With the inductees for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2020 still ringing around our ears, we thought we’d choose today – the 33rd anniversary of the event – to celebrate the induction of the first female artist, Aretha Franklin, as well as the ludicrous induction she received.
While Franklin declined the invite to the prestigious event, the induction would still go down in history. In part because Lady Soul was inducted by none other than The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards with a typically rowdy speech.
With a career that needs no introduction, it was always a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Lady Soul would make it into Rock Hall. Franklin’s work, most notably with Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, has since marked her out as one of the pillars of modern music, a continuous reference point for any singer worth their salt, Aretha has earned her place in the prestigious Hall of Fame, and then some.
Illustrious as the entry in the hallowed corridor may be for Pearl Jam, Depeche Mode, Whitney Houston and the rest of the Class of 2020, in 1987, with the event in only its second year, the validity of the awards was still a little flimsy. It meant that Franklin chose to not be present at the event in Cleveland, Ohio.
Not to worry, we’re sure there is someone responsible, sober and able to easily convey a simple and heartfelt message of thanks, right? Keith Richards seemed the optimum candidate to perform such a task to the producers of the show. While Franklin and Richards had recently combined to record a cover of the Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ for a Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name, Richards’ wild antics must’ve raised some concerns.
As ever with ‘Keef’, the guitarist took the obligation in his stride and with a few drinks in hand, and delivered a uniquely poetic induction speech for the Soul icon. Winning the crowd around with a mix of simple nods and grunts his biggest roar of the vening came when he loudly proclaimed Franklin as “the first lady to be inducted into this hall of fame,” – with it, the stage was set.
Richards, as well as seemingly undressing while giving his speech, presented the award to The Reverend Cecil Franklin, Franklin’s brother, and record exec Clive Davis, who accepted on the singer’s behalf. Cecil Franklin even performed an impromptu victory dance with Richards to then seemingly fall out with his dance partner to complete what was a conspicuous moment.
Since Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 33 years ago, the list of female solo performers inducted alongside her is miserly. While recent inductions have begun to turn the tide (and long may it continue) in 1987, Rock Hall was a bit of a boys club.
To compound that fact, after the speeches were given on Franklin’s behalf (by all men), a group of rock’s greatest guitarists (all men) provided ample backing for Bo Diddley and Smokey Robinson to take the mic (both men). Looking back, it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth.
With all that, hopefully, behind us, we can now look forward to more Rock Hall inductions featuring the deserving women of music. Until that time, you can see Keith Richards making a bit of a tit of himself as he inducts Aretha Franklin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.