Ringo Starr, Green Day, Bill Withers enter Rock Hall

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is welcoming its newest class, featuring a Beatle, three punks from California and a guitar god from Texas.

Ringo Starr, who found unexpected stardom as a frontman after the Beatles broke up, was honored Saturday night as the hall inducted an eclectic group of musicians who have influenced generations.

Starr, previously enshrined with the Beatles in 1988, is being inducted along with pop punks Green Day, soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers, underground-rock icon Lou Reed, bluesy guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The "5'' Royales.

Adored by fans, Starr was the steady beat behind the world's most celebrated group and the 74-year-old is the last of the Beatles to have his work outside the band recognized. Starr is being inducted by Paul McCartney, whose influence helped get his former drummer enshrined. Starr put out a string of pop hits, including "It Don't Come Easy," ''Photograph" and "You're Sixteen."

He may not have had the musical shops or artistry of McCartney or the late John Lennon or George Harrison, but Starr managed to stay in the limelight and still tours with his All-Star Band.

McCartney told Rolling Stone magazine that he and Lennon wrote songs that featured Starr to keep their fans happy.

"We wrote the line, 'What would you do if I sang out of tune?' for him," said McCartney, referencing the opening line to "With A Little Help From My Friends." ''When you think about it, how many people in rock and roll can sing? But Ringo can deliver a song."

Brash and belligerent, Green Day blasted onto the music scene just as Seattle's grunge sound was growing stale. Lead singer/guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool borrowed took riffs from punk pioneers like The Stooges and Sex Pistols, flavored them with some power chords and pop hooks and helped redefine a genre.

The trio's album "Dookie" won a Grammy and Green Day went on to make "American Idiot," a punk-infused rock opera that later became a Broadway hit.

Withers was inexplicably left off the hall's ballot for years, perhaps an unfortunate oversight. But the 76-year-old, who walked away from the music industry in the 1980s, is now part of musical royalty with a catalog of timeless songs like "Lean On Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine." Stevie Wonder will induct the 76-year-old Withers, who may perform publicly for the first time in decades.

Reed was both daring and provocative as a songwriter and lyricist, pushing boundaries with ballads about forbidden subjects like drugs, prostitution and suicide. Reed's songs like "Walk On The Wild Side," ''Vicious" and "Heroin" remain vibrant today. Although he died in 2011, Reed continues to influence a young generation of musicians touched by his rebel ways.

Sadly, Vaughan died at the height of his career. Armed with a signature Stratocaster, the Texas bluesman was a dynamo on six strings. Best known for songs like "Pride and Joy" and "Look At Little Sister," he won a Grammy for his mesmerizing cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing." John Mayer will induct Vaughan and join Gary Clark Jr. on stage for a blistering set of Double Trouble tunes.

For the third time, the induction ceremony is being held at Cleveland's legendary Public Hall, where thousands of fans will undoubtedly scream "I Love Rock and Roll" along with Jett, who is expected to perform her Top 40 classic along with her hard-charging band.

Jett helped found The Runaways, a band that broke down barriers for women in rock. With The Blackhearts she did even more with a loud, unapologetic style that empowered girls and boys.

Jett's thrilled she'll be honored in a city where she's felt a deep connection.

"If I'm going to be inducted, Cleveland is where it should be," she told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I don't find Cleveland to be a kind of place that puts on any airs, and I don't either."

HBO will broadcast the event on May 30.