Tom Morello, Dave Matthews get political at Rock Hall party that inducts Missy Elliott

New York, New York - Missy Elliott and Willie Nelson were among the superstars inducted Friday into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose concert gala saw several artists including Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine make political overtures to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza.

Tom Morello holds a piece of paper reading "CEASEFIRE!" during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at New York City's Barclays Center on November 3, 2023.
Tom Morello holds a piece of paper reading "CEASEFIRE!" during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at New York City's Barclays Center on November 3, 2023.  © Arturo Holmes / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The late pop icon George Michael, rock experimentalist Kate Bush, heartland rocker Sheryl Crow, and R&B group The Spinners rounded out the 2023 class of inductees.

Morello (59) did not directly comment on Israel's ongoing bombing campaign of Gaza but he did pose for photographers backstage holding a piece of paper scrawled with the words "CEASEFIRE!"

"The world is changed by average, ordinary, everyday people... who are willing to stand for a country and a planet that is more humane, peaceful and just," he said in accepting the award on behalf of Rage, which is as beloved for its music as its socialist, revolutionary political leanings.

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"If you've got a boss, join a union," he said. "If you're an anarchist, throw a brick. If you're a soldier or a cop, follow your conscience, not your orders."

"If you're bummed out you didn't get to see Rage Against The Machine, then start your own band, and let's hear what you have to say."

Morello's fiery speech preceded a showstopping closer of a performance from Elliott, the first woman rapper to enter the elite club, who was inducted by fellow rap superstar Queen Latifah.

Wearing a glittering gold bucket hat and matching sweatsuit, a tearful Elliott noted this year's 50th anniversary of hip hop, saying that "this is deeper than me just being up here."

"I'm just honored to be in the room with you all," the Lose Control and Get Ur Freak On artist said, thanking her fellow inductees.

"Hallowed ranks"

Dave Matthews speaks onstage about Willie Nelson during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Dave Matthews speaks onstage about Willie Nelson during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony.  © THEO WARGO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

While inducting country great Nelson, Matthews made the night's other reference to raging battles between Israel and Hamas.

In decrying the world's ills including homelessness and unfettered capitalism, the artist said that "we live in a world where bombs are dropped on children and it's called collateral damage."

"But it's people like Willie Nelson who make me hopeful," he said of the anti-war advocate with waist-length pigtails.

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Elton John wore a bejeweled purple suit to perform Tiny Dancer in inducting Bernie Taupin.

John called his longtime friend and songwriting partner "without a doubt one of the finest lyric writers of all time," adding that the duo had just wrapped a new album.

The concert gala at Brooklyn's Barclays Center had kicked off with Crow belting tracks including If It Makes You Happy alongside Olivia Rodrigo, before Stevie Nicks and Peter Frampton also joined in the party.

Michael, who died in 2016 at age 53, was inducted by his other half from the hit duo Wham!

Andrew Ridgeley told the audience his musical partner "would have been delighted and flattered over his inclusion into these hallowed ranks."

"Expands your mind"

DJ Kool Herc receives the Musical Influence Award from LL Cool J during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
DJ Kool Herc receives the Musical Influence Award from LL Cool J during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  © REUTERS

DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray were inducted as "influences" and the late creator of Soul Train, Don Cornelius, received a non-performer honor.

LL Cool J inducted DJ Kool Herc – the 68-year-old credited with mixing the first known breakbeat and ushering in the birth of hip hop – who broke down in tears in accepting the honor.

Rapper Big Boi inducted Kate Bush, who earlier Friday apologized for being unable to attend.

Big Boi, who was one half of the duo Outkast, called Bush "without equal," also acknowledging the resurgence in popularity among Gen Z she's experienced with her 1985 hit Running Up that Hill hitting the charts once more.

"If you were to hear Kate's music for the first time, why wouldn't you think that she was a current artist?" the rapper said of the 65-year-old.

Jazmine Sullivan inducted funk queen Chaka Khan, who received a musical excellence award and performed a string of her songs with R&B artist H.E.R. and Sia. Along with Khan and Taupin, Al Kooper also received that honor.

Evolving image

Queen Latifah presents inductee Missy Elliott during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Queen Latifah presents inductee Missy Elliott during the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  © REUTERS

The Cleveland-based Hall of Fame surveyed more than 1,000 musicians, historians, and industry members to choose the entrants, who are eligible 25 years after their first commercial release.

For some time now the institution has defined "rock" less in terms of genre than of spirit.

But the institution is a music industry pillar that, much like the Recording Academy that runs the Grammys, has been working to revamp its image – long criticized as too masculine and too white.

The Hall of Fame's image problem resurfaced earlier this year, when Jann Wenner – one of the Hall's board members who helped start the institution – said neither women nor people of color could "articulate" on the level of "philosophers of rock" in an interview with The New York Times.

The comments were widely eviscerated as racist and sexist, and Wenner was swiftly axed from the Hall's board of directors.

On Friday night Songwriter Taupin took direct aim at the comments, saying he was proud to be inducted in a class featuring "articulate women" and "outstanding, articulate Black artists."

"We're all in this together," he said to resounding applause.

Cover photo: Collage: ANGELA WEISS / AFP & Theo Wargo / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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