In the last decade, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become a bizarre melange of “artists” seemingly harmonized only by being in the music business at some time. Madonna, the Ramones, and last year’s questionable “long overdue” inductee Chicago are strange bedfellows.
Then again, so were Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin – but they were natural bedfellows. Pretty rock and roll.
The general feeling from rock music watchers is whatever great intentions started the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Inductees Hall and Oates, Abba, and a slew of darlings with nary a hit or much broad exposure/appeal have tarnished whatever nobility the Hall had.
Each year, there is a scramble to find truly worthy inductees to meet the requirements of making entertaining HBO awards show.
Even this has become a challenge. Evidence of Chicago’s inability to get their schmaltzy lead singer Peter Cetera to come to collect his award and sing a hit.
With this backdrop, here are the 2017 inductees:
- Joan Baez
- Pearl Jam
- Tupac Shakur
- Nile Rogers – Special Award for “Musical Excellence.”
Do any of these acts belong alongside Chuck Berry, Dylan, and the Beatles? Except for Tupac, I don’t think so. I have severe reservations about all of them.
Baez and ELO aren’t Rock and Roll. Neither is Yes, but their contribution to progressive rock and influence upon other inductees is undeniable. BTW, couldn’t you have inducted them last year before founder and bassist Chris Squire passed?
I get the Nile. He’s fantastic and well-liked and inducting him solo saves the Hall of the shame of bringing in his disco band Chic who have been passed over year after year.
I get that Pearl Jam was ground-zero grunge, but they are no Nirvana. Plus, if rabid fandom is the new criterion, who’s next, Phish? Plus, anyone who saw Cameron Crowe’s documentary “Twenty” with Eddie Vedder providing a tour of his home is likely still throwing up.
Tupac was an icon and was murdered, so probably best not to comment any more on that.
That leaves Journey. Steve Perry is arguably one of rock and roll’s most remarkable voices. Their early albums were terrific explorations of progressive rock whose hallmark was virtuoso playing and good songwriting. When Perry joined, however, the band began a slow turn to bathos. Before crap like “Be Good to Yourself” and “I’ll be Alright Without You” was coming out, Journey pioneered “arena rock,” effectively walking the tightrope between rock and pop. Songs like “Wheel in the Sky” and “Separate Ways” have absolute gems and roll bona fides. But hits like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Open Arms” are more Celine Dion anthems than rock and roll.
So what to do? How about tapping David Foster to build a new wing of the Hall, where Perry can sit alongside Cetera, Abba, Hall and Oates, Billy Joel, Madonna, and other not-yet-inducted mega-sellers like Dion and Mariah Carey? ELO might fit in there too. See, everyone can be happy.
The good news for this year is that tributes to Prince and Bowie have the potential for a great HBO show.