Grunge band Nirvana have been enlisted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Kiss and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
REM's Michael Stipe inducted the group, saying: "Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.
"Nirvana were kicking against the mainstream. They spoke truth and a lot of people listened."
The band's career was cut short by Kurt Cobain's death in 1994. His widow, Courtney Love, attended the ceremony.
"You know, I have a big speech, but I'm not going to say it," she said, before hugging Cobain's bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
"That's it," she concluded. "I just wish Kurt was here to do this."
Grohl, Nirvana's drummer and now frontman of rock group Foo Fighters, paid tribute to the musicians who formed the early line-ups of Nirvana, in particular drummer Chad Channing, who he singled out for his contributions to the band's breakthrough album Nevermind.
Bass guitarist Novoselic added: "Nirvana fans walk up to me every day and say thank you for the music.
"When I hear that, I think of Kurt Cobain."
Nirvana received their place in the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Artists can only be considered for the honour 25 years after their first release.
The remaining members, also including guitarist Pat Smear, were joined on stage by four female musicians to perform some of the band's best-known songs.
Joan Jett sang Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon took on Aneurysm, alternative musician St. Vincent performed Lithium, while New Zealand pop star Lorde sang All Apologies.
Other honourees at the New York ceremony included Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, 15 years after their leader was inducted as a solo artist.
He welcomed the band on stage, saying: "I told a story with the E Street Band that was, and is, bigger than anything I could have told on my own."
"We suffered ageing, illness and death together," Springsteen said. "We took care of each other when trouble knocked, and we hurt each other in big and small ways. In the end, we stuck with each other."
Their induction took 85 minutes, including performances of The E Street Shuffle, The River and Kitty's Back.
They were followed into the Hall of Fame by Maneater singers Daryl Hall and John Oates.
"Lucky for you, there are only two of us," Hall said to laughter from the audience.
Britain's Peter Gabriel was inducted by Coldplay singer Chris Martin, and made light of his elaborate stage outfits as a member of Genesis in the 1970s.
"Dream big, and let your imagination guide you, even if you end up dressing as a flower or a sexually transmitted disease."
Another British honouree was Cat Stevens, whose hits included Matthew and Son and Wild World.
"Thanks so much to my fans for believing," said Stevens, who gave up music for 25 years after converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977. "I can still see some sceptical faces, but my fans believed."
Rock legends Kiss were one of the more controversial inductees, having pulled out of a performance at the ceremony over a disagreement about their line-up.
Famous for their elaborate stage make-up and costumes, the band wanted to play with their current line-up, including founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, causing friction with retired members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.
But the quartet made peace and saluted each other in heartfelt induction speeches.
"This is a pivotal moment for all of us," said Simmons, the bass player on hits like Crazy Nights and Rock and Roll All Nite.
"We are humbled that the fans gave us the chance to do what we loved doing."
Country queen Linda Ronstadt, who has Parkinson's disease, was unable to attend the ceremony, instead receiving a musical tribute from Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks.
Glenn Frey, who played in Ronstadt's band before joining the Eagles, led her induction with a glowing tribute to "one of the greatest voices of all time".
"Linda Ronstadt recorded 31 albums. She sold over 100 million records and had a career that spanned five decades," he said.
"She has been a shining example and a true inspiration to every woman who ever stood in front of a microphone and sang her heart out."
The ceremony also saw the first ever inductions for managers of rock bands, which went to the late Brian Epstein, who guided the Beatles to stardom, and Andrew Loog Oldham, who launched the careers of the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton.
However, the former Stones' manager boycotted the ceremony.
"I won't be there," he said at a recent lecture in Berlin. "I'll tell you why: It's a television show.
"Twenty years ago, it was an incredible party in the Waldorf-Astoria where everybody could behave exactly as they could 20 years ago.
"And then it became a business. I think those people basically hijacked the name 'rock and roll.'"