Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow are among the 2023 inductees who will join the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later this year. They will be minted at the 38th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 3 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Nelson and Crow are joined by Kate Bush, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Rage Against the Machine and The Spinners in the Performer Category. DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray will received the Musical Influence Award, and Chaka Khan, Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin will be honored with the Musical Excellence Award. Don Cornelius will take home the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
The inductees were announced via Apple Music 1 livestream during a one-hour special with hosts Ebro Darden, Rebecca Judd, Matt Wilkinson, Brooke Reese and Kelleigh Bannen, with special guests Crow and Taupin.
“This year’s incredible group of inductees reflects the diverse artists and sounds that define rock & roll,” says John Sykes, Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “We are honored that this November’s Induction Ceremony in New York will coincide with two milestones in music culture; the 90th birthday of Willie Nelson and the 50th Anniversary of the birth of hip-hop.”
To be considered for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, artists are required to have released their first record 25 years prior to induction. Four of seven inductees in the performer category were on the ballot for the first time, including Nelson, Crow, Elliott and Michael.
With over 60 years in the music business, Nelson—songwriter, performer, anti-establishment outlaw, political activist and philanthropist—is an American institution. Nelson may call country music his home, but he has always pushed stylistic boundaries—mixing in rock & roll, jazz, pop and blues.
Nelson’s first success came writing hits for country’s biggest stars, including Patsy Cline (“Crazy”) and Ray Price (“Night Life”) and songs that have become standards (“Funny How Time Slips Away”). In 1962, Nelson released the first of a staggering 73 solo studio albums. But he chafed at working within Nashville’s confines, and in 1972 he returned home to Texas to make music on his own terms. Connecting with Austin’s counterculture, Nelson recorded for Atlantic, combining country with rock and blues. Songs like the autobiographical “Me and Paul” (1971) groove and swing with blues licks, while pedal steel and piano soar in the foreground. Nelson and co-conspirators Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser ushered in the outlaw country movement, with their Wanted! The Outlaws becoming the first country album to go Platinum.
By 1975, Nelson was a superstar. His concept album Red Headed Stranger (1975) delivered his first No. 1 hit, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” In true outlaw fashion, Nelson released a gospel album, Troublemaker (1976), and an album of pop standards (produced by Booker T), Stardust (1978); both went to No. 1. While continuing to create a songwriter’s dream catalog, Nelson also formed supergroup the Highwaymen with Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. He has collaborated with artists as diverse as Crow, Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Wynton Marsalis and Snoop Dogg.
Nelson’s work has influenced generations of musicians, from Neil Young to John Mellencamp to Kacey Musgraves, and his personal actions have supported the welfare of millions of Americans. In 1985, Nelson cofounded Farm Aid to assist family farmers. He is Co-Chair of NORML, which supports marijuana legalization, and advocates for numerous causes including animal welfare and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Crow’s voice is forever woven into the tapestry of American music. Through her powerhouse solo performances, collaborations with industry icons and early session musician work, Crow’s influence reverberates through classic 1990s rock, pop, country, folk, blues and the work of countless singer-songwriters.
Crow got her big break singing backup for Michael Jackson’s “Bad World Tour” in 1987. From there, she became a session musician, providing backing vocals for Stevie Wonder, Belinda Carlisle, and Don Henley—while simultaneously writing songs for Celine Dion, Tina Turner and Wynonna Judd. Signed to A&M as a solo artist, Crow released her 1993 debut album Tuesday Night Music Club—a revered classic that resulted in three of her nine Grammys, including Best Female Rock Vocal and Record of the Year for “All I Wanna Do.” Crow produced and played several of the instruments on her 1996 self-titled sophomore album, which was another commercial hit and won two additional Grammys. Her success continued into the 2000s with Platinum albums C’mon, C’mon (2002) and Wildflower (2005) and Gold-certified Detours (2008).
Throughout her career, Crow has collaborated with some of the biggest names in rock and country music—Keith Richards, Prince, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn to name a few—drawing a who’s-who of artists to work on her self-identified final album, 2019’s Threads. The supergroup-level collaborations Crow created between veteran and younger artists culminate in an album that encapsulates her spiritual, political and musical worldviews. Threads includes the socially conscious “Story of Everything” featuring Chuck D, Andra Day and Gary Clark, Jr. as well as the rootsy “Prove You Wrong” with Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris, and Eric Clapton, Sting and Brandi Carlile covering George Harrison’s devotional “Beware of Darkness.”
The vast catalog of this soulful rock superstar earns Crow the title given to her by country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton: “One of the best that we’ve ever had… and may ever have.”
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