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Icon Jackson, unknown Johnson among inductees

Rock Hall of Fame enrolls new class


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Wide range of performers

Defining rock 'n' roll

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(CNN) -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony Monday night at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, an event marked by a late-night jam session of Steely Dan's "Let's Do It Again."

Among this year's class of inductees in the "performers" category were pop icon Michael Jackson, comeback rockers Aerosmith, theatrical rockers Queen, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Grammy-winning duo Steely Dan.

After a long wait, Johnnie Johnson -- the man who discovered and played with Chuck Berry -- was inducted in the "sidemen" category.

CNN's Bill Tush talks about this year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Of the new rock hall inductees, whose honor is the most overdue?

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And Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records who introduced the world to reggae king Bob Marley, was inducted in the "nonperformers" category.

It was the 16th class chosen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1986 in Cleveland, Ohio. For the first time this year, the hall did not induct anyone under the category "early influences," which traces the roots of rock 'n' roll through performers.

Wide range of performers

This year's list featured a wide range of performers, from the gritty-yet-commercial Aerosmith, the '70s band who overcame drug addictions to become a consistent force on '90s charts, to the thoughtful musings-to-music of Simon, who was inducted in 1990 as part of the duo Simon and Garfunkel.

Simon told the crowd he would like a reconciliation some day with his former partner Art Garfunkel, from whom he is estranged.

"I regret the ending of our friendship and hope one day before we die we'll make peace with each other," he said but added "No rush."

"I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding," he said.

Queen, the bombastic rock group who created anthems like "We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," finally received Rock Hall access, nearly a decade after lead singer Freddie Mercury died of AIDS. The surviving members gave a rare live performance.

Jackson, like Simon, also was already inducted in 1997 as part of the Jackson Five. But after leaving his family's '70s R&B outfit, Jackson went on to produce some of the best-selling pop albums in history, including 1982's "Thriller," which not only sold more than 20 million copies but also helped spur the success of the then-upstart network MTV.

Chris Blackwell
Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who introduced the world to Bob Marley, was inducted in the "nonperformers" category  

"The gift of music has been a blessing from God," Jackson said in a soft voice as he gave his acceptance speech.

Not performing, he walked on and off the stage slowly, leaning heavily on a cane due to a broken foot he said he suffered in a fall recently at his home.

Steely Dan, meantime, is enjoying quite a year. The '70s jazz-rock outfit returned to form last year, releasing "Two Against Nature," their first album of new material in 20 years. This past month, their comeback to favor was completed when they won three Grammys, including best album.

Defining rock 'n' roll

The story's much different for rock pianist Johnson. He's been credited with discovering guitarist Berry in 1952, and helping define the rock 'n' roll sound. The pair collaborated on several early-era rock hits, including "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Maybellene." The song "Johnnie B. Goode" was written by Berry as a tribute to Johnson.

It was Berry, however, who was the first person inducted into the Rock Hall in 1986, while Johnson remains relatively unknown to modern rock fans. The differences between the two became litigious late last year, when Johnson sued Berry over a dispute concerning royalties of songs.

Also inducted in the "performers" category were Ritchie Valens, who rode "La Bamba" to late '50s acclaim before dying in the same 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper; R&B doo-wop legends the Flamingos; and R&B singer Solomon Burke, whose hits -- such as "Just Out of Reach (of My Two Open Arms") and "Cry to Me" -- and style are credited with influencing acts like the Rolling Stones.

James Burton, the country-rock guitarist whose Telecaster was heard on acts ranging from Elvis Presley to Merle Haggard, was inducted under "sidemen."

VH1 will air an edited version of Monday's event at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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