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Rock Hall inducts class of 2023 after a year of celebration and challenges

An exhibit honoring this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees is now open. DJ Kool Herc and his turntables ignited hip-hop 50 years ago.
Kabir Bhatia
An exhibit honoring this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees is now open. DJ Kool Herc and his turntables ignited hip-hop 50 years ago.

It’s been a year of change at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, embodied by the new class being inducted in New York City Friday.

Several long-eligible acts will be honored at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: George Michael, Kate Bush, Link Wray, Willie Nelson and Al Kooper, who founded Blood, Sweat & Tears, discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd and played on seminal albums by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and B.B. King. Elton John will induct his longtime co-writer, Bernie Taupin. On the other side of the spectrum, both Sheryl Crow and Rage Against the Machine debuted in the ‘90s. Some of the presenters and performers who will honor the inductees include Brandi Carlile, Olivia Rodrigo, Common and Ice-T.

Two hip-hop acts, DJ Kool Herc and Missy Elliott, are also part of this year’s class. Herc is credited with bringing two turntables and a microphone to a house party in the Bronx in 1973, lighting the fuse for hip-hop. It’s a moment recognized by the Rock Hall in its current exhibit, “Holla If Ya Hear Me.”

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-DMC, himself inducted in 2009, was at the June opening of the exhibit and said hip-hop reinvented music.

“We sampled the funk, we sampled the soul, we sampled the rock, we sampled the punk, we sampled the folk music," he said. "We presented it in a way that Black, white, Puerto Rican, young, old, Asian, Jewish could relate."

A few months later, the Rock Hall’s inclusiveness came under scrutiny as co-founder of “Rolling Stone” Jann Wenner said Black and female musicians he encountered while at the magazine were not “articulate” enough to be considered alongside icons such as Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. Wenner was quickly booted from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s board. The foundation is based in New York City and is separate from the leadership and staff of the museum in Cleveland.

Wenner worked alongside Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun to establish the Rock Hall concept in 1983. The award named for Ertegun, recognizing influential music business executives, goes this year to the late Don Cornelius. He created the syndicated music show “Soul Train,” which ran from 1971 until 2006. The Spinners and Chaka Khan – both being inducted this year - are among the numerous R&B, soul, funk and hip-hop artists who appeared on the show.

Inductees will eventually be enshrined in the museum’s new $100-million expansion wing, which broke ground in September.

This year’s inductee exhibit in Cleveland opened Thursday, and the induction ceremony streams live on Disney+ Friday at 8 p.m. A highlights program will air on ABC in January.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.