Urghh! The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation has done it again. They have announced such an underwhelming list of nominees for the class of 2011 that those finally elected and inducted will make for a less than stellar class.
The 2011 nominees are Alice Cooper, Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits, and Chuck Willis.
Of the nominees, the president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Joel Peresman, said, “We believe our nominating committee has put forth a list of artists that truly represent the wide variety of music that defines rock and roll.”
The first problem with this list of nominees is that LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys are from the field of rap and hip hop, and hip hop is simply not rock music. If rock and roll music becomes so all encompassing that it takes in everybody and everything, then it in effect becomes nothing. There have to be some boundaries. Frank Sinatra and Peter Tchaikovsky, for example, were great and popular music artists, but they don’t belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock music is beat-oriented music that in its origins embraced the newly-created electric guitar as its primary instrument for melody. The piano could also be employed, as with Fats Domino, Little Richard, Billy Joel, Elton John, etc. Rock music usually has youth-oriented lyrics dealing with romance, the pangs of young love, cars, surfing, school problems, etc. The lyrics are sung, and melody and harmony are key components and ingredients in rock music. Although hip hop has been a dominant form of popular music for a couple decades now, it has no connection to rock and roll music. It has an entirely different form and sound and doesn’t fall under the parameters of rock music in either instrumentation or vocal style. Hip hop should perhaps have its own hall of fame, but those working in the rap and hip hop field have no place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF).
The RRHOF has already made the mistake of inducting hip hop acts Grand Master Flash for 2007 and Run D.M.C. for the class of 2009. The closest link they could find between Run D.M.C. and rock music was that they once collaborated with rock legends Aerosmith on the song Walk This Way. We are now faced with the sad prospect of being plagued by annual inductions of a whole string of hip hop artists. It is as though the RRHOF is embracing hip hop acts simply because they are popular and despite the fact that they are not doing anything even resembling rock music. Hip hop acts are no more rock artists than is George Strait. The RRHOF correctly understands that, although Strait is popular, successful and a megastar, he should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame and has no place in the RRHOF. When will the RRHOF realize the same thing should apply to hip hop acts?
Of the 2011 nominees, four are certainly worthy of the Rock Hall of Fame:
Bon Jovi – this superstar band from New Jersey had four number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with an additional number one provided by Jon Bon Jovi as a solo effort). They have sold over 120 million albums, and have performed more than 2,600 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 34 million fans.
Donovan Leitch – his number one smash Sunshine Superman in the summer of 1966 helped launch the psychedelic era in rock music. He was very influential in getting the Beatles to explore Indian music and religion. He enjoyed numerous hits such as Catch the Wind, Colours, Mellow Yellow, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Atlantis.
Neil Diamond – his string of hits early in his career makes him a strong candidate for the Hall. Those hits include Solitary Man; Cherry, Cherry; Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon; Thank the Lord for the Night Time; Kentucky Woman; Sweet Caroline; Holly Holy; and Cracklin’ Rosie. He also wrote I’m a Believer which the Monkees turned into the top single for all of 1966. He has had more than 70 U.S. chart entries in a career lasting over half a century.
Donna Summer – she worked in the disco field, but many of her hits, such as Hot Stuff, were rock oriented. She was also the first female artist to have four number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart within a 13-month span: MacArthur Park, Hot Stuff, Bad Girls and No More Tears. Her first U.S.-recorded album was produced by Quincy Jones and featured Bruce Springsteen and many other American rockers. She became the only artist who ever had three consecutive double-LPs hit number one.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a separate category for non-performers and there are many songwriters who have been elected in this category. Perhaps Laura Nyro and Tom Waits might qualify for induction as non-performing songwriters, but their work as recording and touring artists is not strong enough to be elected in the performers category.
Chic and the J. Geils Band are close calls but probably are not strong enough. At least let them wait until other more worthy candidates are elected. Shock rocker Alice Cooper should not make the Hall before Kiss and perhaps a couple other glam-rock acts are elected. Darlene Love, Dr. John, and Chuck Willis did not have a strong enough contribution to be elected.
Finally, Joe Tex is the weakest of the candidates. Some of his hits, such as I Gotcha, Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) and Skinny Legs and All, were downright rude, crude, insensitive and offensive. He should never have even been nominated.
For those of us who are disaffected by this nominating process and with most of the nominees, it may be time to act. The fans have absolutely no say and no voice. It may be time for a letter-writing campaign or a petition to allow fans to have input and to demand that there be greater transparency in the nomination process. With the technology available today, there is no reason why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shouldn’t allow fans to select a ballot of maybe fifty names and, from that list, vote in a candidate each year. This could all be done online from the Hall of Fame website. This may be the only way to ever get rock legends like the Moody Blues, Chicago and Rush nominated and elected.
Other outstanding groups and artists who should be a slam dunk for election to the RRHOF are America, the Association, the Bangles, Barry White, Bread, Cat Stevens, Carly Simon, Chubby Checker, the Doobie Brothers, Duran Duran, the Fifth Dimension, Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, Grassroots, Guess Who, Hall and Oates, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar, Procol Harum, Red Hot Chili Peppers, REO Speedwagon, Sonny and Cher, the Spinners, the Stylistics, Styx, Three Dog Night, the Turtles.
The Billboard Book of Number One Hits 5th Edition, Fred Bronson, Billboard Books