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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has officially announced next year's inductees: Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Journey, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra and Joan Baez will all join the class of 2017. Chic's Nile Rodgers will be given the Award For Musical Excellence.
The induction ceremony will be held at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on April 7th, 2017. An edited version will later air on HBO and there will be a radio broadcast on SiriusXM. Ticket details will be announced in January.
Artists are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first album or single. 2017 is the first year Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur were eligible. They are also the first artists to join the institution who started their careers in the Nineties.
Pearl Jam weren't available for comment at press time, but in May guitarist Mike McCready spoke to Rolling Stone about the possibility of getting inducted. "It would be a great honor," he said. "I would be happy about it. But you never know. I don't know their process and how they pick. It could be a couple of years from now. I mean, Cheap Trick took forever to get in. So did Deep Purple. But we're aware of it."
Progressive rock giants Yes are entering on their third ballot, 26 years after first becoming eligible. "It's a bit like waiting for a train," says guitarist Steve Howe. "Maybe it's on time and you just noticed waiting. I don't regret the wait. I just feel this must be the right time."
Journey didn't appear on a ballot until this year. "I kind of feel like we were already in with our fans and the amount of records we've sold all over the world," says guitarist Neal Schon. "I wasn't expecting anything at all. I've learned to be that way. If you don't expect something and it comes, then its good news. I'm honored. I think we're all honored."
The news came as a surprise to Joan Baez. "I never considered myself to be a rock and roll artist," she said in a statement. "But as part of the folk music boom which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the Sixties, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon. I very much appreciate this honor and acknowledgement by the Hall of Fame."
Jeff Lynne, who toured with a reformed Electric Light Orchestra (as Jeff Lynne's E.L.O.) this year after a three-decade hiatus, was also thrilled to get the news. "I am deeply honored to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he said in a written statement, "and would like to thank all the great fans who have supported us over the years."
Nile Rodgers' Musical Excellence Award comes after Chic were nominated a 11 times. "It's sort of bittersweet," says Rodgers. "I'm quite flattered that they believed that I was worthy, but my band Chic didn't win. They plucked me out of the band and said, 'You're better than Chic.' That's wacky to me ... I am flattered and I think it's cool, but I feel like somebody put me in the lifeboat and told my family they can't get in."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is also known for providing an occasion for band members to reunite. This year's class has two potential reunions on the horizon with Journey and Yes. Journey haven't performed in public with singer Steve Perry since a Bill Graham tribute show in 1991. Schon hopes Perry will take the stage with the band on the big night. "I would be surprised if it didn't happen," he says. "But I'll deal with it whichever way … I'm going to try and reach out [to Perry], as I've done many times. And [our current singer] Arnel [Pineda] is so gracious. He says, 'Any time he wants to come on and do anything, I'll very gladly step aside and let him sing.'"
Perry's manager said the singer would not be available for interviews, but he did release a very short statement on his behalf: "I'm truly grateful that Journey is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Whether or not he's grateful enough to get onstage with Journey remains unclear.
A Yes reunion is a safer bet. The current lineup of the band hasn't performed with original singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman since 2004, but guitarist Steve Howe isn't opposed to the idea of playing with them on Hall of Fame night. "It just depends on how it feels and what the communication is and what the spirit is," he says. "It's gotta be discussed and gotta be considered. Obviously it's a consideration."
Many members have come and gone from Electric Light Orchestra over the years, but only singer Jeff Lynne, drummer Bev Bevan, keyboardist Richard Tandy and multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood are being inducted. Wood left the group shortly after the release of their 1971 debut LP. Tandy stayed with the band through their 1986 album Balance of Power, but got into a legal spat with Lynne over the band's name in the 1990s. Last year, Lynne told Rolling Stone he hasn't spoken to Bevan in 30 years. Tandy is the sole member of the classic lineup still in the touring lineup. At the moment, it's unclear whether Wood and Bevan will perform with Lynne at the ceremony.
Most induction ceremonies end with a huge all-star jam. Steve Howe is open to the idea of having it be "Roundabout" this time. " It could be a little bit chaotic," he says. "It really deceives you into thinking it's in 4/4 because it's easy on the ear, but of course it isn't and there's a little trick in there that catches many musicians up."
Trevor Rabin, the Yes guitarist who replaced Howe in the 1980s, has his own idea: "Playing 'Helter Skelter' with Neal Schon would be a lot of fun."