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Kiss made up, but its music went unheard. Nirvana used four women rockers to sing Kurt Cobain's songs. And Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band - predictably - turned its honor into a marathon.
The three acts were ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday in a colorful induction ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. They were joined by the blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates, British rocker Peter Gabriel, 1970s folkie Cat Stevens and the absent Linda Ronstadt.
Nirvana was the emotional centerpiece. The trio rooted in the Seattle-area punk rock scene was voted into the hall in its first year of eligibility. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit like a thunderclap upon its 1991 release, but the band was done after Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago this month.
"Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music," said Krist Novoselic, the band's bass player, who was inducted with drummer Dave Grohl. "When I hear that, I think of Kurt Cobain."
Joan Jett was chosen to sing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, St. Vincent and Lorde each took turns at the microphone, with Lorde's version of "All Apologies" ending the night.
Kiss was responsible for pre-ceremony drama. The two original members still active, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, thought the replacements for ex-bandmates Ace Frehley and Peter Criss should perform at the ceremony instead of the original four. The result was Kiss's music went unheard.
Still, the estranged band members spoke warmly of each other when the quartet appeared behind the microphone. "In and out of makeup, I'll always be the Catman," said drummer Criss, referencing his makeup in the band. "You've got to forgive to live."
Springsteen's 1999 entrance into the Rock Hall without the E Street Band was a sore point for some of its members. They got their due Thursday in the sidemen category, although it was a posthumous honor for saxman Clarence Clemons and keyboard player Danny Federici.
The band, known for its long concerts, made up for lost time. Their induction took 85 minutes, as individual members ignored requests to keep their speeches short.
"Lucky for you, there are only two of us," Daryl Hall said when he was inducted with partner John Oates. The duo was a mainstay on the radio during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They performed some of their hits, including "She's Gone," "I Can't Go For That" and "You Make My Dreams Come True."
Ronstadt, the siren of the Los Angeles country-rock scene of the 1970s, couldn't make it to her induction. Now retired, she suffers from Parkinson's disease and doesn't travel much. Glenn Frey, who played with fellow future Eagle Don Henley in Ronstadt's backup band, saluted her with an induction speech.
Stevens, the 1970s era hitmaker who left his music career behind when he converted to Islam, seemed moved by the honor, calling it "unexpectedly, but strangely, outrageously rock 'n' roll."
"I'm certainly not the best of you," he said. "But looking around, I'm not the worst, either."
Peter Gabriel wasn't around for his last induction in 2010, for his work as a member of Genesis. "It feels better when you're here," he said backstage.
Gabriel said aspiring musicians should surround themselves with brilliance and, noting his early failures as a drummer, shouldn't be afraid to try different things.
"Dream big, and let your imagination guide you, even if you end up dressing as a flower or a sexually transmitted disease," said Gabriel, known for his theatrical outfits during early Genesis days.
The first two artist managers were inducted into the Hall: the late Brian Epstein, of the Beatles, and Andrew Loog Oldham, of the Rolling Stones.
Associated Press correspondent John Carucci contributed to this report.