There was much to celebrate at the 1996 induction ceremony: The long-awaited Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum had opened the previous fall in Cleveland, Ohio, with a star-studded mega-concert.
Some unique performances took place this evening as well. The Velvet Underground played their first U.S. gig in twenty-five years, a bittersweet occurrence for Lou Reed, John Cale, and Maureen Tucker, since the 1995 death from cancer of founding member Sterling Morrison. The surviving Velvets memorialized him by writing and performing "Last Night I Said Good-Bye to My Friend." And Jefferson Airplane, including original members Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Spencer Dryden, played together for the first time since 1970.
For the first time ever, an inductee accepted without saying a word. His battered banjo on his back, Pete Seeger, who was inducted after a long speech by Harry Belafonte and an amusing speech by Arlo Guthrie, just took the statuette and smiled.
Madonna accepted for David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull performed a raspy "Rebel Rebel" in his honor. Stevie Wonder made the induction presentation for Little Willie John after performing "Fever" with John's son (performer Keith John, a member of Wonder's band).
Accepting the honor from Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Pink Floyd members David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason acknowledged absent band members Roger Waters and Syd Barrett.
In tribute to Gladys Knight and the Pips, Joan Osborne, backed by Stevie Wonder, sang a powerful version of "Heard It Through the Grapevine." Faithfull, Darlene Love, and Merry Clayton introduced the Shirelles. The legendary, first-ever girl group performed a medley of their hits after Shirelle Beverly Lee raved, "We deserve this!" followed by the question, "What took you so long to induct us?"