Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Reunions That Actually Happened - Rolling Stone
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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Reunions That Actually Happened

Relive three decades of Rock Hall reunions, from Cream to Talking Heads

talking heads; rock and roll; hall of fame; Memorable; Fame Reunions

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The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is basically the only place outside of a courtroom where feuding ex-bandmates are forced to stand together. Over the years, this has led to stunning reunions from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads, the Police, Cream and many others. It’s also led to stunningly awkward moments, when groups such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and Blondie have feuded in full view of the world and refused to play together. Here are 32 reunions that actually happened. Note: We’re counting situations like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, where the current lineup of a band was joined for former members for a very special night.


1. Simon & Garfunkel (1990)

The first few years of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony did manage to bring long-feuding acts like the The Temptations onto the same stage after many years, but there weren't really any performances until the big jam at the end of the night. Sadly, that meant the Four Seasons didn't get to sing any of their own songs in 1990. Simon & Garfunkel did manage to play "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "The Boxer" in the middle of the chaos. It was first performance since Paul Simon killed a planned reunion album in 1984, causing all sorts of bad blood. 

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2. The Byrds (1991)

Nobody is going to argue that the Byrds played flawlessly at their 1991 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it's a small miracle that it happened at all. They'd recently wrapped up a very bitter legal battle over the group's name. Relations were at an all-time low, but the original five members still sucked it up and played "Mr. Tambourine Man." Gene Clark died later that year, and Michael Clarke passed away two years after that. 

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3. Cream (1993)

Eric Clapton initially had very little interest in reuniting with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce at the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "I have to be honest and say that until very recently I didn't believe in this institution at all," he said when Cream accepted their award. "It seemed to me that rock & roll should never be respectable. And then a friend of mine, not so long ago, Robbie Robertson, pointed out to minor and major miracles take place in here. It deeply moved me. I looked at this from a different point of view and learned that a lot can be gained by coming here tonight. A lot has been gained. I've been reunited with two people that I lover very dearly. It's very moving. Yesterday, we played together for the first time in 25 years. It was pretty amazing." The trio played 'Sunshine of Your Love," "Crossroads" and "Born Under a Bad Sign." It would be another 12 years before they did it again. 

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4. The Doors (1993)

The 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony could have been the biggest year ever for reunions had John Fogerty agreed to play with Creedence, but he left them at the podium to play with Bruce Springsteen. Bitter feelings from the incident linger all these years later. Thankfully, not only did Cream play that night, but the surviving members of the Doors agreed to play with Eddie Vedder. They did stellar renditions of "Light My Fire," "Roadhouse Blues" and "Break on Through." It was one of the only times the three surviving members of the Doors played together after the group broke up in 1973. 

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5. The Band (1994)

Even the magic of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame couldn't convince Levon Helm to share the stage with Robbie Robertson at the Band's induction. There was simply too much bad blood and Levon didn't even show up to the ceremony. Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko did play together for the first time since The Last Waltz in 1976. 

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6. Led Zeppelin (1995)

Led Zeppelin's induction came at a very, very awkward time for the group. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had just announced a reunion tour, and they didn't even bother to tell John Paul Jones it was happening. He found out when he saw an advertisement on TV. He took a crack at his former bandmates by thanking them for "remembering my phone number" at the podium. The group still came together, with Jason Bonham on drums, to play "When the Levee Breaks" with Neil Young and "Bring It on Home" with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. It was a little sloppy and Neil Young maybe played a little too much, but it was still amazing to see them together again. It would be another 12 years before they played together again. 

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7. The Velvet Underground (1996)

The 1996 Hall of Fame ceremony had some problems. David Bowie, Grace Slick and Roger Waters all stayed home. A Velvet Underground reunion seemed unlikely considering that guitarist Sterling Morrison died the previous August and John Cale and Lou Reed were barely on speaking terms, but the group still came together for one final performance. Reed, Cale and Maureen Tucker played their new composition "Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend" as a tribute to Morrison. The group never played together again in any incarnation, and Reed died in October 2013.

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8. Pink Floyd (1996)

They didn't make any sort of announcement, but the David Gilmour-led Pink Floyd quietly disbanded after their 1994 world tour. They came back together two years later at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Relations were Roger Waters were still highly strained and he didn't show up. David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Billy Corgan performed an acoustic "Wish You Were Here." Drummer Nick Mason was in the house, but he didn't play with them. It was the last time that Pink Floyd performed together until Live 8 in 2005


9. Jefferson Airplane (1996)

Grace Slick was a no-show at the 1996 ceremony, claiming a mysterious foot ailment, but that didn't stop the other members of the Jefferson Airplane from playing a brief set. It marked the first time that Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Spencer Dryden all shared the same stage since the 1970s. And now that Dryden and Kantner are no longer with us and Slick is firmly-retired, this is about a complete reunion as the world is likely to ever witness. 


