(original text from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website)
Waldorf Astoria Hotel, NYC
March 6, 2000
Eric Clapton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the unprecedented third time when he was honored for his solo career during the Fifteenth Annual Induction Ceremony, held on March 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Previously, Clapton has been inducted as a member of both the Yardbirds and Cream.
Robbie Robertson, whose group the Band was inducted by Clapton in 1994, returned the favor, presenting Clapton with his award. "Let’s talk guitar," said Robertson, "tasteful, fluid, soulful guitar. Yes, Eric Clapton is Johnny B. Goode." Clapton, in the evening’s shortest acceptance speech, said, "For me, it’s about the music. I’m just the messenger. I carry a message and I hope to be able to do that as long as I live. If I may, I’ll just go over there and play." He then did a solo acoustic version of "Tears in Heaven" before calling Robertson onstage for an electrified "Further on Up the Road."
Paul Simon, a 1990 inductee, kicked the evening off by inducting the Fifties vocal group the Moonglows. "Nothing in life is perfect," Simon said, "by, ‘Sincerely’ by the Moonglows is perfect." The vocal group’s surviving members performed that song, as well as "Ten Commandments of Love."
Hip Hop artist Lil’ Kim then took the stage to induct Earth, Wind and Fire. "I may be young," she said, "but I groove to Earth, Wind and Fire. The song titles along bring a smile to your face." Together for the first time in 20 years, the group’s classic lineup performed sizzling versions of "Shining Star" and "That’s the Way of the World."
The evening’s biggest surprise came when Paul McCartney inducted James Taylor, who began his career as the first artists signed to the Beatles’ record label, Apple ("before it was a computer," McCartney joked). Taylor, McCartney said, "was this haunting guy who could really play the guitar and really sing beautifully." Taylor said that McCartney’s appearance "bracketed things for me, to sign me in the first place and then be here to induct me into the Hall."
Bonnie Raitt, said presente[r] Melissa Ethridge, is "a woman in a man’s world, breaking ground. Bonnie can play as well as any man, and still be all-woman. She can burn up the strings with the best. Then, there’s that voice, that heart-breaking, soulful, sex-on-a-plate voice." Joined by Ethridge and Bruce Hornsby, Raitt performed "Thing Called Love," and, with Hornsby on piano, "I Can’t Make You Love Me."
Among this year’s other highlights were John Mellencamp’s expletive-laced induction of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Patti Smith’s emotional presentation to record executive Clive Davis (who was honored as a Non-Performer), and Ray Charles’ rendition of "Nature Boy" following his induction of Nat "King" Cole as an Early Influence. This year’s other Early Influence award went to Billie Holiday; Diana Ross did the presentation.
This year marked the introduction of a new category of Sidemen – artists who made their mark as backup musicians on studio sessions and on the road. Songwriter and producer Mike Stoller, a 1987 inductee, presented the awards, calling drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer "two of the greatest kick-ass drummers in rock and roll." Also honored were guitarist Scotty Moore ("What I have to say about Scotty Moore is that Elvis Presley was a luck man," Stoller said), Motown bassist James Jamerson and sax player King Curtis.
The evening concluded with four songs: Nat "King" Cole’s "Route 66," sung by daughter Natalie Cole; Taylor’s "How Sweet It Is"; Al Green’s "Love and Happiness," sung by Earth, Wing and Fire’s Philip Bailey; and the blues standard "Sweet Home Chicago," featuring Clapton, Raitt and Robertson on guitars.