Now known as Yusuf, the singer-songwriter of 1970s folk-rock hits such as "Wild World" and "Moonshadow" converted to Islam and turned his back on pop music stardom at the end of the decade.
Thursday during the ceremony, Yusuf re-entered that fray after being introduced by Art Garfunkel.
The 65-year-old, dressed in a crisp gray suit over a yellow T-shirt, drew surprised laughs from the crowd when he thanked Rock Hall voters for electing "someone who doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, doesn't throw television sets out of hotel rooms and only sleeps with his wife.... It's a slightly bold move — and very rock 'n' roll."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland is dedicated to showcasing the history and significance of popular music. Every year abut 600 voting members decide which artists to induct into its hall of fame. This year Linda Ronstadt, Nirvana, KISS, Hall & Oates, the E Street Band and Peter Gabriel were among those being honored.
It's a star-studded event where inductees and their peers take the stage (Thursday's guests included Courtney Love, Joan Jett and Lorde). Tickets to the sold-out event started at $50 for the upper reaches of the arena, and $3,000 for seats at one of the 81 tables on the arena floor.
A special with highlights from speeches and performances from this year's ceremony is scheduled to premiere May 31 on HBO.
Though Yusuf's performance of signature pop hits "Father and Son," "Wild World" and "Peace Train" was a highlight Thursday, it was a ceremony as noted for who wasn't there as who was.
Nirvana lead singer and songwriter Kurt Cobain, E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons and keyboardist Danny Federici and Beatles manager Brian Epstein didn't live to experience being welcomed into the institution.
Cobain's mother and sisters accompanied surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic onstage following the introduction by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, and his mother, Wendy O'Connor, suggested that the group's induction "would have made Kurt very proud. He might not have said so, but he would have been proud."
Grohl and Novoselic lauded Cobain's tragic journey. "You've got to remember: Nirvana never moved to the mainstream," Novoselic said. "The mainstream came to Nirvana, and that was our crisis."
Cobain's widow Courtney Love also elicited surprised reactions — including some boos — from onlookers when she stepped to the microphone for a few words, before turning to hug Grohl and Novoselic, with whom she's battled over various aspects of Nirvana's legacy in the years since Cobain's death almost exactly 20 years ago (April 5, 1994). Love said their daughter, Frances Bean, was ill and could not attend.
Cobain's influence on others manifested during the performance by Novoselic, Grohl and latter-day guitarist Pat Smear in which they were joined by a series of female lead singers, starting with Joan Jett for "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon on "Aneurysm" and Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, on "Lithium."
It concluded with 17-year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter phenom Lorde leading all Nirvana's guest singers on the closing number, "All Apologies."
Another new inductee, Ronstadt, wasn't on hand because Parkinson's disease has rendered the highly regarded vocalist unable to sing or travel.
Carrie Underwood and Emmylou Harris joined a quintet that included Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow to sing several of Ronstadt's biggest hits, including "You're No Good," "Blue Bayou," "It's So Easy" and "When Will I Be Loved."
"Linda Ronstadt was a shining example to any woman who ever stood in front of a mirror and sang her heart out," said Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, noting with affection that when he and Don Henley were part of Ronstadt's backup band and told her they wanted to form a group of their own, their employer "fully supported us."