10. Buffalo Springfield (1997)

Neil Young walked out on Buffalo Springfield two times during their incredibly brief run in the 1960s, so it was no big shock that he didn't come to the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It also happened to be the year that Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted, so they played "For What It's Worth" with Buffalo Springfield's Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer. The drummer and bassist didn't play any instruments, but they were still up there. Sadly, it's as close as they ever came to a Buffalo Springfield reunion since they both passed away prior to the group's brief return in 2010. 


11. The (Young) Rascals (1997)

The original lineup of the Rascals spent decades feuding before they reunited for a Broadway show a couple of years ago. They did briefly come together at the 1997 Hall of Fame ceremony long enough to perform “Good Lovin'” and “People Got to Be Free.” They were inducted by Rascals superfan Steve Van Zandt. Sopranos creator David Chase happened to watch the speech and was so impressed by his energy and vibe that he cast him a few years later on the HBO mob drama despite the fact he had zero acting experience. It changed his entire life. 


12. Eagles (1998)

The Eagles reformed for a crazily lucrative reunion tour four years before they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but former members Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon weren't invited to the party. All seven Eagles came together and played "Take It Easy" and "Hotel California" at the ceremony. Don Felder left the band a few years later and things got really, really ugly. Don Henley can't even say his full name these days (calling him only Mr. Felder), let alone agree to play with him. Bernie Leadon toured with them between 2013 and 2015, and Meisner might have been there if he didn't have health problems. But the death of Glenn Frey means the Eagles are over forever, so this is the only time all seven got to play together. 


13. The Mamas and the Papas (1998)

The original Mamas and Papas broke up in 1968, coming back together super briefly three years later for a contractually obligated reunion album. Cass Elliott's death three years later made any sort of full reunion impossible, but in the 1980s John Phillips and Denny Doherty toured as the New Mamas and Papas. Mackenzie Phillips and Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane took on the female roles. They played a lot of state fairs and did a lot of drugs. Things got depraved. We'll spare you the gory details, but they are outlined in Mackenzie's book. Anyway, the only time that Michelle Phillips sang with her ex-bandmates was at the group's 1998 Hall of Fame induction. John clearly wasn't in good health and was forced to sit on a stool as they played "California Dreamin'." He died three years later and Doherty followed in 2007.  


14. Santana (1998)

Original Fleetwood Mac member Peter Green was inducted with his band at the 1998 ceremony, but he didn't wind up playing with the Rumours lineup. Some fans were upset, but it wasn't exactly like he could have done much on "Big Love." Lucky for Green, Santana were inducted the same night. He wrote their hit "Black Magic Woman," and he performed it with them that night. It was the first time many of the original members of Santana played with Carlos in many years, and they were absolutely amazing. It seemed like a one-shot deal, but they just came back together for a new album and tour. 


15. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (1999)

Bruce Springsteen’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just happened to coincide with his decision to reunite with the E Street Band for a world tour. The first glimpse the public got of the reunion, however, was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of 1999. They played “The Promised Land,” “Backstreets,” “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” and “In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett. The evening kick-started an incredible new chapter in Springsteen’s career. The tour began less than a month later. 


16. The Lovin’ Spoonful (2000)

The Lovin' Spoonful broke up in 1969, only coming back together a decade later to film a scene in Paul Simon's ill-fated 1980 movie One Trick Pony. They hit the oldies circuit (minus frontman John Sebastian) in 1991 and they're there to this day. The only time that Sebastian agreed to play with them was the 2000 ceremony. They did "Do You Believe In Magic." Sabastian wasn't exactly in the best voice, but it was still a very nice moment. Guitarist Zal Yanovsky died just two years later. 


17. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (2002)

In hindsight, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 2002 induction into the Hall of Fame was somewhat of a sad occasion. Bassist Howie Epstein was in horrific physical shape due to his severe heroin addiction. He pulled himself together enough to perform on "Mary Jane's Last Dance" but he died just one year later. This was his final time onstage with the band. It was also the first (and last) time that Stan Lynch played with Petty since he left the group in 1994, meaning this is the only time that all members of the group, past and present, came together. 


