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Facing the music: WWE's rock stars and crooners
With the recent appearance on Monday Night Raw of music superstar Cyndi Lauper ( WATCH), one could say that the “girl who wants to have fun” came full circle from her first WWE visit in 1984. Through the years, the fabled Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection has withstood the test of time — individual performers, bands, and other musical artists of different genres have joined forces with WWE in a various number of capacities.
Of course, the explosion of Rock 'n' Wrestling was preceded by the advent of entrance music for many superstars. The Fabulous Freebirds are credited for being the first performers to use music in their presentation as they came into the arena to the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock anthem "Freebird." As other Superstars followed the Freebirds’ suit, entrance music changed how we viewed the overall entrance and persona of the ring warriors, and for that matter, the overall presentation of the live experience.
But Superstars notwithstanding, enter the charismatic Lauper, whose association with Captain Lou Albano transcended into a win-win situation for both her and WWE. Add to that the appearance of the iconic host of "American Bandstand," Dick Clark, at a WWE event in 1984 ( WATCH). Since then, it has been a veritable horn of plenty. With such outlets as WrestleMania and Monday Night Raw, musical performers have clamored to appear on a WWE event in any way, shape or form. What follows is a representative sample of what has taken place.
The 1980s gave WWE fans two rock icons to enjoy. Who can forget Alice Cooper accompanying Jake “The Snake” Roberts for his match against The Honky Tonk Man at WrestleMania III ( WATCH)? Or the maniacal Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath appearing with The British Bulldogs at WrestleMania 2 ( WATCH)? And if rhythm & blues was your forte, you can look no further than WrestleManias 2, III and IV, as Ray Charles, the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight sang their respective versions of "America the Beautiful." Plus, pioneer rappers Run DMC performed "The WrestleMania Rap" at WrestleMania V in Trump Plaza.
The 1990s saw musical diversity from a celebrity standpoint. Among the performers, contemporary music legend Robert Goulet sang the Canadian national anthem in his home and native land as part of WrestleMania VI in Toronto. The world of country music had representation at WrestleManias VII and VIII with Willie Nelson singing "America the Beautiful" in 1991, while Reba McEntire offered her rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" in 1992. Also singing "America the Beautiful" were the original wild man of rock 'n' roll, Little Richard (WrestleMania X), and Boyz II Men (WrestleMania XV). Also at New York City's WrestleMania X, New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg crooned a different tune, as he was a special guest ring announcer. The following year, Salt-N-Pepa sang "Whatta Man" in homage of football great Lawrence Taylor competing in the main event against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI. In 1998, rockers Mötley Crüe performed on both Sunday Night Heat and Monday Night Raw in honor of their former bodyguard, Test.
The new millennium continued to pique interest from various musical platforms. Performing "America the Beautiful" at WrestleMania were Ashanti (XIX), Michelle Williams (XXII), John Legend (XXIV), Nicole Scherzinger (XXV), Fantasia Barrino (XXVI) and Keri Hilson (XXVII). In a moment of great symmetry, Aretha Franklin reprised her 1987 performance 20 years later at WrestleMania XXIII.
The multi-talented Kid Rock bookended WWE appearances in the 2000s, appearing on Monday Night Raw in 2000, then performing on The Grandest Stage of Them All at The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania in 2009. Hip-hop artist Ice-T performed "Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy" for The Godfather at WrestleMania 2000, while the one and only Snoop Dogg made two WrestleManias his musical home (XXIV and XXVII). Fred Durst and his band Limp Bizkit played The Undertaker to the ring with "Rollin’ " at WrestleMania XIX back when Big Evil would ride his motorcycle to matches. Alternative and metal music also had presence, with Saliva and Drowning Pool doing the honors at WrestleMania XVIII, P.O.D. performing Rey Mysterio’s "Booyaka 619" at WrestleMania 22 and the legendary Motörhead playing Triple H into battle at both WrestleMania X-Seven and 21.
Going in another direction, various musical personalities were guest stars on Monday Night Raw, including longtime WWE fans Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Timbaland, Jewel ( WATCH), Flavor Flav ( WATCH), Rob Zombie ( WATCH), Toby Keith ( WATCH) and the aforementioned Ozzy Osbourne ( WATCH) and Snoop Dogg ( WATCH). Pitbull and Mya also made special appearances as a part of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's birthday celebration on Raw in 2011. (WATCH: PART 1 | PART 2)
Additionally, many musical artists and groups have had a major spotlight on WWE pay-per-view events via the use of official theme songs. One of the most notable are the legendary rockers AC/DC, who have had three of their songs ("Highway to Hell," "Thunderstruck" and "Spoilin’ For A Fight") included in that prestigious category.
The association that WWE has enjoyed with the music industry through the years has been extremely beneficial for both sides, as well as for the WWE Universe. And there’s no doubt that this connection will continue to shine on brightly in the years to come.