Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks Speak Up for Women at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


For the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2019, pop stardom is, roughly, a tale of two genders: Powerful women who stand proudly alone, and well-behaved groups of men with too many bass players to mention.

For its 34th annual induction ceremony on Friday night, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the hall opened the pantheon to Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Def Leppard, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies — a crop of respected acts that have each had a palpable impact on pop culture, and who arrived at the institution with a notable lack of controversy or internecine squabbles.

But it was the women who left the strongest impression this year, and who made the most powerful statements at the microphone.

Nicks, the first woman to be inducted twice — she was already in as a member of Fleetwood Mac — kicked off the ceremony with a rundown of her solo hits like “Stand Back” and “Edge of Seventeen,” and was joined by Don Henley for “Leather and Lace” and by Harry Styles for “Stop Dragging My Heart Around,” taking on Tom Petty’s vocals while strumming a Telecaster. True to her style persona, Nicks’s black-and-gold shawl flowed behind her, as her right hand clutched a microphone with a lacy glove.

“What I am doing is opening up the door for other women to go, like, ‘Hey man, I can do it,” Nicks proclaimed in her speech. Before she came to the microphone, Styles — wearing a sky-blue double-breasted velvet suit — called her “the magical Gypsy godmother who occupies the in-between.”

Jackson — introduced by the singer and actress Janelle Monáe as “the legendary queen of black girl magic” — did not perform. But she drew roars from throughout the arena as she described staking her own path apart from the dynasty of her famous brothers.

“As the youngest in the family, I was determined to make it on my own,” Jackson said. “I wanted to stand on my own two feet. But never in a million years did I expect to follow in their footsteps. Tonight, your baby sister has made it in.”

While Jackson spoke at length about her family, she didn’t mention one of the hottest topics of the past few months — “Leaving Neverland,” an HBO documentary about two men who say Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children; she never said Michael’s name.

In performance, Def Leppard played bad-boy pop-metal anthems like “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” like a well-oiled machine, matching the musical strength of the band’s 1980s heyday, but without the strutting and stage leaps of its old videos. (But Phil Collen, the guitarist, looked like a toned street fighter as he played shirtless and with thick chains around his neck.)

The Cure, representing the post-punk and 1980s indie-rock era, kept the crowd in rapt attention with a playlist that spanned hits like “Lovesong” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” as well as oddities like the song “A Forest” that are just as important to the group’s identity.



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