This Date in Music History: March 15

Prince is inducted into the Rock Hall and Lightnin' Hopkins' 100th birthday

click to enlarge Prince loves guitar playing. Like, REALLY loves it.
Prince loves guitar playing. Like, REALLY loves it.

On this day in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted a fairly heady class of artists, welcoming Traffic, ZZ Top, The Dells, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, George Harrison and Prince. Prince was inducted by Alicia Keys and the notoriously shy singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gave a slightly humbled (for Prince, at least), short speech of acceptance (he couldn't resist mentioning his efforts to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. — at least he didn't paint "Slave" on his face again). Below is his speech from that night (from

"Please be seated. Thank you Alicia ... thank you Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely an honor. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I would like to say this. When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to, and after much negotiation Warner Brothers Records granted me that freedom and I thank them. Without any real spiritual mentors other than artists ... whose records I admired ... Larry Graham being one of them ... I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists ... a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best."

Prince's performance during the tribute to Harrison (who had died just a few years before his solo induction) was much ballyhooed for his stunning guitar solo, a reminder of just how multifaceted the eccentric performer's talents really were/are. Check the clip below.

This year's R&RHoF induction ceremony should be interesting. Red Hot Chili Peppers' crucial guitarist John Frusciante has said he ain't comin' (early drummer Jack Irons, though, will) and, even though it is now less than a month away,  guitarist Slash told the Associated Press he still has no clue whether Guns ’N Roses' original lineup will all be there, let alone perform together. Duff McKagan told Rolling Stone the same thing earlier. (I'm guessing that means it's probably not gonna happen.) The ceremony actually takes place in the Hall's hometown this year (Cleveland) on April 14. HBO, for the first time, will broadcast tape from the ceremony in early May.

Here's what Slash has to say about his old band's induction:

Click on for Born This Day featuring would've-been 100-year-old Lightnin' Hopkins.

—-Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 15 birthday include longtime Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh (1940); Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love (1941); Rock/Funk/Soul great Sly Stone (1944); one of the greatest guitarists ever, Ry Cooder (1947); Punk/Post Punk pioneer (Buzzcocks, Magazine) Howard Devoto (1952); frontman for glammy Hard Rock crew Twisted Sister, Dee Snider (1955); soulful singer/songwriter Terence Trent D'Arby (1962); reality show star and singer Bret Michaels (1963); one-hit-wonder ("Somebody's Watching Me") Rockwell (1964); TV host and Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath (1968); stellar guitarist for Metal's Iced Earth, Jon Schaffer (1968); singer/bassist for blink-182 and TV show host Mark Hoppus (1972); producer/Black Eyed Peas founding member (1975); rapper Young Buck (1981); and Blues legend Lightnin' Hopkins (1912).

Sam John Hopkins was born 100 years ago in Texas and grew up surrounded by Blues music. He met Blind Lemon Jefferson when he was 8 and decided that he wanted to be a Blues artist when he grew up. Boy, did he ever.

After some legal trouble and a prison stint, Hopkins moved to Houston in the mid 1930s to launch his career and was unable to get anything going, so he went back to his hometown and worked on a farm. Luckily, he decided to give it another go and was discovered by a label exec, who recorded his first sessions in 1946. Unlike certain other Blues legends, while Hopkins never performed much outside of Texas in those earlier years, he recorded tons (it's believed he made close to 1000 songs and has released more albums than any other Blues artist in history). The recordings were enough to spread the genius of Hopkins throughout the country.

In 1960, Hopkins performed at Carnegie Hall with Joan Baez and Pete Seeger and signed a new deal with Tradition Records. In the late ’60s, he did an album with Psych Rock pioneers 13th Floor Elevators and continued to record and tour festivals, Folk clubs and colleges, often traveling overseas for dates by this point.

Hopkins passed away 30 years ago from esophageal cancer and was celebrated for his contributions to American music and influence on innumerable Blues and Rock legends and amateurs (The New York Times obit for Hopkins called him the "greatest single influence on Rock guitar players").

Hopkins was the subject of a great late ’60s documentary called The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins and some Houston filmmakers have been working on a new documentary about the legend called Where Lightnin' Strikes. Check out the beginning of that flick below as well as a preview of the current in-the-works doc.

Happy 100th, Lightnin'! (By, I hope, sheer coincidence, as I am writing this, a huge storm is passing over our downtown office with tons of actual lightnin' — we hear ya, Hop!)

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