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Eric Clapton inducts the Band

"Thank you.  I want to talk about what it was like to be a musician - a serious musician who couldn't be in the Band.  And that was tough, that was hard.  I remember being on tour in about '66 or '67 with a band called the Cream, and we thought we were the bee's knees, you know?  And I met this guy... I knew this man in L.A. who was an entrepreneur of different sorts of things, and he had a tape by a band called the Crackers, and he lent it to me, and I took it on the road with me, and it became my drug.  When we would get to the end of a gig, Jack and Ginger would go off and do their stuff, and I'd put this tape on.  And I'd go into another world.  And it was my kind of release.  For someone like me, who had been born in England, like Elton was talking about, and worshiped the music from America, it was very tough to find a place to belong in all this - and this band that I was listening to on this tape had it all.  They were white, but they seemed to have derived all they could from black music, and they combined it to make a beautiful hybrid.  And for me it was serious.  It was serious, and it was grown up, and it was mature, and it told stories, and it had beautiful harmonies, fantastic singing, beautiful musicianship without any virtuosity.  Just economy and beauty.  And I wanted to be in the band.  So I went and told Jack and Ginger that I couldn't go on anymore.  There was something else happening that I had to bow out of because.  And I went - Robbie and the boys will never know this - but I went to visit the Band in Woodstock, and I really sort of went there to ask if I could join the band.  I mean, I didn't have the guts to say it - I didn't have the nerve.  I just sort of sat there and watched these guys work.  And I remember Robbie saying, "We don't jam.  We don't jam, so there's no point in sitting here and trying to, you know... We just write and work."  And I was very impressed, you know? And from that day, I spent the rest of my career - until The Last Waltz, anyway - trying to find ways to imitate what they had.  And it was an impossible dream, really, because from where I came from, and from where they came from, completely different worlds.  But it was something to do with a principle that I got from what they did, which was integrity.  Integrity and a standard of craft that really didn't bow down to any kind of commerciality, and I really identified with that, and I adored it.  At the same time, it was very hard; it was very hard to sort of make my way and not be part of it, until The Last Waltz, and in some respects, I was very relieved with The Last Waltz, because it meant that there wasn't a band that I wasn't a part of anymore, you know?  And I could just go on and be me, and it was all right.  But at the same time, when The Last Waltz happened, it was a tragic thing, because as much as they may have reached the end of their journey, there were no more records.  I couldn't go to the store and buy a Band album, and have my life transformed by listening to it.  And it's been a long journey since then without their sort of guidance, because I always kind of looked up to them as older brothers in the music world.  But at the same time, they've always been there in spirit.  And I go back, and I listen to old records all the time.  In fact, most of the time I listen to old blues and old records by people like the Band.  And I think it's a long time since they were really honored and put together, and as it was last year with me and Cream, it's a beautiful thing to have a reunion if we can, and get together and rejoice in the gift that we've been given, which is music.  Tonight, I'm very happy to induct the Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

The Band