This year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees all gave heartfelt speeches from the stage at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theatre, detailing what the honor meant to them. And when a number of the Class of 2022 stopped backstage to Billboard‘s one-on-one stand, they were able to share even more.
Before you talk to Billboard‘s, the band stopped in the general press room where Duran Duran lead singer Simon LeBon spoke about how he felt reading former bandmate Andy Taylor’s letter on stage about having stage four prostate cancer – a diagnosis that had not previously been made public. “It’s devastating news to find out that a colleague — not a colleague, a buddy, a friend — isn’t going to be here very long,” LeBon said. “It’s absolutely devastating. We love Andy dearly. I don’t want to stand here and cry. It wouldn’t be appropriate, but that’s what I want.”
Onstage, LeBon delivered an emotional take on the band’s 1993 hit, “Ordinary World,” which he co-wrote about trying to cope with the death of his best friend. He told Billboard even nearly 30 years later, the song takes him back every time he sings it. “I think about my dear friend Dave Miles and what it means to me to be able to free myself from his death. That’s what the song was,” he says. “I was imprisoned by my feelings for him. I couldn’t go on. I couldn’t develop. That song was a way to free myself. A way of saying goodbye, letting go of something. It’s in my heart every time I sing it.”
Duran Duran won the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fan vote in April, receiving nearly a million votes from fans. The support of their Duranies means “everything”, says keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Bassist John Taylor, who befriended Rhodes when Taylor was 12 and Rhodes was 10, says the band can still relate. “We were fans. Not only music buyers. Nick and I used to hang out backstage, listen to the band do their soundcheck,” he says. “We love fan culture. We love identifying with fans through music, so we’ve always had a love for our followers. We get them. We are them.”
This year’s class is one of the most musically diverse in Rock Hall history, and each member of the band named a different honoree when asked who they would most like to collaborate with. For LeBon, it was Terry Lewis & Jimmy Jam. Roger Taylor chose Judas Priest, Rhodes chose Dolly Parton and John Taylor chose Annie Lennox. Rhodes came up with the perfect solution: “The thing to do would be to have us and Judas Priest do the track together and Dolly and Simon sing with Jam & Lewis producing.”
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo
November is a big month for Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. Not just the couple who celebrated their 40thTh anniversary this year, be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but on Nov. 22 their latest project, Invincible–The Musical, will premiere at Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater in Beverly Hills (it runs through December 18). They started working on the play, which is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet through the couple’s catalog and new songs from five years ago. The pandemic ended up producing a burst of creativity. “We had done four phase readings before the pandemic,” says Benatar. “At first it looked like the momentum would be lost, but it turned out that being at home and not touring gave us so much time to work on it. It ended up being something really great, and when we finally came back together to work, we were so much further along. That’s why we’re in full production right now.”
For the pair, writing songs is one of the few things they do separately – at least in the early stages. “I write mostly on the piano,” says Giraldo. “Sometimes I start with words, sometimes I start with a title or a chorus and I pass it to Patricia. Then she adds it and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing,’ and it inspires me . So I do more, and then she hears what I’m doing and goes, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing.’ That’s how it goes.”
“We’re not really writing in the same room at the same time,” Benatar continued. “We take bits and pieces of things. If I have a story I’m thinking of, I give it to him and he puts music to it. It goes back and forth and we don’t do it at the same time until we get further, and then we go together with our individual ideas and put them together.”
As one of several of the inmates who performed their songs at the event, Lionel Richie got the crowd on their feet and dancing to a joyous version of his signature hit “All Night Long.” As he told Billboard, he has reached a place in his life and career that is about uniting people. “Do you know how wonderful it is to walk into a room and people start smiling?” he says. “I don’t play. I go into a dinner, I go into a restaurant, I go with my kids to school. What I’m saying is, I don’t know how you get so blessed, but it’s a moment in the time when you realize that the songs have been translated into this thing called love.”
He touched on another love: country music. It’s been 10 years since Richie is released Tuskegee, his wildly successful album that recreates his greatest hits as duets with country artists including Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean. Richie, who also wrote Kenny Rogers’ smash, “Lady,” says he promises his own country record with new music is coming. “Land is so solid with me and the answer is that it will happen,” he says. “I’m a giant procrastinator, so [when] it hits me over the head or runs over me is when I say, ‘Ok, I’ll figure it out’, but [my manager] has pushed me. Tell Nashville it’s coming. It won’t be too long. I promise.”
Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox wore identical black suits in a deliberate homage to Eurythmics‘ early days. “Over the years, Dave and I, especially with [1983 breakthrough hit] ‘Sweet Dreams’, we had very small budgets. We didn’t really have a budget,” says Lennox. “We wanted to buy used things and put them together. We wore the suit at the very beginning with ‘Sweet Dreams’. There was a feeling for us of being equal, of being like twins. There was something about the togetherness of being one and one making three. That was always what we felt. I’ve always loved it because it wasn’t an overtly feminist statement at the time, but nonetheless it gave me permission to not have to be a pretty kind of accessory. That’s where it came from.”
Added Stewart, “There was a conscious decision to try to step away from anything that was even happening and make ourselves a single entity. United front.”
The duo also performed at their induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year (postponed from 2020), but say they could go years without playing together. When they do, muscle memory kicks in. “We’ve played so much in the past that we instinctively know, ‘OK, this is this song, we can do this,'” says Stewart.
But any thoughts of reuniting for a tour are not realistic, Lennox clarifies. “There’s always a certain joy that comes from performing, and all singers’ bodies are their instruments, and for me, I actually had quite a serious thing happen in my back,” she says. “I have certain health issues and the idea of making a long trip is really difficult. At my time in life, it’s like, ‘What’s the best thing to do?’ We enjoy playing together. I enjoy playing with Dave a lot. He’s amazing. One of the best musicians in the world.”
For Lennox, preparing for the high-energy Rock Hall performance helped pull her out of the pandemic slumber. “I lost a bit of my will to live,” she says. “I’m just kidding. I just had to say that. During the whole pandemic, I just didn’t feel like going out. I didn’t feel like working out, but this gave me motivation to come back and get back in shape, which was a big bonus for me.”
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis has several No. 1s on Billboard charts than any other songwriting and production team – and they’re not slowing down. The couple is at work Volume 2their follow-up to the 2021s Jam & Lewis, Volume 1who paired them with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and more.
They wouldn’t waste any names for Volume 2 right now, but from their Rock Hall class, the two acts they’d most like to collaborate with are Lennox and Duran Duran, “because we just had a discussion with them about how ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ affects [Janet Jackson’s] “Escapade,” said Jam.
Friends since their teenage years, Jam and Lewis have always operated on a handshake deal, splitting everything 50/50. “We don’t really worry about the money or the budgets or any of that stuff, it’s just about the creativity,” says Jam. “We’re free to individually do what we want to do…Sometimes there’ll be a song that came on the radio and it sounds great, and I’ll say, ‘Terry, when did you do that?’ But I got 50% of it, so it doesn’t matter, and it eliminated about 99% of anything creatively that we could ever disagree on… It’s not my way or his way, it’s the best way.”