By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Whitney Houston and Biggie Smalls AKA the Notorious B.I.G. were among six artists inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s during the Class of 2020 celebration. What is usually a star-studded, well-attended event this year was a virtual HBO special minus any performances. That was due to the impact of COVID-19. The event had originally been planned for May in Cleveland. There was also a very somber feel as Houston and Smalls, along with T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, were posthumous honorees.
Houston was inducted by Alicia Keys. Keys credited Houston with helping bring more Black women into the upper echelon in the music industry. Others participating in honoring Houston included Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Price, and Clive Davis. Houston’s sister Pat and 87-year-old mother Cissy accepted on her behalf. “This is something Whitney always wanted,” Pat said, revealing that Whitney had once said a Hall of Fame induction was “the one thing missing” in her career. Meanwhile, Cissy Houston said “If I talk too long, I’ll cry. And I don’t want to cry, so thank you.”
The Notorious B.I.G. was inducted by his friend and Bad Boy label boss Sean Combs. Those citing his influence and importance included Jay-Z, Nas, Lin-Manuel Miranda (who called Biggie Smalls “the undisputed sound of New York”), and his mother, Voletta Wallace. Smalls’s award was accepted by his children, T’yanna and C.J. Wallace. “When my dad passed away, I was only 3 years old,” T’yanna said. “Even though I didn’t get to know him as well as I wanted, through his fans and my family, I was able to see with my own eyes that his music transcended the hip-hop industry. He was able to not just become the king of New York, but the king of the culture.” C.J. said “I’m honored to share his name and his dedication to Black music, creativity, self-expression, and Black freedom.”
There was also a lengthy In Memoriam segment. It began with a tribute to recently departed guitar great Eddie Van Halen from Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello (who dubbed EVH “the Mozart of our generation”; included a “drum-off” between Rush’s Neal Peart and Cream’s Ginger Baker; and ended with a reel of colorful career highlights from the architect of rock ‘n’ roll, Little Richard.
The Class of 2021 nominees announcement will be made next February, with the ceremony — virtual or not — set for next fall.