Parton was one of this year’s class of inductees, which also included Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Lionel Richie, and Carly Simon.
Halford, who came out in 1998, received the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Award for Musical Excellence along with his band.
“They defined the sound we know of heavy metal and their sound is unmistakable,” Alice Cooper said of Judas Priest in his introduction. “And what can you say about Rob Halford’s voice? Never have screams covered such a range. Is there any emotion that he can’t express?”
“I’m the gay guy in the band,” Halford said in his acceptance speech, to rapturous applause.
“You see, that there is what heavy metal is all about,” he continued. “We call ourselves the heavy metal community, which is all-inclusive. So no matter what your sexual identity is, what you look like, the color of your skin, the faith that you believe in or don’t believe in, everybody’s welcome.”
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During her set, Parton, who was initially hesitant to be included in the Rock Hall’s class of 2022, debuted a new song from her upcoming rock album.
“If I’m gonna be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’m gonna have to earn it!” she told the crowd.
She saved “Jolene” for the grand finale, inviting nearly every 2022 inductee to join her onstage along with Halford.
Fellow inductee Eminem, however, was conspicuously absent from the sing-along. As The Advocate notes, there was an uncomfortable irony to honoring an LGBTQ icon like Halford the same night as the rapper, who has a troubling track record of homophobic lyrics.