The Rock Hall’s track record for including women in its canon has famously been abysmal and, at Friday night’s induction ceremony, Janet Jackson was just one of two women in this year’s class. She was not amused, capping off her remarks with a simple demand for the Hall: “Induct more women.” Not in ten or 20 years, but starting in 2020, she made clear. Jackson bucked tradition and opted not to perform after her speech, reportedly due to the ceremony airing at a later date on HBO, which recently aired a documentary accusing her brother, Michael, of sexually abusing two boys.
The rest of Jackson’s speech framed her four-decade-and-counting legacy as a group effort. She commended her late father, Joe Jackson, for pushing her to pursue music when it wasn’t her first choice; her collaborators and supporters, including Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Questlove, for their guidance; and, of course, her brothers for paving the way. The Jackson 5 were inducted in 1997 and Michael again in 2001, as solo artist. Janet noted, “Tonight, your baby sister has made it in.”
Read her full speech below.
This is a big moment.
When I was kid my dream wasn’t to be singer. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to be a lawyer. It was my father’s dream. He wanted me to become this wonderful performer. He encouraged me. He was the first one to encourage me. Music became my passion.
In 1997, my brothers were recognized for their musical passion by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I was so, so proud. As you saw in the clip, I was always crashing their rehearsals. I was always tagging along, always with my brothers. I witnessed, along with the rest of the world, my family’s extraordinary impact on popular culture. Not just in America, but all around the globe, the entire globe. As the youngest in the family, I was determined to make it on my own. I wanted to stand on my own two feet, but never in a million years did I expect to follow in their footsteps.
Tonight, your baby sister has made it in.
I didn’t do this alone, though. There’s a world of people that supported me along the way.
I want to begin by thanking my incredibly strong family, my wonderful mother and father, my sisters and my brothers. You guys never stopped believing in me. In the early ‘80s, it was my father who took me to A&M Records when I was this unproven 14-year-old. Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss had enough faith in me to give me a record deal. I’m forever to grateful to you and the entire A&M family, which includes you, Jesus Garber. I also want to thank Angela Winbush, Rene Moore and Leon Sylvers. You guys were the first believers.
Two great men — Dick Clark and Don Cornelius — introduced me to this vast audience, and to all the program directors and the DJs all around the world, you supported me and my music for the past 37 years. You’ve made all the difference, and I thank you for that.
Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis], can you guys please stand up? In the mid-’80s, you came to A&M Records and you were asked if there was any artist you would want to produce, who would it be? And you guys said, “Janet.” That’s a real story. You guys are my two dads and so much more. You are brilliant producers, incredible songwriters, wise teachers and my great friends. I salute you tonight for the body of work that we created together, but also for your contribution to the world of music. I love you guys.
I never thought I was a good dancer, but I loved the way dancing made my body feel. I have to thank all the choreographers I ever worked with, especially Paula Abdul, Anthony Thomas, Terry Bixler, Tina Landon and Gil Duldulao.
I love you guys so much. Janet Zeitoun, Wayne Lukas and Kevin Aucoin, Tara Posey, Fran Cooper — even when it was hard for me to look at myself in the mirror, you always guys made me feel so fabulous.
Questlove, please stand. You have been my biggest champion, thank you so much.
I have to thank my core JDJ team — Jessica Davenport, you were there over 30 years ago when I just started on Good Times; Jaime Mendoza and Terri Harris, you make my daily life run smoothly. Thank you so much.
I also want to say a personal word to each and every fan. You’ve been with me every step of the way. In all my ups. All my downs. I never have and never will take you for granted. I love you with all my heart.
Thank you God for giving us life and the ability to embody goodness.
With God all is possible, and all is good.
And I want to thank my baby, my beautiful son. He wakes me up every single morning singing his own little melodies. He’s only two, you guys. I want you to know that you’re my heart, you’re my life, and you have shown me the meaning of real, unconditional love. Mama loves you, Eissa, rah rah rah.
And Rock and Roll Hall of Fame please, 2020: Induct more women.
Thank you so much.