U2 to Enter Rock Hall

The Pretenders, O'Jays, Guy, Sledge also to be enshrined

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Their cross-promotional campaign with iPod has reestablished U2 as the planet's biggest rock band. Now, capping an already huge commercial season for the anthemic Irish foursome, Bono and his bandmates will join the all-time greats in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Also scheduled for induction at the institution's twentieth anniversary gala on March 14th are the 1970s soul group the O'Jays, U.K.-based New Wave group the Pretenders, blues guitarist Buddy Guy and R&B veteran Percy Sledge.

From their earliest days in post-punk Dublin, U2 -- whose latest album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, debuted last month at Number One -- have been a rock band with a purpose. Beginning with the 1987 blockbuster The Joshua Tree, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year, the band became one of the first alternative acts to achieve classic-rock status, building a following that spans generations. Guitarist Dave "The Edge" Evans' frantic, chiming style has influenced countless successors, and singer Paul "Bono" Hewson has created a larger-than-life celebrity persona for himself, singing with Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti and making international news for his activism on behalf of reducing third-world debt.

The Pretenders, contemporaries of U2, were formed during the punk movement in England in 1978 by the American-born former rock critic Chrissie Hynde, who once worked in Malcolm McLaren's infamous boutique, Sex. Despite the drug overdoses of two of the group's founding members, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon, the group went on to log six Top Forty hits, including "Back on the Chain Gang" and "I'll Stand By You."

The O'Jays, the long-running soul group formed in Canton, Ohio, in 1958, had a Number One hit in 1972 with "Love Train." Favorites of the Philadelphia production team Gamble and Huff, the group had a total of nine Top Forty hits through 1980, including "Back Stabbers" and "I Love Music."

Buddy Guy is the torchbearer of the electric blues style epitomized by his mentor, Muddy Waters. Guy, an acknowledged inspiration to such rock legends as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, runs a popular nightclub on Chicago's South Side.

Alabama-born Percy Sledge, sometimes called "The Golden Voice of Soul," is best known for his enduring 1966 classic "When a Man Loves a Woman."

Set to be inducted in the non-performer category are Frank Barsalona, a pioneer in rock & roll promotion, and Seymour Stein, the astute Sire Records founder who signed Madonna, the Ramones and Talking Heads.

Approximately 700 music-industry figures vote each year on eligible nominees. Among the list of first-time candidates who did not receive enough votes for induction were Randy Newman, the J. Geils Band, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Past nominees who were again passed over this year include the Sex Pistols, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Stooges. Artists are eligible for induction to the Rock Hall twenty-five years after the release of their first album.

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