After Billy Joel used his induction speech of Tommy Byrnes to needle his longtime guitarist about being from the South Shore and his lack of knowledge of current events, he declared, “This is a Long Island night.”
Joel, who also inducted singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy, explained the concept as he walked the red carpet at The Space at Westbury with wife Alexis and daughter Della Rose, saying, “You don’t say nice things about your friends, you insult them. That’s the Long Island thing to do.”
When the Long Island Music Hall of Fame was founded in 2004, its organizers envisioned nights like this, when the area could celebrate what made it unique, what made it special in its own right, rather than a reflection of the cultural hub of New York City.
“The thing about Long Island is that the farther out you go, the better the artists, the harder they try,” said Public Enemy’s Chuck D, as he inducted Brentwood rappers EPMD. “These cats put Long Island and Strong Island on the map.”
EPMD’s Erick Sermon said the group’s distinctive sound was influenced directly by his hometown. “Brentwood was majorly diverse – black, white, Puerto Rican,” he said. “There wasn’t a prejudiced person in Brentwood ever. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and Blue Oyster Cult, Police, Joe Cocker, David Bowie. And of course, Public Enemy, Rakim, De La Soul, Biz Markie – all from Long Island.”
In his acceptance speech, Byrnes thanked the people of Long Island “for harboring an environment where music thrives, with a deep well of talent and seemingly bottomless reservoir of musicians who fill the stages of New York’s Broadway theaters, venues like Radio City and Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden, where hip-hop, jazz, pop, rock and roll, and R&B will always have a home.”
The nearly five-hour marathon induction wrapped up early Friday morning, with a fitting version of “Goodnight, Sweetheart” from inductee Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of Sha Na Na and members of Brooklyn Bridge and The Drifters. It marked a night of collaborations, including inductee Melanie’s performance of “Lay Down” with the Uniondale High School show choir Rhythm of the Knight, whose founder, teacher Lynette Carr-Hicks was named the Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s Educator of Note for 2018.
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And perhaps the Hall of Fame’s act of bringing diverse artists together will spark more collaborations. The members of Taking Back Sunday were all smiles when they met Joel on the red carpet.
“This is a dream come true,” Taking Back Sunday guitarist/singer John Nolan told Joel, after he offered the Long Beach-based band his congratulations for their induction. Chuck D was on the red carpet eagerly looking forward to seeing inductee Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, who the rapper listened to when he was growing up in Roosevelt.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said he jumped at the chance to induct Brentwood rappers EPMD Thursday night because “they elevate hip-hop with their excellence.”
“I know I was a bit of a guiding light for them when they were starting, but what people don’t know is how they have been guiding lights for those who have come after them,” Chuck D said.
Bayville singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb delivered a gorgeous version of “Wichita Lineman” alone at the piano before accepting his induction, and tackling his classic “MacArthur Park” with the full house band.
Webb, a native of Oklahoma, marveled at being inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. “I owe the people of Long Island so much,” he said, accepting the award. “Since my arrival here, it’s been a warm wonderful experience, the most joyful part of my life.”
This year’s other inductees also included music exec Seymour Stein, who signed everyone from the Ramones to Madonna, the co-founders of Woodstock Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang, and Good Times Magazine founder Rich Branciforte, along with jazz trumpeter Glenn Drewes, who joined Byrnes as the first “LI Hired Gun” inductees.
“We know how to throw a great gala,” Long Island Music Hall of Fame Chairman Ernie Canadeo said, as he walked the red carpet, adding that the event, which raises funds for the group’s education efforts, was sold out. “It’s an amazing night.”