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Rock inductees share spotlight

NEW YORK — Madonna wasn't the only sexually provocative topic at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement with a prostitution ring was discussed almost as much as the inductees Monday. Filmmaker Ed Burns cracked a joke about it to reporters. Kenny Gamble, the producer-songwriter who was inducted with his partner, Leon Huff, worked into his speech an aside about their classic soul hit Me & Mrs. Jones, which is about an affair.

"There's a little Me and Mrs. Jones going on here in New York," he said to laughter.

The night's real news was supposed to be the grab bag of inductees.

The biggest names came to fame in the 1980s but seem to be polar opposites: Madonna and John Mellencamp. The rest came from the '60s: Gamble and Huff, the team behind the so-called Philly sound; Leonard Cohen, the spiritualist songwriter; the Ventures, the instrumental rock group famous for Walk, Don't Run; and the Dave Clark Five, a band more popular in Britain than in the United States.

Little Walter, the pioneering blues harmonica player who died nearly 40 years ago, also was inducted.

Here are the night's non-Spitzer highlights:

• Justin Timberlake, who helped produce Madonna's upcoming album, inducted her with an innuendo-laden speech.

"The world is full of Madonna wannabes. I might have even dated a couple," said Britney Spears' ex. "But there is truly only one Madonna."

Madonna, 49, fondly remembered a teacher who encouraged her to follow her dreams when she was 14 and said she's lucky to have people around her who still do that. She said she has even been inspired by the people who "said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn't sing, that I was a one-hit wonder. . . . They made me question myself repeatedly and pushed me to be better."

In a strange twist, Madonna didn't perform, as inductees usually do, but asked Iggy Pop and the Stooges to sing Burning Up and Ray of Light.

• Mellencamp talked of having surgery for spina bifida when he was 6 weeks old, saying doctors were worried he would be paralyzed below the neck. He said he didn't know about the surgery until he was a teenager, when a classmate asked him about his neck scar.

"I'm lucky to be standing here for any number of reasons," said Mellencamp, 56, a heart patient who snuffed out a cigarette as he took the stage.

Hall of Famer Billy Joel, who inducted Mellencamp, said, "You scared us . . . when we thought we might have lost you a couple of times, even though it might have been a good career move."

• Cohen is one of music's most highly regarded, if not best-known, songwriters, through pieces like Suzanne and the much-covered Hallelujah. American Idol contestant Jason Castro performed Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah last week, and Buckley's version has been the No. 1 downloaded song on iTunes for the past few days.

Cohen recited the lyrics to his song Tower of Song in a hushed voice. "This is a very unlikely occasion for me," he said. "It is not a distinction that I coveted or even dared dream about."

• Gamble insisted that the initials of the song MFSB stand for mother, father, sister, brother. For years, others have let their imaginations run wild with what the meaning was.

• John Fogerty recalled how he and fellow members of Creedence Clearwater Revival used to hang out in a garage learning the Ventures' songs.

"When the Ventures first hit the radio, I would say I was gone," Fogerty said. "The Ventures went on to record 250 albums. . . . These days, some of us would be happy to sell 250 albums."

Information from Newsday, the Associated Press and Times staff was used in this report.

Rock inductees share spotlight 03/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 10:12am]
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