Backstage at the Rock Hall of Fame Induction – Billboard
This year’s inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame all gave heartfelt speeches from the stage of Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater detailing what the honor meant to them. And when a number of the Class of 2022 stopped backstage to Billboard’s one-on-one booth, they were able to share even more.
Before speaking with Billboard’s, the band stopped in the general press room where Duran Duran lead singer Simon LeBon talked about how he felt reading former bandmate Andy Taylor’s letter on stage about having stage four prostate cancer — a diagnosis that had not been previously made public. “It is devastating news to found out that a colleague — not a colleague, a mate, a friend — is not going to be around for very long,” LeBon said. “It is absolutely devasting. We love Andy dearly. I’m not going to stand here and cry. It wouldn’t be appropriate, but that’s what I feel like.”
On stage, LeBon delivered an emotional take on the band’s 1993 hit, “Ordinary World,” which he co-wrote about trying to cope with the death of his best friend. He told Billboard even nearly 30 years later, the song takes him back every time he sings it. “I think of my dear friend Dave Miles and what it means to me to be able to free myself of his death. That’s what the song was,” he says. “I was imprisoned by my feelings about him. I couldn’t continue on. I couldn’t develop. That song was a way of freeing myself. A way of saying goodbye, letting something go. That is in my heart every time I sing it.”
Duran Duran won the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fan vote in April garnering nearly a million votes from fans. The support of their Duranies means “everything,” says keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Bassist John Taylor, who befriended Rhodes when Taylor was 12 and Rhodes was 10, says the band can still relate. “We were fans. Not just music buyers. Nick and I used to go hang out backstage, listen to the band do their sound check,” he says. “We love the fan culture. We love identifying with fans through music, so we’ve always had a love for our followers. We get them. We are them.”
This year’s class is one of the most musically varied in the Rock Hall’s history and each member of the band named a different honoree when asked whom they would most like to collaborate with. For LeBon, it was Terry Lewis & Jimmy Jam. Roger Taylor chose Judas Priest, Rhodes picked Dolly Parton and John Taylor selected Annie Lennox. Rhodes came up with the perfect solution: “The thing to do would be to get us and Judas Priest to do the track together and Dolly and Simon to sing with Jam & Lewis producing.”
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
November is a big month for Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. Not only did the couple, who celebrated their 40th anniversary this year, get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but on Nov. 22 their newest project, Invincible–The Musical, will premiere at the Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater in Beverly Hills (it runs through Dec. 18). They began working on the play, which is a retelling of Romeo & Juliet through the pair’s catalog and new songs, five years ago. The pandemic ended up providing a burst of creativity. “We had done four stage readings prior to the pandemic,” Benatar says. “At first it seemed like the momentum was going to be lost, but it turned out that being home and not touring gave us so much time to work on it. It wound up being something really great and when we finally did come back together to work, we were so much further ahead. That’s why we’re in full production right now.”
For the couple, writing songs is one of the few things they do apart — at least in the early stages. “I write mostly on piano,” Giraldo says. “Sometimes I start with words, sometimes I start with a title or a chorus, and I hand it off to Patricia. Then she adds to that and I go, ‘Oh my God, that’s great,’ and that inspires me. So I do more and then she hears what I do and goes, ‘Oh my god, that’s great.’ That’s how it goes.”
“We don’t really write in the same room at the same time,” Benatar continued. “We take pieces of things. If I have a story that I’m thinking of, I give it to him and he puts music to it. It goes back and forth and we don’t do it at the same time until we get further along and then we come together with our individual ideas and put them together.”
As one of several of the inductees who performed their songs at the event, Lionel Richie had the crowd on its feet and dancing during a joyous version of his signature hit “All Night Long.” As he told Billboard, he has reached a place in his life and career that is all about uniting people. “Do you know how wonderful it is to walk into a room and people start smiling?” he says. “ I’m not playing. I’m walking into a dinner, I’m walking into a restaurant, I’m walking my kids to school. What I’m saying is I don’t know how you get this blessed, but it’s a moment in time when you realize the songs have translated over into this thing called love.”
He touched on another love: country music. It’s been 10 years since Richie released Tuskegee, his wildly successful album reimagining his greatest hits as duets with country artists including Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean. Richie, who also wrote Kenny Rogers’ smash, “Lady,” says he promises his own country record of new music is coming. “Country is so solid with me and the answer is it will happen,” he says. “I’m a gigantic procrastinator, so [when] it hits me over the head or runs over me is when I go, ‘Ok, I’ll get on it,’ but [my manager] has been pushing me. Tell Nashville it’s coming. It won’t be too long. I promise.”
Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox wore identical black suits in an intentional homage to the Eurythmics‘ early days. “All through the years, Dave and I, especially with [1983 breakthrough hit] ‘Sweet Dreams,’ we had very small budgets. We didn’t have any budget, actually,” Lennox says. “We’d buy second-hand things and put them together. We wore the suits at the very beginning with ‘Sweet Dreams.’ There was a sense for us of being equals, of being like twins. There was something about the unit of being one and one makes three. It was always what we felt. I always loved it because it wasn’t an overtly feminist statement at the time, but nevertheless it gave me permission not to have to be a pretty kind of accessory. That was where it came from.”
Added Stewart, “There was a conscious decision to try and step away from anything that was happening at all and make ourselves like a single unit. United front.”
The duo also performed at their induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year (postponed from 2020), but say they can go years without playing together. When they do, muscle memory kicks in. “We’ve played so much in the past, we know instinctively, ‘OK, this is this song, we can do this,’” Stewart says.
But any thoughts of reuniting for a tour are not realistic, Lennox clarifies. “There’s always a certain joy that does come from performance and all singers’ bodies are their instruments and, for me, I actually did have a quite serious thing happen in my back,” she says. “I have certain health issues and the thought of doing a long tour is really arduous. In my time in life, it’s like, ‘What’s best to do?’ We do enjoy playing together. I very much enjoy playing with Dave. He’s great. One of the best musicians in the world.”
For Lennox, preparing for the energetic Rock Hall performance helped pull her out of pandemic doldrums. “I kind of lost a lot of my will to live,” she says. “I’m kidding. I just had to say that. Throughout the pandemic, I just didn’t feel like going out. I didn’t feel like exercising, but this gave me a motivation to go back and get fit again, which was a great bonus for me.”
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have more No. 1s on Billboard charts than any other songwriting and production team — and they aren’t slowing down. The pair are at work on Volume 2, their follow up to to 2021’s Jam & Lewis, Volume 1, which paired them with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and more.
They wouldn’t spill any names for Volume 2 just yet, but from their Rock Hall class, the two acts they’d most like to collaborate with are Lennox and Duran Duran, “because we just had a discussion with them about ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ influencing [Janet Jackson’s] ‘Escapade,’” Jam said.
Friends since their teens, Jam and Lewis have always operated on a handshake deal and split everything 50/50. “We don’t really worry about the money or the budgets or any of that kind of stuff, it’s just about the creativity,” Jam says. “We’re free to individually do what we want to do…Sometimes there will be a song that came out on the radio and it sounds great and I’ll be like, ‘Terry, when did you do that?’ But I got 50 % of it, so it doesn’t matter and it eliminated about 99% of anything creatively that we could ever disagree about… It’s not my way or his way, it’s the best way.”