Leonard Cohen – The 2008 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Induction

Highlights Of The 2008 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction

Highlight #1: Leonard Cohen, Still Classy After All These Years

Leonard Cohen, dapperly dressed in a black tux, thanked Lou Reed for his introduction and acknowledged that his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was “such an unlikely event” and “not a distinction that I coveted or even dared dream about.”

In a self-effacing moment that would prove strikingly atypical through the night, Cohen then solemnly observed,

I am reminded of the prophetic statement by Jon Landau in the early 1970s: “I have seen the future of rock’n’roll, and it is not Leonard Cohen”1

Cohen, who may have been the only speaker, including Jan Werner, Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MC for the ceremony, to speak without notes (Lou Reed carried loose papers, a notebook, and a copy of Cohen’s “Book of Longing” to the podium), then recited the lyrics of “Tower of Song” and promptly surrendered the stage to Damien Rice, whose rendition of “Hallelujah” seemed competent but pedestrian.2

Highlight #2: Tom Hanks, Best Introduction

Tom Hanks introduced the Dave Clark 53 with passion and enthusiasm that fell just short of inspirational as he reported on the meaning of pop music to a kid growing up – oh, at about the same time Tom Hanks grew up. His notes-abetted presentation may have been a tad over the top, but at least he was on task and able to demonstrate a genuine appreciation for the inductees.

Highlight #3: Let’s see. Highlights, highlights, high-dee-hoo-dee-lights

Well, uh, ummm, … ah, I have it – Although a number of the older honorees looked shaky, not one of them required CPR.4

The Other 80% Of The Ceremony

To convey the tone of the rest of the evening, I first ask the reader to imagine the annual corporate meeting of the sales department of a life insurance company. A dinner is being held to honor the six salesmen who have been with the company the longest. These old coots seem nice enough, everyone seems to like them, and they may well have supplied a useful service to the community so there is no objection raised when they go on longer than necessary, tell anecdotes that no one in attendance quite understands, and seem a little confused as they thank spouses, mentors, teachers, friends, pets, … . This profile matches about half the honorees.

For the remainder, take a look at yesterday’s post about White Whine. Now, imagine the Rock and Roll Stars Version of White Whine. A few examples follow:

Twenty-four hours ago, for example, I liked John Mellencamp more than I do now. He’s clearly angry at someone who has done him wrong because he’s going to have his son “kick their ass.” He also notes that he knows what people say about him and how his anti-war stance makes him unpopular.

The Awards were, according to more than one speaker, sooooo much better before it became a TV show. As a viewer, these comments made me feel warm and tingly all over.

The host, VH1-C, was accused of – commercialism – wait, the punch line is coming – by Billy Joel.

The undeserved, much lamented death of the music business (or, more accurately, record/cassette/CD selling) was another recurrent motif.

Even Madonna, who seems to run everything in the Western Hemisphere that Oprah doesn’t own, got sentimental over her lack of self-esteem as a child and her need, 35 years later, for people to “encourage [her] to believe in [her] dreams.” On the other hand, while I can’t be certain, I think it’s possible Madge thanked me for something during her exhaustive and exhausting expressions of gratitude to her grade school dancing teacher, her agent’s assistant’s associate once removed, the critics whose negative reviews only fired her motivation, … .

Bonus: Unsolicited Advice To VH1-C Production Crew & Waldorf Event Planners

Here’s a wacky idea – what if, when the honorees leave the waiting area (AKA the Waldorf Hotel kitchen) to mount the stage, the direction to their mark on the stage were made clear? Now, no one enjoys slapstick antics, not unlike that practiced by the Keystone Cops in their heyday, more than me. Watching the Ventures mill about before someone standing idly by pointed them toward the stage was a hoot. Even watching my man, Leonard, walk through the door into the bright lights only to realize that he was face to face with the live and TV audience with no means of determining the correct route to the stage gave me a tiny jolt of Schadenfreude-infused delight. And, when I saw John Mellencamp nearly sprint the wrong way, toward the backstage area, … well, let’s just say, a knee was slapped and mirth prevailed. Heck, I’ll even admit to being a little disappointed when someone literally took Madonna’s arm to guide her to the stage.

Still, those in charge  might want to consider adding a navigational aid to assure that the show runs smoothly. I don’t see a need to pop for a GPS, but maybe you could – and I’m just blue-skying here – plant a big sign outside that door with an arrow pointing to the stage or instruct a flunky to stand outside the door through which the inductees enter and imitate a sign pointing unambiguously toward the stage.

Bonus #2: A Final Word On Leonard Cohen

“We’re so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is”

lou reed at leonard cohen induction

You got that right, Lou

  1. Cohen was, of course, riffing on the famous proclamation Jon Landau wrote in 1974 as a Rolling Stone contributing editor, “I’ve seen the future of rock n’ roll, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.” Leonard Cohen is too much of a gentleman (thank goodness, I’m not) to point out that within a year or two of that statement, Mr. Landau was Springsteen’s producer and manager – and still on the Rolling Stone masthead. []
  2. Rice’s singing may well have been more effective for the audience at the ceremony. The audio of all of the performances seemed muddy, which may have been a broadcast issue or even a problem with my own TV. The production was simulcast but I couldn’t tune in at my location. []
  3. I like Tom Hanks, and I recall liking the DC5, at least during the British Invasion; other than my fondness for the actor and the band, the reason Tom Hanks introduced the Dave Clark 5 eludes me []
  4. At least not on camera []

0 responses to “Leonard Cohen – The 2008 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Induction

  1. “a distinction that I coveted or even dared dream about.”

    i’m quite certain that a “not” should be inserted at the beginning of this phrase.


  2. Aaargh. That vital “not” does indeed belong in the quote and has been belatedly added. I can only plead too many revisions and too many TiVo rewinds in an ironically ill-fated attempt to get the facts straight. My apologies for the error.