For a musician or band, 25 years of making music in the public eye can mean a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This year’s roster of nominees includes The Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Tom Waits and Neil Diamond, among others. To be eligible, a debut album has to be at least 25 years old. There are 15 nominees for the March 2011 induction ceremony, which will be voted on by 500 rock experts. Every year, the list comes with some sort of controversy, whether it be glaring omissions or inductions long overdue.
Since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first began inductions back in 1986, there’s always been a heated debate over who has and hasn’t been inducted and how “rock and roll” it really is. While some classic, iconic musicians have been inducted, such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, others haven’t, such as Kiss, Alice Cooper and Joy Division. Many critics have openly wondered about the validity of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it features more popular acts rather than more musically influential ones. What they should be worried about is that every popular act is integral to rock and roll one way or the other, even if their music is not particularly “rock and roll” itself.
Take the Beastie Boys, for example. This hip-hop group from Brooklyn has had as much of an impact as any rock and roll band. Their music is as fun, catchy and rebellious as any popular rock song; their influence just as political, timely as any rock musician’s. When it comes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it should be more about what has been contributed to the state of popular music and pop culture. We always see good rock bands, good musical artists, but how often do we remember them long after they’ve stopped recording and touring?
If you’re that particular to the genre, the Beastie Boys have dabbled in rock music — ever heard “Sabotage”? Any kind of music can be influential to any other artist — it doesn’t have to be only rock and roll artists who influence aspiring musicians to pursue that genre. Who’s to say the Beastie Boys can’t influence someone to pick up the guitar? They’ve contributed a lot to pop culture and music as a whole, and that is rock and roll. What a better way to be rock and roll than to do what you want, right?
Let’s not stay so divided and particular about what is and what is not rock and roll. If we do, we’ll spend more time reminiscing about what used to be and missing the good music being made now. Every single contribution is worth notice — good and bad — because it is all about entertaining, essentially. Of course there’s politics. Of course there’s anarchy. But it all roots from wanting to entertain. Let’s embrace the talent we get to see (and not look so down on the not-so-talented), and just enjoy the fact that there will always be good music, whether it be rock and roll or not. That, itself, is pure rock and roll.
BBC News Staff, “Beastie Boys nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, BBC.co.uk