Bruce Springsten’s longtime manager Jon Landau was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Nov. 7, in the nonperformers’ category. And, since the ceremony was virtual, there was no traditional induction speech.
But there was a long introduction to Landau’s acceptance speech, in which Springsteen and others talked about him. It focused on a trio of albums that Landau worked on: Springsteen’s Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, both of which he co-produced; and Jackson Browne’s The Pretender, which he produced.
“Jon had the initial idea of doing something I had never even heard of,” said Springsteen of Landau’s musical contribution to Born to Run. “And it was something he called editing”
Below is a transcript of the introduction, followed by Landau’s acceptance speech, with a video of the acceptance speech as well. Speakers, in addition to Landau, Springsteen and Browne, include Jann Wenner (Landau’s one-time boss at Rolling Stone magazine) and Jimmy Iovine (who worked as an engineer and mixer on Born to Run and Darkness).
The induction ceremony was shown on HBO and can be streamed on HBO Max. Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, The Notorious B.I.G., T. Rex and Irving Azoff were also inducted.
LANDAU: Listening to my father’s records when I was 4 was the greatest early experience of my life. The music just seemed magical. And I wound up dedicating the rest of my life to finding those moments in music.
WENNER: Before I started Rolling Stone when I was 21 years old, I used to read a magazine called Crawdaddy!. There was one writer in there, this Jon Landau, who could write about the music as if he understood musicians.
SPRINGSTEEN: One of my first recollections of Jon Landau was his trashing of The Blues Project in Crawdaddy!, which held the very first of rock criticism. And I was going like, “Who does this guy think he is? Who’s Jon Landau?”
WENNER: When I started Rolling Stone, I wrote him a letter, and he wrote me right back and said, “This sounds (like) what I’d like to kinda do.” We went out to a concert together and I sat next to Jon, just watched him, seeing him tapping away on his legs, and bouncing, playing drums, so full of excitement about the music. It was like it was going through him. From then on, Jon contributed music coverage, writing about rock ‘n’ roll in an intelligent and passionate way.
SPRINGSTEEN: As a critic he was measured, very thoughtful, but he could take you down.
WENNER: Jon Landau is very definitive in his pronouncements. And sometimes, he gets it right, and sometimes, he gets it wrong.
BROWNE: We’d run into people that he had savaged in print, you know. Their eyes would narrow and say, “You’re Jon Landau?”
LANDAU: Look, I was born to be a critic. I got attention. It was some sort of success. But I was completely swept up in rock music. And then R&B.
WENNER: At the beginning of Rolling Stone, Jon was writing extraordinarily penetrating analyses of things like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave.
LANDAU: My feeling was, well, the audience was all white, so I used my space to highlight great American black music. But I really wanted to cross over from writing about music to producing music. The first chance was the great MC5, and then with Livingston Taylor. Of course, then I met Bruce, and everything changed. Went to see him in this little club. Maybe 15 people there. It was just the greatest. Then I saw him a second time. It was even better. Afterward, I wrote an article that I’m still proud of to this day.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Jon Landau said, “I saw rock ‘n’ roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
SPRINGSTEEN: First of all, when he said it, we didn’t think it was going to turn into some iconic quote that people will still bring up 40 years later, you know. He just saw a future in us.
LANDAU: He was looking to do something different with his new album (Born to Run). He needed a collaborator.
IOVINE: Before Born to Run came out, Bruce’s records were always complicated.
BROWNE: He hadn’t really figured out the studio yet. I’d seen him on a stage, and it was astounding. It was so dynamic and so theatrical. But how do you focus this into two speakers? That was the challenge with Bruce.
SPRINGSTEEN: Jon had the initial idea of doing something I had never even heard of. And it was something he called editing. “You mean, take something out? No, no, no, no. We’re the guys that put everything in. I don’t take anything out.”
IOVINE: “Jungleland” needed space. Bruce wanted a very big, Spector-ish sound. And when you’re playing a lot of notes, you can’t get that sound. So Jon kept pushing, simplifying. “Give it the space, the breath.” And as they’re doing this, the song is actually getting better. It was a fascinating moment. That epic song came to life.
