Stellar performances and moving speeches from some of the music world’s biggest voices and names characterized the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction, Awards Ceremony and Fundraising Gala Thursday night at The Paramount in Huntington.
The nonprofit’s fifth such induction since its 2004 founding, 2014’s class of honorees included: legendary record producer and music industry executive Clive Davis; famed concert promoter Ron Delsener; acclaimed lyricist Gerry Goffin; superstar record producer and mixer Steve Thompson; singer Deborah “Debbie” Gibson, hip-hop pioneer rapper and record producer Kurtis Blow; and members of the Billy Joel Band—drummer Liberty DeVitto, the late, great bassist Doug Stegmeyer, guitarist Russell Javors and saxophonist/flutist/clarinetist/keyboardist Richie Cannata.
They, past honorees and various other music luminaries strutted before a swarm of media crews and flashbulbs during a pre-show “Red Carpet” upon arrival—striking poses and giving brief interviews before heading into the venue’s main performance hall. The sold-out audience sat at tables lining the main floor and packed the upper-level seats and balconies.
“It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming,” gushed an ecstatic Gibson as she made her way through the foyer in a sparkling pink sequin dress alongside husband Rutledge Taylor. “It’s really cool.”
“Better than the Grammys,” is how Darryl McDaniels, “DMC” of hip-hop pioneers Run DMC, described the event as he smirked and scowled various facial expressions and stances for cameras and answered questions, flashing a Metallica T-shirt and posing for selfies with reporters.
Already an inductee, McDaniels was the recipient of the 2014 Harry Chapin Award.
Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters skipped the hubbub at the front door on his way to inducting Delsener—the legendary promoter who’s booked and serviced backstage everyone from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin, Barbra Streisand, Van Halen, Janis Joplin and Simon and Garfunkel, among legions of other artists.
“Last night I decided to go a few rounds with a bottle of tequila,” said Waters, with fresh red-black gashes streaked across his right temple. “And the bottle of tequila won.”
“I adore Ron,” he continued after explaining he spent the previous night at New York-Presbyterian Hospital getting stitched up. “He’s one of my closest friends. And it gives me enormous pleasure to be [inducting him] at this ceremony.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was among several local politicians on hand, taking the stage to announce that the LIMHOF had selected Wyandanch as its future home. His remarks were accompanied by a video presentation envisioning the new site amid a revitalized hamlet—something he’s championed with the “Wyandanch Rising” redevelopment initiative for years.
Following the clip, Bellone whisked away a shroud covering a brand new “Wyandanch/Long Island Music Hall of Fame” LIRR sign held by two local lovely up-and-coming artists, to resounding applause.
Performances included musical tributes to the late Gerry Goffin, who penned dozens of hits—many with his former wife Carole King; the two were inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—among them, chart-toppers “The Loco-Motion,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Take Good Care of My Baby.”
Doo-wop crooner Jay Siegel (of The Tokens and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame) delivered a heartfelt rendition of the Goffen-King hit “One Fine Day” with members of the R&B group The Cookies.
“It’s a great honor,” Siegel told reporters afterward in a media room. “It’s just a great feeling to be in the company of such [amazing] artists.”
When asked what it was about Long Island that created so many outstanding musicians, he reminisced about the answer to a question asked about Brooklyn in the past: “It must be in the egg creams. Do they have egg creams on Long Island?”
Hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow [Walker] had the entire house up on their feet, clapping and jiving along to his immortal 1980 hit “The Breaks,” while he and three others twirled on the ground, spun on their heads and broke out several other insane breakdancing wonders.
“We are going on 42 years of hip hop!” he shouted. “Would you please stand now!? Get up on your feet now!”
“Oh my God,” he gasped while accepting his award following a video induction featuring Def Jam founder/business mogul Russell Simmons. “Ladies and gentleman, I am honored, ecstatic, to be here tonight.
“I want to thank God, first and foremost that we all could be here tonight,” he continued. “I am living proof that God is real. And so is hip hop… God is the creator so he created hip hop to save a lot of bros from the perils of urban life.”
WBAB radio personality Finger—host of the mandatory-listening “Fingers Metal Shop”—joined famed guitarist/longtime David Bowie collaborator Carlos Alomar in inducting madman record producer Steve Thompson, who’s audio-mastery fingerprints are all over some of the most seminal albums of some of the most seminal artists in rock history. Metallica, John Lennon, Public Enemy, Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Blondie, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Whitney Houston are just a few; Fingers telling the packed house Thompson invited him to his house back in the day while working on noise-metal Life of Agony’s Ugly.
