It was cosmic justice that two black women — Chaka Khan and Missy Elliott — owned the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday night.
After longtime Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner was ousted from the hall’s board of directors in September — immediately after telling the New York Times that women and people of color weren’t “articulate” enough to be included in his “The Masters” book of artist interviews — it was a sure sign that times have finally changed at an institution ruled by white men since its inception in 1983.
Forty years after Wenner helped found the organization — he also served as chairman from 2006 until 2019 — it was a sweet thing when Khan rocked Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with the night’s first real highlight.
Watching the 70-year-old Queen of Funk roar from “I Feel for You” to “I’m Every Woman” — with assists from Common, H.E.R. and Sia — it was hard to imagine how she had not been inducted a long time ago, after seven previous nominations in the Performer Category (four with Rufus, three as a solo artist). Her Musical Excellence Award — presented by R&B star Jazmine Sullivan — finally gave Khan some overdue flowers 50 years after she made her debut.
Elliott, on the other hand, got inducted on her first nomination, becoming the first female hip-hop artist to be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
And fittingly, it was Queen Latifah who did the honors — she’s one of the female rappers who inspired Elliott.
The 52-year-old MC closed the festivities with a show-stopping performance, working it to hits such as “Get Ur Freak On,” “One Minute Man,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Lose Control.”
Another female inductee, Sheryl Crow, got the ceremony (which is now streaming on Disney+) off to a strong start with the feel-good vibes of “If It Makes You Happy.”
The 61-year-old diva was later joined by Stevie Nicks on “Strong Enough” and then her “hero” Peter Frampton on “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”
During her lengthy induction speech, she gave props to Willie Nelson, the 90-year-old country legend who joined Crow in the class of 2023.
While purists may argue that he’s not “rock” enough, that old-school way of thinking has clearly gotten, well, old.
In fact, the one “real” rock band to be inducted this year — Rage Against the Machine — didn’t even perform. And to make matters worse, only guitarist Tom Morello even bothered to show up.
“Running Up That Hill” chanteuse Kate Bush also was a disappointing no-show, leaving St. Vincent as her stand-in.
But when you can’t show up to your own rock-hall induction, it’s a slap in the face to have to sit through lengthy video tributes that are cutting into the performance time of the artists who are actually in attendance — and helping to make the show over four hours long.
And let’s not take for granted simply being alive to receive such a prestigious honor. In recent years, there have been posthumous inductees such as Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston and the Notorious B.I.G.
That sad trend continued this year with George Michael, but at least we had one of the night’s most touching moments when the singer’s former Wham! mate Andrew Ridgeley inducted him in a rare appearance.
But Michael deserved a better musical tribute than he got from Miguel (“Careless Whisper”), Adam Levine (“Faith”) and, most bizarrely, Carrie Underwood (“One More Try”). And it was a missed opportunity to have a queer artist salute the late gay icon.
Certainly, nobody but Elton John could have inducted his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, who received the Musical Excellence Award. And in his speech before John performed their 1971 classic “Tiny Dancer,” Taupin, 73, took pointed aim at Wenner.
“I’m honored to be in the class of 2023 alongside a group of such profoundly ‘articulate’ women and outstanding ‘articulate’ black artists, along with all of the other music masters here tonight.”
Well played, Bernie. Well played.
This story originally appeared on NY Post