Cliff Richard and Robbie Williams join British music's Hall of Fame

Louise Jury,Arts Correspondent
Friday 12 November 2004 01:00
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After votes that will provoke heated arguments for weeks, the public have chosen Sir Cliff Richard, Queen and Robbie Williams as among the most important rock and pop legends of the past 50 years.

In a ceremony at the Hackney Empire in London last night, all three acts were inducted into the UK's first, symbolic Music Hall of Fame alongside five founding members - The Beatles, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, Madonna and U2 - who were ruled so iconic that their membership was not in doubt.

Priscilla Presley, in a rare public appearance, and Rita Marley both accepted the award on behalf of their late husbands at the event, the culmination of weeks of rock nostalgia on Channel 4.

The actor Dennis Hopper piled praise on U2, represented by their frontman Bono who, in turn, paid tribute to Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, who was awarded a special honorary membership for his profound influence on the course of pop music by signing bands such as U2.

But it was the five elected members that will cause the most spirited debate after members of the public chose Sir Cliff to represent the Fifties, the Rolling Stones for the Sixties, Queen for the Seventies, Michael Jackson for the Eighties and Robbie Williams for the Nineties. He performed live at last night's ceremony.

Punk, the New Romantics and other movements that scarred or cheered the musical development of the nation were swept aside in the vote - although fans could choose only from the 10 nominees per decade drawn up by a panel of music experts. Duran Duran may have had a resurgence of street credibility in the past year or so, but were not deemed important enough to feature in the nominations for the Eighties.

Acts needed only to have been influential or successful in Britain to qualify. The UK Music Hall of Fame was inspired by the revered Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States. Induction is regarded as the highest honour a musician can receive. Channel 4, which devised the British version with Initial, part of the Endemol company which makes Big Brother , hopes it will become an annual event with a permanent visitor attraction.

The event, which was compered by the television presenter Jamie Theakston, and will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday, attracted acts as diverse as the Thrills and Grace Jones.

Ronnie Wood represented the Rolling Stones to receive their award from Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, while the Darkness were chosen to honour Queen, represented by Brian May and Roger Taylor.

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The artist Tracey Emin paid tribute to Madonna, who also received a videotaped homage from the fashion designer Stella McCartney, dressed as the singer in her Material Girl phase, and the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, in a Madonna-style coned bra.

Priscilla Presley asked Sir Richard Branson to make the presentation to her on behalf of Elvis, and the boxer Lennox Lewis showed his musical passions by lobbying to be allowed to make the award for Bob Marley.

Decade by Decade

1950s

The public voted for Sir Cliff Richard to represent music in the Fifties

1960s

Rolling Stones hit song 'Satisfaction' epitomised the swinging Sixties

1970s

Queen's 1975 anthem 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is still a national favourite

1980s

Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' album made him a revolutionary pop icon

1990s

Robbie Williams performed live at last night's ceremony

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