Commentary: Did the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame get it right with this year's noms?
Is the boys’ club otherwise known as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame about to shift to ladies’ night?
This year’s potential class of 15, announced Sept. 27, includes five female or female-fronted acts, including first time nominees Joan Jett, Heart and Chaka Khan (as leader of Rufus), and returnees Donna Summer and Laura Nyro.
If three of the women make the final cut, it will mark the first time more than two female acts have been inducted in the same year.
For trivia buffs, the first woman inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was Aretha Franklin, in 1987. There have been some years when no women have been among the final five, and a handful of years when more than one female has been inducted, especially if one includes acts who aren’t led by a woman, but have a female member like the Talking Heads. Counting only solo female acts, like Joni Mitchell, or female-fronted bands, like Blondie, 20 of the 125 acts inducted over the past 25 years are women.
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Joining the above nominees for possible membership into the class of 2012 are Beastie Boys, The Cure, Donovan, Eric B. and Rakim, Guns N’ Roses, Freddie King, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Small Faces/The Faces, The Spinners and War.
So who are the sure bets this year? Unlike last year where there was little doubt that Tom Waits and Dr. John would make it in, this year’s class is a little harder to gauge although we’d say Joan Jett is the closest thing this year has to a shoo-in.
Who are the long shots? There still seems to be some resistance to including acts associated with the disco era in what is call a “Rock and Roll Hall.” That can be attributed to the age of many of the voting members, who spent the late ‘70s spewing vitriol about the disco movement so it may take some more time for members to wrap their heads around inducting seminal artists as Summer (or past nominee Chic).
Oddly, the Hall has no such issues with R&B artists, in part because many of the pioneering doo wop groups from the ‘50s who are already in were seen as building blocks for rock and roll. That could bode well for late blues artist Freddie King, who is seen as a major influence on acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
Here are our very short assessments of each act’s chances.
Beastie Boys: Holdovers from last year, their chances are better this time around in an overall weaker field. Their pioneering status is undeniable. Chances: 60%
The Cure: It’s impossible to think of what was happening in music in the mid-‘80s and not include Robert Smith and his band in terms of blazing a path and introducing goth rock into the mainstream. Chances: 75%
Donovan: He’s going to have to be mellow yellow and wait another year. Chances: 50%
Eric B. and Rakim: Considered by many to be the most influential DJ/MC combination in hip hop, but will there be some voters who feel their use of samples should take away from their own massive creativity? Chances: 75%
Guns N’ Roses: They came out of the Sunset Strip hair band scene and quickly transcended the genre. Part of me wants to see them get in just to see which original members Axl Rose would include and if a brawl would break out when they accepted their award, but they aren’t likely to get in this time around. Chances: 30%
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: She loves rock and roll and rock and roll loves her. She’s seen as a true believer. Chances: 95%
Heart: Like Jett, Ann and Nancy Wilson are pioneers. They were among the first women to rock as hard as their male counterparts. They were literally sisters doing it for themselves. Additionally, they are godmothers of the music movement in Seattle and their influence in that scene can’t be overstated. Still, it’s going to be a tough sell this year. Chances: 75%
Freddie King: For the reasons stated above, as well as the fact that fellow electric guitar king B.B. King is already in (although Albert King is not), Freddie’s got a good chance. Chances: 75%
Laura Nyro: She’s been on the ballot before. Even though she’s going in here as a performer, her greater strength was as a songwriter. On that ability, she’s undeniable, but she’s a tough sell when you hold her up as a performing artist with the long list before her. Chances: 45%
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Another act who’s returning for another try. They will definitely make it eventually, but not this year. Chances: 25%
Rufus and Chaka Khan: A pioneering funk band who has never really gotten its due for its innovation. Chances: 50%
The Small Faces/The Faces: There aren’t that many artists left from the ‘60s still to honor. The voters love honoring their ‘60s British bands almost as much as they love paying tribute to their ‘50s R&B acts. Chances: 90%
The Spinners: Not as influential as The Temptations or Four Tops, both of whom are already in, but very significant in the time line of deserving R&B groups, but not this year. Chances: 30%
Donna Summer: Of course she deserves to be in and the voters had last year to warm up to the idea. It’s still a tough row to how with many of the disco haters, but we like her chances this year. Chances 75%
War: Extremely important not just musically, but as a funk rock band that was truly inclusive in terms of ethnicity. Chances: 60%
While this is a good class, there is a long list of deserving artists who can’t manage to get on the ballot, or, as in the case of Kiss, actually get into the hall. Members of the “still waiting” club include: Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, Rush, Roxy Music, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Electric Light Orchestra and the Doobie Bros.
In order to be eligible, an artist must have released his or her first single or album at least 25 years ago. The final ballot goes to more then 500 music industry executives and journalists. The class of 2012 will be inducted in a ceremony held at the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, April 14, 2012.
Who do you want to see get in this year?