18. Talking Heads (2002)

Much to the dismay of millions of fans around the world and his three bandmates, David Byrne has made it very clear that he has absolutely no interest in reuniting with the Talking Heads. They could pack venues all over the world and basically mint money, but Byrne is a stubborn man and he doesn't want to look backwards. He did make a lone exception when the group was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. Not only did they perform, but they rehearsed for days and absolutely killed. They started as a four-piece for "Psycho Killer" and then brought out some of the extra musicians from Stop Making Sense for "Life During Wartime" and "Burning Down the House." It was absolutely amazing, and it'll never happen again. 


19. The Police (2003)

Four years before The Police reunited for a massive world tour, they did a three-song set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They weren't exactly the best of friends at this point and Stewart Copeland made it very clear that he wasn't happy with the plan to play with Gwen Stefani and John Mayer. He even knocked a hole in one of his drums during their brief set. But their performance of "Roxanne," "Every Breath You Take" and "Message In A Bottle" was still very cool, and it clearly paved the way for what came in 2007. 


20. Traffic (2004)

Traffic had a very fluid lineup during their two runs in the 1960s and 1970s, and when they reunited in 1994 for a summer tour, only Steve Winwood and drummer Jim Capaldi came along for the ride. They didn't play together for the next 10 years, but at the 2004 induction ceremony Capaldi and Steve Winwood came back together for "Dear Mister Fantasy." Dave Mason played on the original, but for reasons that surely made sense at the time, he didn't join them. Mason, Capaldi and Winwood were all onstage during the evening-ending jam for "Feelin' Alright." Capaldi died less than a year later. 


21. Lynyrd Skynyrd (2006)

The Sex Pistols didn't show up to their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2006, and Blondie got into a nasty fight at the podium when Debbie Harry refused to perform with the former members of the group. It was perhaps the most awkward moment in Hall of Fame history. One might suspect that the wild southern boys in Lynyrd Skynyrd might have had some beef as well, considering their long-standing estrangement from drummers Artimus Pyle and Bob Burns and original guitarist Ed King. But the surviving members of the Skynyrd acted like princes that night. They graciously shared the spotlight and the stage with each other, playing an emotionally gut-wrenching "Freebird" for all the members of the band that passed away. 


22. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007)

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop act to enter the Hall of Fame at the 2007 ceremony. It made a lot of sense since Flash was a pioneer on the turntables and the first rap song that many people heard was their 1982 classic "The Message." The surviving members of the rap collective came together that night for a grand medley of their classics. Keith "Cowboy" Wiggins died in 1989, and they honored him by putting a cowboy hat on one of the microphones. 


23. The Ronettes (2007)

For the first time in decades, the three original Ronettes — Ronnie Spector, Nedra Talley and Estelle Bennett — came together at the 2007 Hall of Fame ceremony. Bennett (the sister of Ronnie Spector) was in poor physical and mental health and she only uttered a few words at the podium and sat out the performance. Paul Shaffer had clearly been waiting years for this, and he arranged for an enormous band and string section to recreate the sound of their Phil Spector-produced records. Estelle Bennett died just two years later. 


24. R.E.M. (2007)

R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry quit the band after he nearly died of a brain aneurysm on their 1995 Monster tour. The group carried on, but many fans felt they were never quite the same. Berry became a farmer and largely dropped off the grid, though he did rejoin his bandmates for a few very low-key performances around his native Georgia in the mid-2000s. The most noteworthy time was the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. The full band played "Gardening at Night," "Begin the Begin" and "Man on the Moon." It was sensational, and the final time all four members played together in public. 


25. Metallica (2009)

Metallica obviously never broke up, but their 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did mark their first time playing with former bassist Jason Newsted since he quit the band in 2000. The group — performing with Jason and his replacement Rob Trujillo at the same time — played "Master of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman." "That was like 'Bigger Bottom,'" Newsted joked when he walked off, referring to the bass heavy Spinal Tap song "Big Bottom." 


26. Alice Cooper (2011)

The original Alice Cooper band broke up in 1973 and guitarist Glen Buxton died in 1997. The surviving members have come together at a handful of charity gigs in recent years, and they played a glorious set at the Hall of Fame in 2011. With help from Rob Zombie and a children’s choir, they broke out “Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and “Under My Wheels.” Alice has played these songs with a lot of other musicians, but nobody plays them quite like the originals. 


27. The Hollies (2010)

The Hollies never actually broke up, though without Graham Nash and Allan Clarke they've been a shell of themselves, playing oldies gigs around Europe. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a rare opportunity to play to a large audience, but they didn't want to call off any gigs in Europe and so they didn't come. That didn't stop Nash, his lifelong friend Clarke and Terry Sylvester from showing up. Clarke had vocal problems and hadn't sung in years, but he managed to belt out "Bus Stop" and "Carrie Anne" with Paul Shaffer and his band. Sylvester wasn't told they were going to do "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" — a song he originally played on — and he ran onstage and grabbed the mic to sing a few lines. Nash was not very happy with the situation. 


