Oprah Winfrey was the biggest surprise of the night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. She noted that she’s rarely at a loss for words, but “he defines and defies the word legend.” She said that him casting her in The Color Purple changed the trajectory of her career. She’d never acted, and he said “Baby, your future’s so bright it burns my eyes.” She laughed, “I didn’t know what you were talking about!”
“You just have the most generous soul of anybody I know,” Oprah said. She described his ability to nuture talent, from new artists to established ones saying, “He has the incredible ability to pull people together from music and movie and TV in a way that nobody did before.”
Discussing his session for “We Are the World,” she said, “He was the one who wrote the sign ‘Leave Your Ego At The Door,'” letting every one there know that he could write that because he was able to do the same. She explained that Jones has 79 grammy nominations – more than anyone–and has won 27 times.
“He’s been underestimated, but never counted out,” she said. “He lives life completely on his terms and he has so much fun doing it.
Adding, “I want to be like you, I really do.”
Jones walked on stage and joked that he didn’t want to get into the Hall Of Fame too early. He then thanked and congratulated Donna Summer’s husband, noting that he produced her right before he did Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Jones recalled being young and spending all his time playing horns, not thinking about money or fame . “We came from the school of wanting to be the best musician you could possibly be,” he said. “I’m glad I came from that school.” He said that the best advice he ever got was to “travel around the world, listen to what people listen to, eat what they eat and learn 30 words in each language,” noting that he speaks and writes 24 languages.
Usher than took the stage to perform Jackson’s “Rock With You” from Off The Wall, an album Jones produced. Ever the showman, Usher recreated the King of Pop’s video for the song, laser lights and all. He even donned the same black suit jacket and red tie Jackson had on in the clip.
With such an illustrious career, the tribute could have been longer. It could have touched on Jones’ work with Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra among others. But no one was complaining, least of all Jones, who embraced Usher after he finished his performance.
Catch more from the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony when it airs Saturday May 18 at 9 pm ET/PT on HBO.
Watch our recent Radio.com Inside Out episode on 2013’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction class, below.