there's still hope," said Mellencamp, who took the stage with his longtime band to perform "Pink Houses," "Small Town" and a rocking "Authority Song."

The evening began with Patti LaBelle belting out the Gamble and Huff-penned "If You Don't Know Me By Now," first sung by Harold Marvin and the Blue Notes, and the Iceman, Jerry Butler's rendition of the pair's "Only the Strong Will Survive."

Accepting his induction, Kenny Gamble cracked everyone up, referring to the Governor Spitzer scandal: "It’s appropriate for today because there’s a little ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ going on here in New York.”

After being introduced by an admiring John Fogerty, who credited them with teaching him how to play guitar, the Ventures performed their instrumental classics "Walk, Don't Run" and the theme from "Hawaii Five-O."

A leather-jacketed Lou Reed then inducted the 73-year-old Cohen by rifling through a poetry book, quoting his lyrics, before the erudite, gray-haired poet, resplendent in tuxedo, responded with a rhymed verse about toiling in the “tower of song.”

Cohen brought down the house when he said, ruefully: “So I’m reminded of the prophetic statement of Jon Landau in the early Seventies, ‘I have seen the future of rock & roll and it is not Leonard Cohen!'” as the one-time critic was shown laughing at the comment from his seat. He parted with the couplet: "So I bid you farewell/I don't know when I'll be back."

Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice then sang a stirring version of the Cohen classic "Hallelujah," which has become associated with the late Jeff Buckley and recently took off on iTunes after a performance by American Idol contestant Jason Castro.

Tom Hanks, who inexplicably inducted the Dave Clark Five (he and Meg Ryan were seated next to Jann Wenner in the audience) recalled how the band “made a joyful sound!” The moment gained some gravity from the death of the group’s singer Mike Smith, who passed away on Feb. 28 after being paralyzed in a 2003 accident

“Mike, you're with us in spirit, my friend, and always will be," said Clark. “At least he knows he’s a Hall of Famer.”

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts performed the band’s British Invasion classic, “Bits and Pieces,” then the nearly four-hour ceremony wrapped with an all-star jam on "Glad All Over," featuring Mellencamp, Joel and Fogerty, among others, joining Jett.

Perhaps the evening's biggest shock was seeing the almost unrecognizable original MTV VJ Mark Goodman reporting from the Waldorf-Astoria kitchen, where the acts assembled before and after hitting the stage.

For the first time since 1997, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction will be held next year in Cleveland, only the third time the ceremony has not taken place in New York. It went on in L.A. in 1993. Plans are for the dinner to return to Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, every three years from now on, but we'll see.