28. Guns N’ Roses (2012)

Guns N' Roses fans had been counting to down the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years prior to their 2012 induction. It seemed like the one chance when Axl Rose might possibly consider maybe playing again with the old lineup. They should have known better. After a long back and forth, Axl finally bailed on the entire ceremony via a long and crazy letter. "I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia," he wrote, "and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf." Guitarist Izzy Stradlin didn't come either, but that didn't stop Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, Slash, Matt Sorum, Gilby Clarke and Myles Kennedy from playing together. At the time, a reunion between Axl and Slash seemed impossible, but just four years later it happened. 


29. Heart (2013)

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart initially had no desire to reunite with the group's original lineup. They hadn't played with those guys in decades and there was a long and bitter history. In the end, they compromised by playing "Crazy on You" with the old lineup and "Barracuda" with the new band. It was the first time the group played together in 34 years, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where it happens again. Like many things at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was a one-time deal. 

talking heads rock and roll hall of fame; Nirvana

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30. Nirvana (2014)

It would have been hard to complain if Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic opted to not perform when Nirvana was inducted into the Hall of Fame. But they were up for the challenge of bringing in guest singers, ultimately going with Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde. It was the first time Dave and Krist had performed Nirvana music together in public since Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, and it was absolutely explosive. Later that night, they did a long set in a tiny Brooklyn club. 

talking heads rock and roll hall of fame; The E Street Band

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31. The E Street Band (2014)

Fifteen years after Bruce Springsteen entered the Hall of Fame as a solo artist, the E Street Band joined the institution when they were given the Award for Musical Excellence. The group was in the middle of a tour at the time, but that night they played a special set featuring original drummer Vini Lopez and original keyboardist David Sancious. It was the first time Springsteen had performed with both E Street Band drummers at the same time ("I don't know how the Allman Brothers do it!" he said midway though the set), and it was great to see members past and present come together. Sadly, Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici weren't around to experience it. 

talking heads rock and roll hall of fame; The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

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32. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (2015)

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band hasn't exactly been an ongoing concern since their split in the early 1970s, and the deaths of guitarist Mike Bloomfield and Butterfield himself made any sort of big reunion pretty difficult. But there are still many surviving members, and they all came together at the 2015 Hall of Fame induction ceremony to play a brief set of blues classics. Guitarist Elvin Bishop even ditched the standard Hall of Fame black-tie dress code for an awesome pair of overalls. 

33. Cheap Trick (2016)

Cheap Trick did not have kind things to say about their estranged drummer Bun E. Carlos before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. “Oh, God, he’s such an asshole,” said guitarist Rick Nielsen. “I always said the band was three men and a baby.” But when they took the stage at the Barclays Center, it was nothing but gracious smiles and a killer mini-set of “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender” before bringing everybody from the evening out for “Ain’t That a Shame.” Whatever offstage problems the musicians had, the onstage chemistry remained very strong. Sadly, it was probably the last time the original quartet will ever play together. 

34. Chicago (2016)

Chicago’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 seemed like the perfect opportunity for the group to perform with former singer-bassist Peter Cetera since the left the group in 1985. Group leader Robert Lamm said he was more than willing to make it happen, but negotiations broke down when Cetera wanted them to drastically lower they key of “25 or 6 to 4.” The group had been doing it one way for nearly 50 years and weren’t willing to change it up that much, so Cetera stayed home. The brouhaha around it obscured the fact that there was indeed a Chicago reunion that night. Drummer Danny Seraphine played with them for the first time since getting tossed out in 1990. He also delivered some memorable lines at the podium. “We lived together, as most bands do, we cried together, we fought together, we fucked together,” he said. “‘Please wrap it up?’ Screw you. I’ve waited 25 fucking years for this!”

36. Yes (2017)

Relations within Yes could not have been worse when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. They’d spent the past year on the road in two warring camps and weren’t on speaking terms. Much to their credit, they sucked it up and formed a one-night-only lineup of the group with Jon Anderson on lead vocals, Steve Howe on bass, Trevor Rabin on guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboard and Alan White on drums for “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” For “Roundabout,” Howe switched over to guitar and Rush’s Geddy Lee took over on bass. Some fans hoped it would lead to another Union tour, but instead they went right back out in the two separate incarnations. Even their 50th anniversary in 2018 couldn’t bring them together. Only the Hall of Fame could do that. 

In This Article: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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