Alomar spoke of Thompson’s dedication to “excellence,” noting that his work has sold upwards of 250 million copies around the world and calling him “a producer of exemplary vision.”
At the podium, Thompson gave a passionate speech (despite admitting that he hadn’t prepared anything in advance and didn’t know exactly what he’d be saying), crediting his success to his wife—who stood, smiling, on the floor in front of the stage, recording him on her cell phone—and the legendary Clive Davis, who he called his “biggest mentor in the world” and who emerged onstage with a big hug.
Thompson urged artists and would-be artists to wander, to dream, to experiment.
“I want to see more Clives in this business,” he declared, to loud applause and cheers.
Superstar songstress Dionne Warwick delivered a heartfelt speech while inducting Davis, replete with memories of their special bond and the music exec’s extraordinary gift.
“It always amazed me as to how he had that innate way of finding incredible talent,” she explained. “He has that creative energy that impacts eras of music.”
“We’re very much a team, he and I,” she added.
Davis’ moving speech included tales about his storied career at the top of Columbia Records, RCA, Arista and J Records, the many talents he discovered and signed—from Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead to Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, among legions of others—and his connection to Long Island, in which, he said, included time in Roslyn.
“I relate to Long Island. It is part of my DNA,” he told the audience. “I’m personally very touched, moved, and honored by tonight’s event.”
Davis remarked on Long Island’s distinct brand of music—“The Long Island Sound,” he said—describing it as passionate and emotional.
“Music that permeates one’s soul,” he added, before “toast[ing] Long Island.”
Davis explained that his recent goal has been “to restore the voice to contemporary music,” and that his most recent projects have been working with Aretha Franklin on her latest release, Jennifer Hudson, and a new artist just 19 years old named Avery Wilson—who would make his Long Island debut that night with a soulful, deeply emotional performance that left the entire Paramount on their feet applauding.
“DMC” McDaniels and singer/songwriter Jen Chapin also received a standing ovation for their rock-rap-folk performance of her father Harry’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” a song DMC later credited during his acceptance of the Harry Chapin Award with changing his life.
The crowd gave another well-deserving standing-o to Brandon Boardman, who lives with Asperger syndrome and absolutely killed it with his deeply moving take of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” on piano. Part of the mission of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, stressed its vice chairman, Jim Faith, was education—and through its initiatives and that of other like-minded nonprofits, such as East End Arts Council, children such as he receive the support needed to nurture and develop such extraordinary talents.
“It’s an honor to be inducted tonight,” smiled Debbie Gibson, who was raised in Merrick, upon accepting her award.
The multi-platinum-selling singer was but a teenager when she wrote, produced and performed a Number One single on the top of the charts, sharing with the crowd her hope that other young girls would look at her career as inspirational proof that: “Debbie did this. I can do this.”
A fundraising segment of the evening featured the raffling off of an acoustic signed by Simon and Garfunkel (which fetched just over a grand) and an electric guitar autographed by Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, John Fogarty, Eddie Van Halen and too many other rock demigods to list. [Oh how we wish there was a Press petty money account for such wonders. Oh, well, we’ll always have Saratoga. And souvlaki. And, of course, the Ramones. #t2]
The gala culminated with an electrifying performance by the Billy Joel Band members—their first reunion in more than 25 years, which included powerful takes of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” and “You May Be Right”—with final bows around 1 a.m.
Stegmeyer’s mother joined other family members onstage alongside Javors, DeVitto and Cannata to accept her late son’s honor, reminiscing about the “four or five or six kids with long hair…trying to find out what the Beatles were doing” and calling what they and LIMHOF Billy Joel created “magic.”
The Piano Man, already an inductee, did not show, but instead sent a statement relaying his congratulations to the crew.
“As lucky as we were to play with [Joel] is as lucky as he was to play with us,” said Javors.
DeVitto credited Ringo Starr and The Young Rascals’ drummer Dino Danelli with teaching him the skins—through the records he played along to—also crediting other local acts such as The Vanilla Fudge as making him the renowned musician he is today.
“We made history,” he said of he and fellow bandmates’ romps around the globe, noting that Stegmeyer’s bass joined them onstage. “Doug Stegmeyer, we truly miss you. God bless.”
“Doug Stegmeyer is here tonight,” an emotional Cannata told the house, everyone up on their feet dancing, laughing and shaking straight through their post-midnight set. “I feel his vibe. I feel his spirit.
“I love you, Doug.”
To learn more about the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and its myriad inductees, visit limusichalloffame.org