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Red Hot Chili Peppers Bring Emotion and Funk to Rock Hall Induction Ceremony

Red Hot Chili Peppers at Rock Hall Ceremony
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Red Hot Chili Peppers were the very last act inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, late Saturday night  – and with the ceremony creeping close to the five-hour mark, many in attendance had already split.

However, the California funk-rockers were clearly who much of the crowd were waiting to see — and they did not disappoint.

The band was inducted by comedian Chris Rock, who recalled seeing them accidentally when he was younger. (He “couldn’t understand a word they said”—and, on top of that, “they had socks on their d—ks.”) However, Rock smartly pointed out the secret of their unique sound: “If George Clinton and Brian Wilson had a kid, he’d be ugly — but he’d be Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Rock’s hilarious introduction set up a series of sincere speeches by the band. Former drummers Jack Irons and Cliff Martinez were inducted along with the group’s current time-keeper, Chad Smith. The latter thanked his mom for tolerating his drums and expressed gratitude for other former Chili Peppers, who weren’t there but were “all part of the [band’s] journey.”

One of those players mentioned often was guitarist John Frusciante, who was not in attendance. Another was beloved former guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died of a drug overdose in 1988. In a classy gesture, his brother accepted the induction trophy on his behalf.

Slovak’s absence proved to be emotional for bassist Flea, whose passionate, effusive speech was among the night’s best. He choked up as he thanked his late friend for, among other things, telling him to take up playing bass. (Flea also grew teary-eyed while thanking his mom for coming to the ceremony and after expressing his love for funk master George Clinton.)

The bassist also thanked fellow inductees Guns N’ Roses and Beastie Boys — and reminisced about childhood shenanigans with the former’s Steven Adler and Slash — and reiterated how much playing music still means to him.

Kiedis, the last band member to take the mic, spoke much about friendship and the band’s tight bond. He also spoke with gratitude over the unconditional support he’s received from bandmates, even during his lowest periods.

The singer recalled a particularly difficult time when Flea once discovered him hungover and passed out. After the bassist woke him up, Kiedis reportedly said, “I was gonna be the James Brown of the ’80s!”—which was enough to keep Flea around to offer encouragement.

The band’s chemistry and jovial mood carried over to their live performance, which encompassed hits old (the slithering funk of the ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ hit ‘Give It Away’), new (2011’s ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’) and in between (2002’s ‘By The Way’). As is their custom, both Flea and Kiedis shed their fancy duds and went shirtless while they played.

The three-song set segued right into an extended jam session on the Stevie Wonder classic ‘Higher Ground’ (which the Chili Peppers famously covered on their classic 1989 disc ‘Mother’s Milk’), during which the band was joined onstage by Slash, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, George Clinton and Ronnie Wood, among others, for the night’s final performance.

The career-spanning set was a testament to how vibrant RHCP still are as a live act—and how vital they feel as a creative entity.

“We’re going somewhere,” Kiedis told the Associated Press before the ceremony. “How can we stop and take an award when really we’re just halfway there? But it is nice to be together with people that we spent some incredible years along the way writing songs and playing shows in little theaters and sweaty little transvestite clubs and having the time of our lives.”

Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers Answer Questions Backstage at the Rock Hall Ceremony

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