The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

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Jewel inducts Brenda Lee

When I was asked to induct Brenda Lee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I figured I’d better do a little homework. I thought I knew about Brenda Lee, but when I realized all I didn’t know, it was very humbling. For instance, when I was 6 years old, I was singing with my parents in Eskimo villages in Alaska, and when Brenda was 6, she was already singing on Atlanta radio stations. When I was 11, I had graduated to playing bars and restaurants with my dad’s bands, and when Brenda was 11 she’d already graduated to a major record label deal ... all of which goes a long way to explain why Brenda was always mature beyond her years, and why she never, ever sang like a little girl. Even when she made her first record, she already had that killer rockabilly growl in her voice. I knew Brenda was a great pop singer, but I didn’t know that she had more than 50 singles that hit the Billboard Hot 100, and of course I knew she was a country star, but I didn’t know that she also had a string of R&Bchart smashes, as well. But I think the coolest thing I learned was that Brenda fronted the first rock and roll band to come out of Nashville and that was when she was only 13. There are artists who sing songs and artists who own the songs they sing. Brenda owns her songs. She pours real-life experience into every note, every phrase, every lyric. She brings passion and soul to everything she does, and she’s been doing it for 50 years. I called Harold Bradley, who played guitar on many of Brenda’s records, and whose brother, Owen Bradley, produced a lot of her records. I asked him how Owen recorded those sessions and Harold said that everyone played together in one room, and Brenda sang the song straight through with the band. And I can’t impress on people enough today how hard that is ... there’s no computers, no pix perfection ... it was all one take, and every single song is an incredible take. There were no computers, and no matter what style of music, she’s great with that incredible voice. She’s always come back to her first love ... rock and roll. The Beatles opened for Brenda in Hamburg, Germany, and John Lennon sure got it right when he said that she has the greatest rock and roll voice of them all. Brenda is the real deal. She’s an icon for singers, for young girls and grown women. She’s about reality and conviction and courage and heart. It gives me great pleasure to induct Brenda Lee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.