Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Fans of Kiss, Rush, Yes, Chicago, and the Moody Blues (and at least a dozen others) will have another year to deride the Rock and Roll Hall as “a joke” or something worse – as none of these much loved artists made this years list of nominees for induction in 2011. They will have to wait, I suppose in vain, for another year.
As it stands, this years list is pretty good. There have been worse.
- Alice Cooper
- Beastie Boys
- Bon Jovi
- Geils Band
- Donna Summer
- Darlene Love
- LL Cool J
- Tom Waits
- Neil Diamond
- Laura Nyro
- Joe Tex
- Chuck Willis
Let me be upfront with my long standing criticisms of the Hall.
- Despite posted “rules” to the nominee process, for most fans it lacks a certain transparency.
- Why the insistance on inducting 5 artists each year? How about none when no one passes muster? While the Hall has the right to do that in thier rules, they still insist on inducting at least 5.
- The induction of The Bee Gees, Madonna, and last year Abba, challenge almost any definition of Rock and Roll. While they all might be mega-selling pop artists, none have had the street cred of other pop oriented inductees, like Elton John and maybe Billy Joel (did I just say that?) who most understand. Plus, Agnetha was a no show for Abba’s induction…
Now that is out in the open, let’s consider this year’s list.
Most deserving first.
Neil Diamond – As schmaltzy as the “Jewish Elvis” has become, his Brill building credentials are impeccable and “Cherry Cherry” and “I’m a Believer” is as rock as “Wake Up Little Suzie.” Plus, where would Karaoke be without “Sweet Caroline?”
Bon Jovi – While I am sick of hearing Jon talk about how many records his band has sold (over 100 million!) can anyone deny they were the biggest “rock” act of the last 20 years? While their catalogue is lighter on classic tunes than, say AC/DC – “Livin on a Prayer” is simply irresistible. The talk-box guitar and arena sing-a-long chorus make you want to extend your arm with pinkie and first fingers extended every time.
Donna Summer – Look, like it or not disco is in the hall, and Summer’s hits with Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellote are some of the best that era produced. Not only that, but she proved she was more than the product of those producers having hits with others. This is a claim Darlene Love and many others can’t make. Plus, who can argue that recording a orgasm against a dance beat, as in “Love to Love You Baby” isn’t a bit rock and roll.
Chic – Bassist Bernard Edwards and guitarist Nile Rodgers are both wildly respected by musicians. Edwards was a bass master and “Good Times” is to bass guitar what “Johnny B. Goode” is to rock guitar. The grooves made by Edwards, Rodgers, and drummer Tony Thompson took James Brown to another level. Is it no wonder this rhythm section appeared on so many records.
Donovan – What would the sixties be without the English Dylan? What would 1968 be with “Sunshine Superman?” Sure he was skewered in Don’t Look Back by the Bard himself as being lightweight, but can anyone deny that his sixties hits were both melodic and plentiful? Anyone who can provide the Allman Brothers with a tune they jam on for over 40 minutes for almost 40 years is clearly rock and roll.
Alice Cooper – I get it. Alice was all about expanding the vision of the rock show from concert to theater. For this he was enormously influential and deserves recognition. But the music? Are any of his songs truly as durable as the previous listed artists? I think not. I love “Eighteen” and the opening riff to “Schools Out” is right now being played in guitar center somewhere but the rest of his catalog is weak. Let us not forget as a solo artist he did do “Only Women Bleed” – this may be unforgivable. Maybe next round.
Beastie Boys – I don’t get it. Never a fan. I just don’t get them. Critics love them however and they sold millions of records. Great producers got their start with them. “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party” is a watershed for rap. I suppose they’ll get in sooner or later – maybe even this year. When they do, I still won’t get it.
- Geils Band– This is tough one. Everyone loves front man and DJ Peter Wolf. A walking encyclopedia. But listen to hits like “Centerfold” and you think Huey Lewis might have been a heavy, serious artist compared to that junk they were putting out. While it is true everyone was a bit lost in the 80’s, J. Geils strayed farther from their blues origins than anyone. You have to give them credit for having a harmonica player named Magic Dick (on his lickin stick!). THAT is undeniably rock and roll.
Tom Waits – I don’t get this one either. His voice sounds “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, then taken outside and run over with a car.” I just can’t get past that voice. The Eagles were early champions of his songwriting. Critics seem to love him. Other artists love him putting him in films and TV shows. The greatest TV show ever, The WIre, created by MacArthur genius winner David Simon, used his song “Down in the Hole” as its theme. I assume he’ll sneak in eventually. When he does I will chalk that up to my limited appreciation for his envied lyrics and unique delivery.
Laura Nyro – One of David Geffen’s first “finds” who wrote half a dozen hits for other artists. I have tried in earnest to listen to her and I just can’t do it. While I appreciate the songs she wrote, they are much better in the hands of their re-makers. These re-recorders were “rock giants” 3 Dog Night, and the 5th Dimension. So this is a real stretch. The hall does love songwriters and David Geffen – so who knows. Not this year, and maybe never.
Dr. John – Wrong place, wrong time.
Darlene Love – Quiz, quickly name 5 Darlene Love songs where she sang lead!
Joe Tex – I gotcha! Ah ha, but you won’t get in now will ya!
LL Cool J – Iggy Pop has the killer abs wing covered.
Chuck Willis – It’s too late.
I am sure people will argue with these, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it? It’s not a question of who “deserves” to be in anymore. I am not sure any of these really pass that muster. These are all second or third tier acts.
Besides, are you really gonna go out an buy an album by any of these nominees any time soon?