Metallica, whose monstrous sound continues to assault the senses and push heavy metal to its limits, headlined a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night that felt much more like a concert than an awards show.
For the first time, the no-holds-barred show, back in Cleveland following a 12-year holdover in New York's Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, was open to the public.
And nearly 5,000 fans partied in the balconies inside renovated Public Auditorium as 1,200 VIPs dined below at tables costing as much $50,000 each.
Metallica's thrashing music has inspired headbangers for nearly three decades and the band, whose members have survived some of the dark themes found in their raging music, got top billing in an eclectic 2009 class that included rap pioneers Run-DMC, virtuoso guitarist Jeff Beck, soul singer Bobby Womack and rhythm and blues vocal group Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson was inducted as an early influence. Drummer DJ Fontana and the late bassist Bill Black — both of Elvis Presley's backup band — and keyboardist Spooner Oldham made it in the sidemen category.
Two turntables and a microphone
With two turntables and a microphone, Run-DMC broke down the barriers between rock and rap with a unique style. With sparse, stripped-down lyrics above pounding beats, the trio of Joseph "DJ Run" Simmons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell changed rap in the 1980s by taking the realities of the streets to the suburbs.
"They broke away from the pack by being the pack," said rapper Eminem, looking like the band's lost member by sporting the group's trademark black fedora and black leather jacket. "They were the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool. Run-DMC changed my life."
"There's three of them and if you grew up with hip hop like I did, they were the Beatles."
Their remake and collaboration with Aerosmith on the rock band's "Walk This Way" changed modern music.
Any chance of a Run reunion ended with Mizell's death in 2002, when he was shot to death outside his studio. His murder remains unsolved.
Mizell's mother, Connie, accepted the award on his behalf.
"My baby is still doing it for me," she said.
Simmons cited "so many smart people and so much help" several times during his speech. He also thanked Mrs. Mizell, who allowed the group to set up their equipment in her Hollis, Queens, living room.
Cleveland's Womack, the son of a steelworker, is best known for his soulful voice, but he had far greater musical range as a talented songwriter and guitarist.
He also branched into gospel, returning to the roots that got him his start with a family group, the Valentinos. He later played guitar for Sam Cooke.
Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones introduced Womack as "the voice that has always killed me. He brings me to tears." Wood then recalled a night in New York when he and Womack hid as some Hell's Angels gang members were roughing up Wilson Pickett.
Gorgeous medley starts off show
Little Anthony and the Imperials, who began their career singing on street corners in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened the program with a gorgeous medley of hits "Tears on My Pillow," "Hurt So Bad," and "I'm Alright." Many in the crowd mouthed the familiar tracks as lead singer Anthony "Little Anthony" Gourdine's falsetto filled the room.
Longtime friend Smokey Robinson presented the doo-wop group, calling their induction "long overdue."
Gourdine thanked his music teacher, "wherever you are" during his induction speech.
"We've been in this now for 50 years, and when we were kids we never imagined in our wildest dreams we'd ever be here," he said. "Now that it's here, the one thing we can look at and say is nobody can ever take this away from us."
Dubbed the "Sweet Lady with the Nasty Voice," the 71-year-old Jackson got her start as a country singer. She was a flamboyant dresser, and her choice of skirts and high heels rankled some hardcore fans. It was Elvis Presley, whom she toured with the 1950s, who persuaded her to sing rock songs.
"She could really rock and still kept her femininity intact," said presenter Roseanne Cash. "She's the prototype for so many of us."
On a sunny, chilly evening, fans stood behind barricades along the red carpet, screaming as rock stars past and present arrived for the ceremony.
Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, who will present Beck, received the loudest ovation. He was soon followed by Metallica presenter, Flea, the blue-haired bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who served as his own roadie by carrying his guitar case.
For Metallica, which took a break from a world tour for the ceremony, the event was also serving as a family reunion.
Bassist Jason Newsted, who left the band in 2001, accepted an invitation to rejoin his bandmates for the big gig.
An early epic body of work that includes "Master of Puppets," "And Justice For All" and "The Black Album" with monster guitar riffs and jackhammer backbeats separated guitarist-lead vocalist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, original bassist Cliff Burton — killed in a tour bus accident in 1986 — and his replacement, Newsted, from other bands.
Burton's tragic death was the first of several career-defining moments for Metallica, which has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Newsted quit; the band had a drawn-out legal fight with Napster over illegal music downloads, and Hetfield, seriously burned in a pyrotechnics accident on stage in 1992, battled alcohol and substance abuse.