Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced what may be the least exciting batch of inductees in recent memory yesterday.

In the performer category, the inductees are:

  • Alice Cooper Band
  • Neil Diamond
  • John
  • Darlene Love
  • Tom Waits

In the non-performer, Ahmet Ertegun Award category:

  • Jac Holzman
  • Art Rupe

And in the renamed Musical Excellence category (formally sideman):

  • Leon Russell

The casual music fan most likely knows Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond (if they are boomer age or older). As for the other inductees, if Jay Leno did his Jaywalking sketch, I’m sure he’d find massive ignorance of the other’s “accomplishments” in the general population at Citywalk.

This begs the question music fans have been asking for years, what’s up with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anyway? Does this institution, begun so nobly years ago, have any relevance? Is this a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or has it become, with the induction of Billy Joel, the Bee Gees, Madonna, and Abba, a Pop Music Hall of Fame? Will Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga one day be inducted alongside Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, and Chuck Berry? Maybe Justin Bieber and Micheal Buble can make it with a few more hits! This is the beginning of the Apocalypse.

I have resisted the “RRHOF is a joke!” mantra believing omissions and questionable inclusions are endemic with any subjective recognition enterprise and not germane to the RRHOF itself. Mistakes are bound to happen, and there will always be disagreement – it simply comes with the Hall of Fame business. So while KISS, Rush, Chicago, the Moody Blues, Yes (and many others) are passed over year after year – pissing off their many fans in the process – I understand a Hall of Fame simply isn’t going to make everyone happy. I have viewed the fans whining with contempt; just because an artist has rabid fans doesn’t make them worthy of the RRHOF – they still need to be evaluated. But this year’s crop makes me question the criteria; it just doesn’t make sense to me. Then again, what do I know?

To better explain, let’s review the nominees for 2011 discussed previously on this blog.

  • Alice Cooper
  • Beastie Boys
  • Bon Jovi
  • Donovan
  • John
  • Geils Band
  • Donna Summer
  • Darlene Love
  • Chic
  • LL Cool J
  • Tom Waits
  • Neil Diamond
  • Laura Nyro
  • Joe Tex
  • Chuck Willis

In my opinion, this was a fragile list of ROCK AND ROLL nominees. Honestly, they could have passed on all of them, and I don’t think there would have been a considerable outcry (except for the Alice Cooper fans). Are there any real bona fide pioneers here? Is anyone like Link Wray, who motivated Jimmy Page to pick up a guitar? I think not; Link Wray might be more deserving than all.

It surprises many that Neil Diamond wasn’t in already, but he’s more pop than rock. So if this is the Pop Hall of Fame, I guess he’s in. I am, I said, mazel tov!

But then, if it is pop, how can you pass on Donna Summer, Chic, or Bon Jovi? In what world is Darlene Love, an artist in the shadow of Phil Spector, more deserving than Donna Summer, who wrote many of her hit songs? I just don’t get it. It looks pretty cliquey and arbitrary to me.

I know this at the 25th RRHOF anniversary concert; Bruce Springsteen said, “if there is justice in the world, this lady (Darlene Love) will be inducted into the RRHOF!”  Well, boss, justice is served – New Jersey style, I guess.

I guess I have no real quarrel with Dr. John. He’s a character and played at the Last Waltz. He had part of his finger shot off while protecting a friend – pretty rock and roll. I bet he’s got a story for everyone in the business, and he’s played on many sessions. Leon Russell too. A member of LA’s fabled The Wrecking Crew – he’s played on hundreds of hits – let them in. Without Leon, no ZZ Top – he invented the look. Plus, where would George Benson be with This Masquerade?

Alice Cooper, OK, pushed rock and roll to theater, paving the way for KISS, Meat Loaf, and Garth Brooks! Glen Buxton and Micheal Bruce were great guitarists. Glad they recognize the band. Those early hits have some monster riffs and were the soundtrack for a few summers. Fine, let them in.

Tom Waits? Wow, not sure about that one. Distinctive, yes; lyrically interesting, yep; listenable – not for me. I prefer him as an actor, but I am in the minority. Has he sold a million records total in his lifetime? I doubt it. He did provide the theme song to the most incredible series in TV history (The Wire – Way Down in the Hole) – that’s worth something.

The suits, well, sure, bring them in. They do bring the business to the music business. They got to keep letting them in so that there is hope for the ten people still in the music business.

As for the future of the RRHOF, I can’t predict it. It’s sort of like the music itself – hard to call. If I were a Yes fan and saw Darlene Love rather than them getting in, I’d be pissed. That’s not right. Sure she was great as Danny Glover’s wife in the Lethal Weapon movies but did singing “Please Come Home for Christmas” every year on Letterman compete with The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge in terms of musical accomplishment and inspiration musicians? I think not.

I would suggest if you ever had a favor to call in and wanted to attend the induction ceremony, this is the year to do it. I am sure there will be some extra tickets this year.

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