R.E.M., Van Halen set for Rock Hall; 1st rap act slated

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Modern rock mainstays R.E.M., hard rock legends Van Halen, "Godmother of Punk" Patti Smith, Wall of Sound girl group the Ronettes and rap pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five make up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2007, announced Monday.

The Grandmaster Flash collective — Kid Creole, Cowboy, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, Mr. Ness, Raheim — will become the first rap act inducted into the Rock Hall.

A panel of 600 industry figures selected the five acts to be inducted at the annual ceremony, set for March 12 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. To be eligible for induction, this year's class had to release their first single no later than 1981.

The event also will pay tribute to late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, who served as the chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Mike Mills told Billboard.com on Monday morning that the band was particularly pleased to be in the same class of inductees as Patti Smith, an acknowledged influence on the band who called Stipe on Monday to congratulate the band on the Hall of Fame nod.

"It was really great to be able to say 'Congratulations to you' back to her," Stipe said. Mills added that "she's been up (for induction) before and hasn't gotten in. I was afraid that her lack of huge record sales might blind people to her influence."

Van Halen, meanwhile, will face a decision about performing at the ceremony with ex-frontmen David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar.

Jonathan Cohen is senior editor at Billboard. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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