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Nostalgia rules at Rock Hall of Fame induction

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NEW YORK -- The Piano Man's beard is more salt than pepper these days. The Boss is a half-century old. And the Beatle -- the impetuous, impossibly handsome Beatle who wanted to fill the world with silly love songs -- is a widower with three grown children.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame convened Monday night to honor its new inductees, and what it staged was a sweet, slightly melancholy blend of elegy and glory-days reminiscence. The angry young men and women, the ones who defined the rebellion, have grayed and grown."Tonight," said Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, co-chairman of the Cleveland-based hall, "tonight we honor legends."

The rebels, now legends. How incongruous: They came in formal wear and ate off fine Waldorf-Astoria china, these architects of status-quo toppling who made lives out of fiddling and strumming and banging and swiveling and setting raw thoughts to music.

Getting top billing: Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, with nearly a century of music among them and strikingly diverse origins. McCartney came from the middle-class grit of Liverpool, England, Springsteen from the streets of New Jersey, Joel from the postwar suburbs of Long Island.

"I'm from Levittown," Joel said, marveling after Ray Charles inducted him. "This is not supposed to happen to people like me."

McCartney, in his first major appearance since his wife, Linda, died last year, lamented her absence. "I would like my baby to share this with me," he said.

He also threw in a plug: "While we're here, you've got me, you've got John in this, how about George and Ringo? C'mon, guys." The Beatles were inducted as a group in 1988.

Springsteen jammed with the E Street Band, a much-awaited precursor to an upcoming reunion tour. He stood back and smiled, a generation of memories in his eyes, as Clarence Clemons did his sax solo in "Promised Land."

"Thank you for giving me access and entrance into your lives. I hope I've made a good companion," Springsteen said.

U2's Bono, in a manic, brilliant tribute, covered just about everything -- from Springsteen managing to have "no bad hair period, even in the '80s" to his "eyes that could see through America."

"He created an alternative mythology -- one where ordinary lives became extraordinary," Bono said.