By Arielle Dollinger & Peter Sloggatt
The Paramount saw a slew of musicians last Thursday night when the venue hosted the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Red Carpet Fundraising Gala – an event that, along with performances by The Billy Joel Band, Jen Chapin and Run D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniels and the induction of a new class of honorees, came with the announcement that the hall of fame’s museum would make its home at the Wyandanch Long Island Rail Road station.
“I really associate Long Island with the arts, for me,” said inductee and singer/songwriter Debbie Gibson, a former Lloyd Neck resident who was the youngest person ever to write, produce and perform her own No.1 hit when her song “Foolish Beat” topped the charts in 1988.
“I was never without a stage to perform on [on] Long Island,” Gibson said.
Gibson’s induction came at the tail end of a long night of appearances and performances by some of the giants of the music industry, all to celebrate the contributions of Long Islanders to the art, the craft and the business of making music. The parade of inductees, award recipients and presenters who crossed The Paramount’s stage that night was as unlikely a group to come together as could be. Long Island roots or connections were the common thread that brought together Dionne Warwick, Clive Davis, Roger Waters, Run DMC’s Darryl McDaniels, Ron Delsener, Kurtis Blow, Gibson and members of Billy Joel’s band.
The incongruities were only punctuated with a performance that paired Chapin, the musician daughter of the late Harry Chapin, with rap artist McDaniels of Run DMC. McDaniels, who is already in the Hall of Fame, was there to receive the Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award in recognition of his charitable works. His performance with Chapin was a mash-up of his autobiographical “Just Like Me,” which describes his feelings over finding out as an adult that he was adopted, with “Cat’s in the Cradle,” the Harry Chapin ballad that chronicles a widening emotional distance between a father and son.
Incongruous, yes. But it worked. And there to present the award: former Huntington resident Sandy Chapin who co-authored the song with her late husband.
Another electrifying performance came after record producer Clive Davis’ induction when he brought out his newest protégé, “X-Factor” winner Avery Wilson, who performed a soulful rendition of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.”
Davis, who was introduced by Warwick, is music royalty. The man credited with building the Columbia label before leaving to found Arista Records, Davis’s industry credits are worth an awards show all their own; credited with discovering Whitney Houston, his stable of artists includes Simon and Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, Christina Aguilera, Carlos Santana, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Kelly Clarkson.
Music royalty on a more local level followed with the induction of concert promoter Ron Delsener, the man who put Jones Beach on the map as a concert venue. Delsener was introduced by longtime friend Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist.
The real magic came at the end of the 5-1/2-hour gala, when Billy Joel Band members guitarist Russell Javors, saxophonist Richie Cannata, drummer Liberty DeVitto and the band’s bassist, the late Doug Stegmeyer, were inducted. Stegmeyer’s mother Elizabeth charmed the crowd with a word of advice to the “parents of all those long-haired teenagers.”
“Be patient,” she said, describing the houseful of young musicians who in time gelled around pop icon Billy Joel supplying what Joel called the “Long Island Sound” on “The Stranger,” “Turnstiles,” and “52nd Street” albums.
In an historic moment, the surviving members of the band reunited for the first time in 25 years. Their performance ended the gala with performances of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” and “You May Be Right.” Originally slated to play just one or two songs, the band rocked on after LI Music Hall of Fame Chairman Jim Faith asked those remaining in the audience, “Should they keep playing?”
The answer? A resounding yes. Among those remaining in an audience that had thinned over the course of the night, 77-year-old Ron Delsener, who rocked on to close the marathon night on his feet with the fans.