Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions: Genuine Tribute or Marketing Strategy?
I recently did a video podcast with Brian and Kevin on this and it was a lot of fun mainly because it’s a debate. Let’s begin!
Inductees for 2023:
- Kate Bush
- Sheryl Crow
- Missy Elliott
- George Michael
- Willie Nelson
- Rage Against the Machine
- The Spinners
It’s that time of the year to get completely irritated, outraged, and enraged again!
Every year for the past almost 40 years the “Hall of Fame” has opened its doors to new artists into their hallowed halls. But the issue for many is, why haven’t so many artists gotten in? From Chubby Checker to most recently the Pixies to Soundgarden many have been left off the list but their success is foundational for influence and their music is eternal for many. It’s a divisive issue and if it truly is a Hall of Fame, then it should have let in every act (with certain criteria) prior to its opening in 1995. Why? Look at what every Hall of Fame has done in the past.
The Baseball Hall of Fame Opened on June 12, 1939
This was arguably during the golden age of baseball and it let in greats that were undoubtedly the best players of the era. The opening set criteria for getting people in very soon after (20 years) it became a national pastime.
The RR HOF started as an idea arguably 35 years after Rock and Roll was “invented’ in 1987. Like baseball, it had many hundreds if not thousands of artists to consider and eventually leaned on this as the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
- Elvis Presley
- James Brown
- Little Richard
- Fats Domino
- Ray Charles
- Chuck Berry
- Sam Cooke
- The Everly Brothers
- Buddy Holly
- Jerry Lee Lewis.
Not bad, right?
Sure, the first class includes some Rock and Roll founders from the ’50s, and like baseball’s first class:
- Ty Cobb
- Walter Johnson
- Christy Mathewson
- Honus Wagner
- Babe Ruth
Is a list of “heavy hitters” (pun intended big time) in the genre.
The difference between the two halls of fame is what happened next.
Yes, there was bigotry in Baseball, let’s not pretend there wasn’t. Yes, it’s a man-only sport and YES YES every player today is probably an overpaid crybaby but baseball players get into the Hall of Fame.
How is Dolly Parton a Rock and Roll star?
Dolly was put in last year. Hip Hop artists have gotten in. Heavy Metal, Punk et al have gotten in. It’s blurred the lines as to what is rock and roll thereby making it very gray and very argumentative.
If you are going to let NWA in, Why aren’t OutKast, Wu-Tang Clan, Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, and Salt-N-Pepa?
If you are going to let in Green Day, why not Black Flag?
PS Pop punk is a very stupid name.
I could go on but it is obvious why.
According to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it aspires to connect, educate, and inspire through the powerful medium of rock & roll. Recognized as a universal language, music motivates us to engage and become part of a greater community. Visitors, both virtual and in-person, delve into the history of artists, relating their stories with personal experiences. The artifacts curated by the hall are instrumental in forging meaningful bonds with fans globally, emphasizing the inspirational aspect of rock & roll.
Over time, the Hall’s selection process has faced criticism for its exclusivity, especially concerning female artists who comprise a minor portion of the inductees. The evolving definition of rock ‘n’ roll, encompassing hip-hop, country, and other genres, has also sparked debate. The inherent anti-establishment sentiment in many musicians clashes with the institution’s nature, leading some to label it as “outdated.”
The Hall’s selection criteria remain ambiguous, with outsiders relying on scattered information from the largely non-transparent nomination and voting procedures. The variety of nominees raises questions about the Hall’s intent: Are personal preferences driving nominations? Or are certain artists chosen merely to enhance the Hall’s reputation? Originally centered on the late 50s, the Hall’s focus has shifted over the decades, now grappling with the diverse musical landscape of the 1990s. The institution’s relevance in the post-MTV era, combined with blurring genre lines, challenges its foundational premise.
Despite their significant contributions, several artists have been consistently overlooked for induction. Some notable mentions include:
- Phil Collins
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- Brian Eno
- Peter Frampton
- Iron Maiden
Recent Developments: In light of recent controversies, Jann Wenner, co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, has been removed from the board. The decision followed an interview where Wenner’s remarks were perceived as both sexist and racially insensitive. This incident underscores the ongoing challenges the institution faces in promoting inclusivity and diversity.
Alternative Induction Choices
Over the years, some fans and critics have debated the Hall’s decisions, suggesting alternative artists deserving of induction in place of the actual inductees. For instance:
- Jethro Tull (Electric Light Orchestra)
- Judy Collins (Laura Nyro)
- Billy Ward and His Dominoes (Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers)
- Ben E. King (solo) (Little Anthony and the Imperials)
- Chubby Checker (Del Shannon)
- Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (Bobby Darin)
- Procol Harum (Chicago)
- The Shangri-Las (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
- Iron Maiden (Bon Jovi)
Noteworthy Opinions: Famed artist Ozzy Osbourne, who achieved significant success both solo and with Black Sabbath, has yet to be nominated since becoming eligible in 2006. He once remarked that the nomination holds no value for him since it’s not determined by fans but by industry insiders. In his words, Black Sabbath was always a “people’s band,” and that’s what mattered to him.
Upcoming Events: For the first time, fans worldwide will be able to witness the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony live. The event will be streamed on Disney+ on November 3, 2023.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a marketing scheme at heart. The paranoia and outrage is to get people interested in it. It should just be a museum.
I could argue in 1939 that Babe Ruth was the greatest player in the history of baseball because look at his numbers!
I can’t argue that (whatever musician or band) deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because music is subjective. If it’s record sales, then yeah we could have a debate and say because (whatever) band had (whatever) sales, then if that’s the bottom line to get in as the “best of all time” then let’s have that debate.
But to pick and choose who gets in, that sucks.