Rocker Steve Vai Among Long Island Music Hall of Fame 2016 Inductees

Steve Vai on tour in Asia last year (Photo by Ferdie ArQuero.)

By Natalie Coloprisco

Grammy Award-winning guitarist, singer and Carle Place native Steve Vai is one of 10 recording artists who will be inducted into The Long Island Music Hall of Fame (LIMHOF) next month.

Also being honored are Amagansett-based film score composer Carter Burwell, the late Queens-born producer Sandy Pearlman, and five Brooklynites, including rapper Big Daddy Kane, producer Charles Koppleman, singer Garland Jeffreys, surf rockers Santo & Johnny, multi-instrumentalist Vince Giordano and composer Jim Steinman. Westbury Music Fair will be the second local music venue to be inducted. Accepting the Harry Chapin Music Award is rocker, producer and actor Steven Van Zandt—a New Jersey resident who’s the lone non-Long Islander being inducted.

“Our inductees are just a small piece of the puzzle, but they are such an important piece because they are inspiring future generations,” said LIMHOF Executive Director Joe Janokowski, “and that’s another big piece of what we do here.”

The sixth annual induction ceremony will be held Nov. 3 at The Space at Westbury—it’s first time there. Proceeds fund the nonprofit LIMHOF’s goals to build a museum and preserve the region’s rich musical heritage by recognizing notable musicians who were born, raised or lived on LI—including Brooklyn and Queens.

Past inductees include Simon & Garfunkel, Louis Armstrong, Billy Joel, Carole King, Eddie Money, Joan Jett, Mariah Carey, The Ramones, Barbra Streisand, Run DMC and many more well-known performers.

With a substantive music career that has earned him three Grammy Awards, Vai fits right in. Since launching his career in 1978, he was voted the 10th greatest guitarist by Guitar World Magazine. He’s sold more than 15 million records.

Some of the other honorees are behind-the-scenes movers and shakers, as opposed to big-name performers.

“Legendary music executive Charles Koppelman has been instrumental in the careers of Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand, Dave Mason, Journey, Diana Ross, Cher, Michael Bolten, New Kids on The Block, Vanilla Ice, the list goes on and on,” said LIMHOF Chairman Ernie Canadeo at a news conference announcing those slated to be inducted. In fact, Koppelman’s career has spanned five decades.

Similarly not a household name but a significantly creative contributor behind-the-scenes is Burwell, a film composer who has frequently collaborated with the Coen Brothers, scoring 15 of their films. He received an Academy Award nomination for best original score for Todd Haynes’ 2015 drama, Carol.

On the hip-hop side of the music spectrum, Big Daddy Kane has had several gold albums, a Grammy Award and a No. 7 spot on MTV’s Greatest MC’s of All Time list. Kane is best known for his hit single “Ain’t No Half Steppin‘,” which ranked No. 25 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Hits of All Time list.

Also being inducted is Garland Jeffreys, a trailblazing singer and songwriter whose career spans rock and roll, reggae, blues and soul. He released his first self-titled album in 1973, and has been a major uncompromising artistic presence ever since.

“I’m enjoying life right now, not tomorrow, not last month; I’m in it right now,” Garland said at the news conference.

On the classic rock side of the AM/FM dial is Santo & Johnny, a surf rock duo best known for their timeless instrumental “Sleepwalk.” It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop Chart and earned a Gold Record in 1959. Covered frequently, the song has been used in countless movies, TV shows and commercials ever since.

The lone jazz player inducted this year is sax player Giordano, who specializes in jazz from the 1920s and ’30s.

“He is a Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist who has played in New York night clubs, appeared in films such as The Cotton Club, The Aviator, Revolutionary Road and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire,” Canadeo said.

Following the initial press conference announcing the inductees last month, two more inductees have been added to the 2016 lineup. They are Jim Steinman and Sandy Pearlman.

Steinman is a Brooklyn native best known as a songwriter/producer whose records have sold more than 100 million copies. Some of his hit songs include “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Steinman won a Grammy Award in 1996 for the album Falling Into You, which featured Celine Dion.

Pearlman was best known as the producer, lyricist and manager for Blue Oyster Cult. Over the course of his career, he won 17 gold and platinum records. He passed away in July.

As for Westbury Music Fair—the predecessor of NYCB Theatre at Westbury, popular for its “theater in the round” style—the venue is being recognized for hosting many unforgettable star-studded musical performances over the years. The venue has housed legendary artists like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and The Doors. Previously, the only venue so honored was My Father’s Place, which was inducted in 2010.

This year’s Harry Chapin Award is being given to Van Zandt. Aside from being one of the founding members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band as well as an original cast member of The Sopranos, Van Zandt is a human rights activist. In addition to his career and his activism, he founded the nonprofit Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which teaches the history of rock and its relation to American cultural history.

The ceremony will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Visit limusichalloffame.org for more info.