Eleven years after failing to show up at the Beatles‘ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame due to his ongoing feud with Yoko Ono and his bandmates, Paul McCartney entered the institution as a solo artist in 1999. This time, he showed up and was honored alongside fellow inductees Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, the Staple Singers and (posthumously) Dusty Springfield and Del Shannon. McCartney had been eligible for four years at this point, leading his daughter Stella to wear a shirt that read, “About fucking time!”
It’s unclear whether McCartney shared his daughter’s bitterness over the delayed honor, but he was extremely gracious when he accepted the award from Neil Young. It was one of his first major public appearances since his wife Linda died the previous year. “I haven’t got a speech,” he said. “This is brilliant/sad of course, since I would have liked my baby to share this with me. She wanted this. But it’s beautiful and she’s beautiful and it’s all beautiful and we’re cool.”
He then called up Stella (who struggled to hold back tears) to the podium to show off her t-shirt. “These young people, they’ve just got no fear,” he said. “I really just wanted to say I love rock & roll because it made my life. By the way, while you’re here, you’ve got me and John in this. . . What about George and Ringo? Come on, guys. Come on. I love rock & roll. I love Cleveland because Cleveland gave me Linda’s mom, who was from Cleveland. And I love New York because New York gave me Linda. So I want to say to you all, thank you very much. This one’s for you, baby.”
The evening featured amazing performances by the Staple Singers, Joel, a reunited Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Eric Clapton with D’Angelo, Wilson Pickett, Elton John, Lauryn Hill and Bette Midler and Bono. McCartney had originally declined to perform, but as the night wore on, he was coaxed onstage for an all-star rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins.
The night wrapped up with everybody backing McCartney for “Let It Be.” He looked to be a little drunk by this point and was probably a bit uncomfortable, since he didn’t have an instrument, but it was still extremely emotional and a great way to cap off the evening.