One of my least favorite moments of the year is when Cleveland's Rock Hall announces its annual nominees.
Like clockwork, the Internet blows up as fans, non-fans, haters, and trolls all go off in unison, debating the validity of musicians from around the world who may or may not make the cut.
Today's “Best of” post is from last February. It was another round of Rock Hall honors and snubs, just waiting for fan reactions. Usually, I love to rock n' roll around in the mud with all of you, but I'd prefer to rise above. But when it comes to this institution's choices, I just can't help myself.
After all, can someone explain to why Styx, Pat Benatar, and Soundgarden aren't in the damn Rock Hall!? – FJ
February 12, 2021
What is it with these halls of fame?
The Baseball Hall of Fame in historic Cooperstown, NY announced last week that not a single player will be inducted into their hallowed halls in 2021. Apparently, no one was worthy from a list that included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, and Curt Schilling.
Now you can understand the speed bumps being faced by Bonds and Clemons. And Schilling wants no part of any organization that would let him be a member. But no one gets in this year? Embarrassing.
And then there's the Radio Hall Of Fame. They had the audacity to admit a consultant into their ranks in 2018, a mistake they happily haven't repeated since. Who knows what they were thinking? 😉
It turns out that one of the consequences of creating these honorary organizations that bestow coveted awards on their participants is that they piss off as many people as they make happy.
Take the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in Cleveland since it was established way back in 1983. Over the years, there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding this institution, especially artists and groups included – and excluded.
Sadly, 2021 is no different.
When I saw this year's list of nominees released earlier this week, I couldn't help but join the amazed and amused on Twitter who wondered whether the Rock Hall had lost its mind – or at least its compass.
Or whether they enjoy the controversy, the buzz, and the second-guessing that always follows their list of musical candidates.
In case you missed it amidst the news of an impeachment, a pandemic, and an economic recession, here's the list (artists in bold are first-time nominees):
- LL Cool J
- Todd Rundgren
- Fela Kuti
- Kate Bush
- New York Dolls
- Rage Against the Machine
- Foo Fighters
- Tina Turner
- Carole King
- The Go-Go’s
- Mary J. Blige
- Dionne Warwick
- Chaka Khan
- Iron Maiden
Two things jump out at me from this list of performers – they are all gifted, talented and worthy of recognition and they are a very diverse group of musicians.
And I'm not even going to go where so many have gone before – questioning who actually belongs in an organization that calls itself “Rock N' Roll.” That's an old debate that takes place every year as fans incredulously stare at the nominees list.
I've experienced enough of those circular arguments and endless debates over which artists are “Classic Rock” – and which shouldn't make the cut. My preference is to let the audience decide. (And whatever you do, please don't ask me whether Nirvana now should be accepted into the classic rock family.)
Trying to second-guess what the nominating committee in Cleveland was thinking is like trying to figure out how U.S. Senators are going to vote. The odds are not in your favor. You will most likely be incorrect.
With any hall of fame or awards program, there are the inevitable snubs, the “What took so longs?”, and the WTFs.
The most (in)famous of these was when the geniuses who run the Grammys finally created a “hard rock/heavy metal” category in 1989, only to give the inaugural award for best performance to Jethro Tull who bested Metallica and their “…And Justice For All” album. James Hetfield is still considering taking up the flute after that landmark decision.
I'm pleased to report this year's Rock And Roll Hall nominations checked off all these same boxes, as they manage to do every year. There was no social media when the organization was formed, but over the last decade or so, music fans and rock devotees have expended considerable outrage and passion over many of these decisions.
So, let's get our criteria straight, and then I'll get to my nagging and annoying questions. On their website's ABOUT page, here's how the organization describes itself:
So, here are a few of my questions – from this year's nominees, and some of the more bizarre decisions that have been made over the years.
1. Tina Turner – what's taken so long? She was recognized for her work with Ike, so this one is a nomination for her many solo efforts. About time.
2. Devo – not Pat or Dave? I like rock as much as the next guy, but Devo gets nominated and Pat Benatar does not (despite coming in second in the fan vote last year)? The Dave Matthews Band won the fan vote – and got snubbed, too. (Actually, I'm not passionate about either one of these snubs, but on Twitter and other social media outlets, it was Pat Benatar's omission that was trending.)
@rockhall WHAT Pat Benatar did not make it into the 2021 nominations for the RocknRoll Hall of Fame. PLEASE STOP THE INSANITY!
— Laura Godinho (@ljgodinho) February 11, 2021
3. Fela Kuti?
4. Speaking of Jethro Tull, why have they never been nominated? OK, so they got a gift from the Grammys, but still – this band was as big back in the 70s as so many other bands that have made it into the Hall. Maybe this is the payback from that wrong-headed Grammy.
5. Why is the Rock Hall in Cleveland anyway? When it comes to influential bands from the city on Lake Erie, who are we talking about? Chrissie Hynde, James Gang, Devo, Michael Stanley, Nine Inch Nails, the Black Keys are all rockers that hail from Cleveland (or nearby Akron). It's not a bad list, but it's certainly not exactly a cornucopia of rock talent.
For that, you might look to nearby Detroit. Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Eminem, Jack White, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, the MC5, Iggy Popp, the Romantics, and so many others. And I haven't mentioned Motown, Aretha, Bill Haley & the Comets, the Knack or Sonny Bono.
(OK, I feel better now.)
6. Fela Kuti?
7. What about the Guess Who? So, the Rock Hall is achieving global diversity with Fela Kuti's nomination (he's a Nigerian), and a truly accomplished Afrobeat beat artist. But what about our neighbors to the north? Once again, the Guess Who get the snub, despite a long portfolio of big hits, including “American Woman.” Hmm…maybe that's why some people think it's political:
It was one thing for President Biden to kill the Keystone oil pipeline. Okay, fine. But having the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snub The Guess Who yet again? Now, THAT'S how you piss off a Canadian. #GuessWho #RockHall2021 #BoycottRockHall #BoycottCleveland #music #Canada
— Canada's Travel Guy (@JimByersTravel) February 10, 2021
8. The Foo Fighters? Seriously?? Yeah, seriously. I can't begin to predict whether most of these nominees will end up in the Hall this year or not. But the Foo Fighters are an absolute lock to get inducted. They represent everything that is wonderful about rock n' roll.
So, here's the crazy part. Outside of the Foos, only four of the other nominees will make it in this year. The rest may have a shot in later years. Someday, Pat Benatar will get in. The Dave Matthews Band will get in, too. And so will King Crimson, Foreigner, Joe Cocker, and Bad Company. Even a K-Pop group could one day make the cut.
That's because at the rate the Rock Hall is going, everyone will be admitted at some point. But that won't stop the finger-pointing, the ranting, the raving, the bitching, and the Tweet storms.
All that snubbery creates an environment of outraged people, petitioning for their favorites, whipping up their social media followings, and making noise about how lame the Rock Hall truly is.
And isn't that the point?
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