Let’s Talk About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Every year, artists are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and every year there are upsets and choices deemed controversial. It's time we have a discussion about it.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame began in 1983, as a way to honor those who shaped the genre of music. However, as years pass and music changes, the ceremony has inducted artists who aren’t involved in rock music—as Ice Cube stated when being inducted as a member of N.W.A.:
“Rock ‘n’ roll is not an instrument. It’s not even a style of music. It’s a spirit that’s been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop.”
That’s not what I’m really here to discuss. I think it’s well established that the ethos of rock and roll is what garnishes a nomination. While there’s a lot to cover, we should get this out of the way.
It’s safe to say that a lot of people who care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are not in my age group. None of my peers really care that The Cure or Def Leppard are getting inducted next year so, why should I? I’m 21 years of age, and I care solely and simply because I love music. The people that seem to care are upset that their favorite group from their youth didn’t get in. They take the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a literal sense, believing only rock artists should be inducted.
However, these older adults should understand something—no one makes rock music anymore. At least, not like the old school days of Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. Rock evolved into subgenres, from punk to metal to indie rock, and most rock bands don’t even make rock anymore. Fall Out Boy makes EDM, Maroon 5 make pop, and Paramore and The Killers both make new wave-inspired music. Foo Fighters might be one of the last few rock bands, and I guess Greta Van Fleet exists now…?
Nonetheless, mainstream rock has died.
Therefore, what does the music of today have to do with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? The Hall is about the past, not the present. What people don’t understand, especially the older demographic of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame genre, is that the present will one day be the past. One day, artists of 2018 will fit the criteria needed to qualify for the Hall, and there won’t be a rock band in sight.
So, what should qualify an artist to be inducted? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has five different categories. However, the one everyone cares about is the “Performer Category.” To be eligible, an artist must have released their first album at least 25 years ago—after which a committee decides who should be in the ballot for induction. As of recent, they’ve allowed a fan vote, but that vote is worth just one tally amongst the committee. Of course, the artist should also be good, and more importantly, influential.
Hence, this leads to what I want to discuss. The influence these artists have on music is more important than anything else. I think it’s fair to say that an artist who started trends, influenced other artists, and changed the landscape of music are the ones who should be inducted. So, let’s talk about this year’s inductees. The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music, and The Zombies are all getting inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of 2019.
I’m very happy to see Roxy Music, The Cure and Radiohead getting inducted. All three of them have had an impact on music in extraordinary ways: The Cure helped pioneer the goth music scene; Roxy Music had set the tone for new wave and punk; and Radiohead is one of the greatest bands of all time—as many people consider their album, OK Computer, to be one of rocks greatest moments, and their influence hasn’t even come full circle yet. All in all, there’s still much to be desired.
The nominated artists who didn’t make the cut include: Devo, MC5, Rage Against The Machine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, John Prine, Todd Rundgren, and Rufus ft. Chaka Khan. Of those, I feel that Kraftwerk and Rage are most deserving. Electronic music today wouldn’t exist without Kraftwerk, and Rage influenced rock and metal, alongside setting the stage for political acts. Even Devo had a huge influence on punk music, as well as new wave.
Let me make a disclaimer: I do not mean any disrespect to any artist I speak on, as I’m a fan of a lot of these acts, but I have issues. Stevie Nicks is a legend for her work with Fleetwood Mac, one of the most beloved bands of the `70s. However, her solo work? She had some successful singles, but did her career outside of Fleetwood Mac truly impact anything? Although, since starting this article, I see that many women, both ones I’ve talked to and from social media comments, consider her an icon for women—and I can accept that as a reason to allow her in. However, I wouldn’t forgive myself if I let this one go without a critique…I still feel her music as a solo artist is lacking.
I’m a Def Leppard fan, but they were just an `80s hair metal band. I will argue that about the whole genre, except for Guns N’ Roses who did have an impact on music. Neither Bon Jovi, who was nominated this year, or Def Leppard had a great influence on music. Sure they were successful, but success does not equal influence.
Like many people, I’m disappointed that certain artists aren’t yet inducted. I personally would have wanted to see Whitney Houston over Janet Jackson. Most people in the comment sections of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame social media platforms are upset that Todd Rundgren didn’t make it, and was snubbed over Radiohead and Janet Jackson. I’ll give Todd his credit—he has a great track record, not just an artist, but also a producer, songwriter, and engineer. Nonetheless, I don’t see any influence of his existing to this day, as talent doesn’t equal influence. Although, they go hand in hand—your influence should outshine your talent to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
There are so many influential artists that have yet to make it, and that’s what I want to see more of. Metal and punk are very much underappreciated, as mainstays like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Dead Kennedys, and Misfits have yet to see a nomination. Sonic Youth is another band I think should have been nominated as soon as they were eligible, as rock genres like alternative, indie, and grunge wouldn’t exist without them. Synth-pop hasn’t even been acknowledged, as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and New Order/Joy Division have never been nominated.
I think it’s fair to say those artists deserve a spot over the outpour of comments I see, asking why their favorite `70s rock artist hasn’t been nominated. Bands like The Doobie Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, Boston, and the countless others haven’t impacted the artists of today and more than likely won’t (ever). Not to say people don’t like these artists, or other artists don’t like these them, but there isn’t anyone getting inspired by these certain artists. A lot of the people upset that these bands haven’t been nominated are just deep in their nostalgia, and should just accept that some of the artists of their youth don’t need to be embedded in the eternal history of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I’d like to believe that in 100 years from now, a lot of music won’t be remembered. In today’s time, there isn’t anyone really caring about the music of the 1920s through the 1940s. Of the 1950s, only select artists like Elvis, Little Richard, and Ray Charles are remembered. Rightfully so, as they helped shape music to come. As time passes, we will naturally forget more and more artists of the past. I believe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be the testimony of time. The artists inducted should be the ones remembered 100 years from now. I think it’s fair to say certain artists should be remembered over others. For instance, I’d much rather the legacy of Kraftwerk be recognized over Def Leppard in 2018. Once all the acts that do deserve to be in there are in, we can swing back around and bring Def Leppard in, but not yet—not now.
Overall, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a good platform for cataloging legendary artists. Ideally, it should include the acts that stood the test of time, as well as impacted music to the point where artists and people today can recognize them as great. So, we need to just accept the fact that there are millions of artists who’ve existed, and not all of them are going to be remembered or rewarded. Even the good artists fall short to the greats, and what’s more important: remembering some good artists, or remembering the greats? The ones who’ve created genres, who’ve influenced countless acts, and the ones who’ve set themselves in their own lane that no one could come close to entering.
In short, get your priorities in order Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.