Arts and Culture

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2012 has a Jewish tune

(Cleveland Jewish News) — Michael Belkin knows plenty about the music industry; he was born and raised in it.

More than 40 years ago, his father Mike and his uncle Jules founded Belkin Productions, which helped launch the careers of such artists as Johnny Carson, Tiny Tim, Janis Joplin, Wild Cherry, Joe Walsh, Maureen McGovern, and The Michael Stanley Band.

Belkin, senior vice president of Live Nation,was looking forward to the 27th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions ceremony at Public Hall in downtown Cleveland on Saturday, April 14.

This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee class includes eight Jewish musicians and artists, many of whom set the stage for future bands in their respective genres, said Belkin.

In the performer category, Jack Irons and the late Hillel Slovak, two founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; the late singer/songwriter Laura Nyro; former Guns N’ Roses drummer and Cleveland native Steven Adler; and the Beastie Boys’ Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch round out 2012’s Jewish inductees.

Also being inducted is producer and executive Don Kirshner as a “non-performer.” He managed songwriters like Carole King, Barry Mann and Neil Diamond.

King, herself a 1990 Hall of Famer, along with Bette Midler, both Jewish performers, will be presenters this year.

“I think it’s clear to say that when you rise to the top of your profession, you’re going to influence future generations,” said Belkin. “Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses … as evidenced by their induction into the Hall of Fame, are at the top of the food chain and have been for 25 years. That’s pretty significant.”

Belkin said he’s worked with almost all of this year’s inductees and has met most of them. He said he was consistently impressed by the work ethic of those groups, specifically the Chili Peppers.

“The one thing I always admired about the Chili Peppers is their commitment to their craft,” said Belkin. “They were always really, really serious about their performance, how they were presented to their fans, how they performed. … I really respected them for that.”

In terms of being at the top of the pack, Belkin said the Beastie Boys also have to be included in that conversation.

“You look at the musical landscape right now, and you see and hear what (the Beastie Boys) did 20-plus years ago. You think how far ahead of the curve these guys were,” he said. “Aside from their live performance, which has always been extraordinary musically, they started something and society followed. They’re as big as they’ve ever been. How many groups can say that after 25 years?”

Despite the religious link among this year’s Hall of Famers, Belkin said the focus is more on quality and less on religion, race or ethnicity.

“The fact that there are a number of qualified and talented Jewish musicians in this particular instance is certainly special, but I think what should be noted is wherever they came from, whatever their background, these guys have risen to the top of their particular profession,” he said. “That’s a really, really special thing. The fact that they’re Jewish, fantastic. If they’re anything else, still fantastic.”

Beastie Boys
To be inducted by Chuck D

Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch, three Jewish-born musicians from New York City, comprise the Beastie Boys. The group released its debut album “Licensed to Ill” in 1986. It was hip-hop’s first-ever No. 1 album and broke new ground in the genre.

The group helped to introduce rap to a new audience, attracting party-crazy teens and hip-hop fans to the craze with songs like “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!),” “Brass Monkey,” and “Paul Revere.”

The trio was also active on the political front, organizing the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, a series of rock festivals in North America, Europe and Asia in the mid- to late-90s that supported Tibetan independence.

In the last 10 years, Michael, Adam H. and Adam Y. have recorded three studio albums: 2004’s “To the Five Boroughs,” 2007’s “The Mix-Up,” and 2011’s “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers
To be inducted by Chris Rock

Jack Irons, the Chili Peppers’ original drummer, and the band’s former guitarist, the late Hillel Slovak, both Jewish, were two of the band’s founding members. Irons and Slovak, along with lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary, were high-school friends who sometimes put on live shows almost entirely naked.

Slovak, the son of Holocaust survivors, died of a drug overdose on June 25, 1988, and Irons left the band shortly thereafter.

The Chili Peppers gained popularity with songs like “Give It Away,” “Under the Bridge,” “Otherside,” and “Scar Tissue.” The band followed up its 2006 two-CD set “Stadium Arcadium” with 2011’s “I’m with You.” The five-year hiatus was the longest in the group’s history.

Guns N’ Roses
To be inducted by Green Day

Former drummer and native Jewish Clevelander Steven Adler (born Michael Coletti) was fired from Guns N’ Roses on July 11, 1990, just five years after he first joined the group with superstars Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin and Saul “Slash” Hudson.

The band was best known for its LP “Appetite for Destruction,” as well as singles like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

In July 1991, Adler sued the band and settled out of court in 1993 for $2,250,000. Despite long-standing tension with the band, Adler told the Canadian Jewish News he would be open to touring with his old entourage again.

“There are two reasons why I want to do a tour with the original Guns N’ Roses guys,” Adler said. “There’s all the love I receive around the world. I have heard, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is the soundtrack to my life in so many languages. I’ve heard it thousands of times, and that is the greatest thing anyone can say to me. We owe it to those fans. And two, the money we could make. The whole thing could make billions of dollars. All we have to do is get on stage with each other for 90 minutes.”

Laura Nyro
To be inducted by Bette Midler

Jewish singer, songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro recorded her first album and played the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival at age 19. Nyro spent 25 years under the Columbia record label, where she cranked out the album “Eli and The Thirteenth Confession” in 1968. Alongside singer/songwriter Labelle, Nyro released the 1971 LP “Gonna Take a Miracle,” comprised entirely of R&B covers.

Musician Elton John said Nyro had a strong influence on him. “The soul, the passion, the out-and-out audacity of her rhythmic and melody changes was like nothing I’d ever heard before,” he said.

Nyro died of ovarian cancer in 1997 at age 49.

Don Kirshner
To be inducted by Carole King

Jewish producer and music executive Don Kirshner started his music career in a unique way: by meeting singer/songwriter Robert Cassotto, who later changed his name to Bobby Darin and exploded in popularity across the country.

Kirshner founded Aldon Music in 1958 with musician Al Nevin; Neil Diamond was one of the first artists to ink a contract with the music firm. After selling Aldon in 1963, Kirshner turned to television and became executive producer on ABC’s live-music show “In Concert” in 1972.

The next year, Kirshner piloted “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” which hosted performances by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers and others. The concert was broadcast until 1982, when Kirshner retired. He died of heart failure on Jan. 17, 2011.