Long Island Music Hall of Fame Praises The Best

NOT EVERY REGION CAN CLAIM ITS OWN MUSIC hall of fame. Some major cities don’t even have one. But for Jim Faith, the mastermind behind the Great South Bay Music festival and other music industry milestones, the immense amount of talent that has come from Long Island needed to be recognized. In 2004, Faith and some friends created the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (LIMHoF). “We were all in the music business in some form and we were unhappy with the perception that people had of Long Island,” said Faith, who now serves as the organization’s vice chairman. “We knew the musical history of Long Island and what a rich musical heritage we had. Everyone from John Coltrane to Twisted Sister to George M. Cohan to Itzhak Perlman.”

LIMHoF began as a ceremonial honor, but Faith always hoped they’d have a physical museum. They held their first gala and awards ceremony in 2006, with legends like Billy Joel, jazz pianist Mose Allison and classic rockers Vanilla Fudge among the first inductees. And they’ve welcomed a new class every two years since, which have included names like LL Cool J, Lou Reed, Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Jett and Clive Davis. LIMHoF also offers educational initiatives and scholarships to nurture future local talent. Now, a decade after that first ceremony, LIMHoF is set to open a museum in 2017 inside the Wyandanch Village project. “We found ourselves in the position to where we could go to the next level,” Faith said.

The museum will include interactive exhibits, historical memorabilia from inductees and performance areas where they hope to have concerts from bands and local students. They’ll also offer a bus-driven “touring museum” that will travel around to events and schools. Meanwhile, the sixth induction ceremony, which took place on Nov 3 at The Space at Westbury, was one of their most successful yet. Along with rap pioneer Big Daddy Kane, singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys, jazz bandleader Vince Giordano and film composer Carter Burwell, several spotlights were cast on the stage.

Steven Van Zandt
Best known as Bruce Springsteen’s right-hand-man in the E Street Band—as well as his memorable acting turn as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos—guitarist Steven Van Zandt is this year’s recipient of the Harry Chapin Award, given to those who have demonstrated a commitment to “humanitarian efforts on Long Island and beyond.”

Van Zandt joins past winners such as Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. “Though my work remains unfinished, I’m moved by even being considered to join the esteemed list of past honorees,” Van Zandt said. His long history of humanitarian work includes founding the activist group Artists United Against Apartheid as well as numerous performances for organizations like Amnesty International. He also found time to found the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which provides arts and music-based materials and curriculum for middle and high schools.

Steve Vai
Before becoming a whammy bar-wielding electric guitar god, Steve Vai holed up in his parent’s Carle Place home practicing the instrument for up to 15 hours at a time. Practice clearly paid off. Influenced by 70s rock legends like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, Vai worked as a transcriptionist and bandmate of Frank Zappa before going on to play with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. Still, it’s his nearly two dozen albums worth of face-melting solos and riffs that have solidified his place amongst the greats. “When I was informed of being inducted, the whammy bar on my guitar stood straight up,” Vai joked. “It’s an absolute privilege to be recognized for your contributions and having it come from your home turf is an extraordinary honor.”

Santo & Johnny
Speaking of guitar heroes, there might not be any other guitar-based instrumental more recognizable than Santo & Johnny’s 1959 hit, “Sleep Walk.” The melancholy, steel guitar-rooted melody remains a staple in films and television, influencing later rock ‘n’ rollers like Fleetwood Mac, Brian Setzer and even The Beatles.

“It feels very special to be recognized for what two brothers created 57 years ago,” said Johnny, who now lives in Great River. When asked if their induction has any special meaning for him, Johnny didn’t hesitate. “Yes it does, especially since I’ve been a Long Islander for more than 50 years.” The brother duo of Johnny and Santo Farina grew up in a two-family home in Brooklyn and Johnny was still a teenager when “Sleep Walk” became a hit. The two went on to record more chart breakers like “Love Story,” “Maria Elena” and even a cover of The Godfather theme. Still, it’s the unmistakable sound of “Sleep Walk” that can be heard blaring out of cars parked on lover’s lane.

Charles Koppelman
Though he may not be a household name, Koppelman has cultivated some of the biggest ones in music. From divas like Cher, Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross, to rappers Eric B. & Rakim and Vanilla Ice, Koppelman’s eye for talent is only superseded by his immense love for all genres of music. Over a 40-year career, the Brooklyn native and Roslyn Harbor resident has worked at CBS Records, Columbia and EMI before co-founding The Entertainment Company in 1975 and SBK Entertainment, Inc. in 1984.

The latter went on to become the largest independent music publisher in the world. “I’ve always supported Long Island and I’ve raised my family here,” Koppelman said. “As far as the music that’s come out of Long Island, it’s legendary and this organization recognizes that… those who perform and have talent, as well as those who…support that talent.” At age 76, Koppelman shows no sign of slowing down and is currently the chairman and CEO of C.A.K. Entertainment, Inc., a Manhattan entertainment consulting and financing firm.