BROWNE: That editor is so important. That person on the receiving end of a manuscript.
LANDAU: I don’t know whether it was my prior experience being in writer/editor relationships with Rolling Stone. But my way of relating to artistic people just felt natural.
SPRINGSTEEN: To this day, I think that’s my favorite of Jon’s production’s efforts, is the work we did together on Born to Run.
BROWNE: I was really inspired by Born to Run.
WENNER: The Pretender is much more of a classic rock record than Jackson ever did. The piano, Spector sound. It’s one of his best records.
BROWNE: Jon made it a point to work with all the best musicians he could find in L.A. He’d be looking at the speakers and demanding this sound to become something he needed it to be. He would say, “You mind if I got talk to the piano player?” And he’d go out there for a few minutes and come back, and suddenly, these grand chords would be coming out. And that kind of tinkering with the mechanics of the music had a power that was undeniable. Working with him brought me to a complete other level of what I could do.
IOVINE: After Born to Run, we started Darkness. Pressure on that album was monumental. So they brought someone in to help me a little bit. But I was like, “Jon Landau, this can’t happen!” He said, “Hey, Jim, stop. This is not about you. This is about you helping Bruce make the best album he can. It’s called the big picture.” That moment changed my life.
LANDAU: Whatever I do, I recognize who the other person is and what is gonna be helpful to them.
BROWNE: Jon has a luminous knowledge. It’s enabled he and Bruce to navigate waters that artists haven’t done before.
SPRINGSTEEN: There was an innate sort of intellectualism that was always part of the music we were working on. Thinking about what rock ‘n’ roll meant, its place in society, its place in our own maturing.
WENNER: Jon is a seminal figure in rock ‘n’ roll. All of us are enormously grateful. Thank you, Jon.
SPRINGSTEEN: As a writer, Jon was in the forefront. As a producer, critical. And he created a management style based around not just the business, but nurturing the highest artistic goals, along with the personal growth. No one did that before Jon Landau and I don’t think anyone’s done it as well, since. And he’s always been an incredible friend. I welcome you, good friend, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
LANDAU: To begin in the beginning, I love my mom and dad for gifting me with their humanity. But tonight I particularly want to thank them for taking me to a Pete Seeger concert when I was 4 years old. Right then and there, while Pete was singing and playing his loud, shiny banjo, I suddenly felt my entire mini-consciousness exploding. And that’s when I knew that I would spend my life in music. So thanks to my childhood hero, Pete Seeger.
I thank my wife Barbara, who I’ve loved for the last 43 years; our children Kate and Charlie, and my brother David. I love you all. Thanks to my most dedicated and loyal partner in JLM, Barbara Carr, and George Travis, Alison Oscar, Jan Stabile and my dear friend Chuck Plotkin. I love you all as well.
Now I started writing about music in 1962 while a junior in Lexington (Mass.) High School. And from there, I met the late Paul Williams in 1966, who I thank so much for having published me in his pioneering Crawdaddy! magazine. And that in turn led to 10 years of writing about music at Rolling Stone, where I learned my Ph.D in life. So love and thanks to my friend of a lifetime, Jann Wenner.
On May 9, 1974, I went to a concert at the Harvard Square Theatre, and I was so overwhelmed by the performance that I went home after the show and wrote those famous words that I’m still so proud of: “I’ve seen rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” That night, I decided that I would somehow find a way to work with Bruce on his music and career. And so I did, for the next 45 years, as his co-producer, manager, and most importantly, as a partner and friend who loves him deeply.
So as I offer my thanks to the Hall of Fame for this extraordinary recognition, I also want to thank some of the other artists with whom I’ve worked, among them, Wayne Kramer, Rob Tyner, Fred “Sonic” Smith and the extraordinary MC5; Livingston Taylor; my longtime friend Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band; Natalie Merchant; Shania Twain; Train; and Alejandro Escovedo. I offer my special thanks and love to the extraordinary Jackson Browne, whose faith in me back in 1976 gave me the confidence to reach for the sky.
And of course, I reserve my most heartfelt thanks for Bruce, who gave me the chance, the encouragement and the love that I needed to fully realize who I am and what I have to contribute, and without whom this moment could never have happened.
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