For the second year in a row, country music was acknowledged in a big way at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held this year in Brooklyn, New York, and now available for streaming on Disney+.
Willie Nelson was ushered into the Hall by his friend and fellow Farm Aid board member Dave Matthews. After performing Willie’s song “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Matthews gave a speech in which he constantly referred to Willie’s infamous love of weed.
Recalling the time he met Willie — on Willie’s tour bus after a gig — Matthews got big laughs when he said, “I got so high that I thought I might forget to breathe … and then we continued to get high, until Willie said, ‘Is everybody high?"” But Matthews also stressed Willie’s efforts on behalf of American farmers, among other good works.
When he took the stage, the 90-year-old country icon made several pointed references to the fact that he has never been held back by musical genres — possibly to answer anyone who questioned whether or not he was “rock” enough for the Rock Hall of Fame. Referring to his pioneering collaborations with the late Ray Charles, Willie said, “We never asked each other … whether to do a soul song, a rock song or a country song — we just sang the songs we loved.”
Noting that he and Johnny Cash are now both in the Hall of Fame, Willie also called for the other two members of their supergroup The Highwaymen to be inducted.
“I want to give a plug for Waylon [Jennings], who played with Buddy Holly,” he said. “And Kris [Kristofferson], who sang so many hits, to be inducted, too.”
Willie then performed three classics: “Whiskey River” with Chris Stapleton, “Crazy” with fellow inductee Sheryl Crow and “On the Road Again” with Crow, Matthews and Stapleton.
Carrie Underwood, announced as a performer ahead of the show, didn’t take part in tributes to either Willie or Sheryl. Instead, she paid tribute to the late George Michael, who was also being inducted, bringing the house down with an impassioned rendition of Michael’s hit “One More Try.”
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