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Alice Cooper, Tom Waits Enter Rock Hall, Welcomed by Famed Peers

Samir Hussein, Getty Images

The original shock rocker, the “Jewish Elvis Presley” and the man Elton John called the “Jackson Pollock of song” led the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011. The black-tie-optional ceremony took place Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond and Tom Waits were joined as the latest Rock Hall inductees by New Orleans ambassador Dr. John and ‘He’s a Rebel’ singer Darlene Love, who sang during the finale with special guest Bruce Springsteen.

Presenter Paul Simon, who said he knew of synagogues where Elvis was considered “a bogus Neil Diamond,” wondered why it took 20 years of eligibility to get his fellow Brooklynite elected. Neil Young, a man of few words, called the bohemian Waits “undescribable,” then added that, “I’m here to describe him.”

It was a banner night for piano players. Elton John claimed his recent collaborator Leon Russell “could eat me for breakfast” on the keys, as could Dr. John. Russell, who wrote the classic ‘A Song for You’ and recorded with a who’s who — from the Beach Boys and Phil Spector to Frank Sinatra — was honored for Musical Excellence (formerly known as the Sideman award).

Dr. John, who performed his biggest hit, ‘Right Place, Wrong Time,’ “never stopped flying the flag of funk,” said presenter John Legend. “Tonight, he’s definitely in the right place at the right time.”

Addressing a star-studded audience that included Michael Douglas, Michael J . Fox and Jon McEnroe, Simon joked that Diamond’s long wait to get into the Rock Hall might have been caused by six words: ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore.’ That prompted a rambling diatribe by Diamond, who said he flew in from Australia for the ceremony and would be flying back tomorrow.

If some of the inductees are best known for styles besides rock ‘n’ roll, Alice Cooper and his band made sure no one forgot the purpose of the institution. “I hope I never outgrow a Pete Townshend windmill chord,” said the singer, wearing a blood-stained tuxedo shirt and a large yellow snake around his neck. “If I do, just shoot me.”

Backstage, Cooper said his band’s induction got him thinking about who might be the first band to be kicked out of the Rock Hall.

“Jeez,” he said. “That could be us.”

Alice Cooper – ‘No More, Mr. Nice Guy’

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