So let the debate begin: who will be a shoo-in and who won’t make the cut? Furthermore, who shouldn’t even be on the list?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of nominees for induction in 2011 is Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits, and Chuck Willis. The inductees will be announced in December, with the ceremony held in March.
There are several hold outs from previous years : LL Cool Jay, Beastie Boys, Nyro, Summer, Love and Chic.
The following should begin preparing their induction speeches: Tom Waits, Dr. John and the Beastie Boys.
Waits has never had anything that resembles a hit, but is so influential and so beloved and so darn cool (and let’s not forget talented) that he’s the closest thing to a sure bet this year. Dr. John’s only major hit was 1973’s “Right Place, Wrong Time,” but his influence and legacy can’t be denied. Plus, he represents New Orleans this year. The Beastie Boys, along with Run-DMC, who were inducted in 2009, are the most pivotal linchpin between hip-hop and rock and are, in many ways, the most innovative of this year’s nominees.
Donna Summer and Chic represent a bit of a conundrum for the Rock Hall. Even though both are worthy, rock snobs, many of whom are on the nominating or voting committee, spent the better part of the late-‘70s denouncing disco. Therefore, it’s a bit of a hard sell to now admit they were wrong and that this music not only had value, but deserves inclusion in the Hall. If I had to choose one, I’d say that Chic makes it this year, not Summer.
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In a different way, Diamond and Bon Jovi are victims of their own popularity. It’s very hip to love Diamond again. so maybe voters will see clear to doing the right thing this year. Bon Jovi is more troublesome. The Hall has no trouble inducting populist rock bands like Van Halen or Aerosmith, but Bon Jovi has never, ever--despite (or perhaps due to) selling more than 100 million albums-- gotten critical acclaim. They are the one group born out of the hair band genre that transcended to become legitimate global superstars. They deserve it for their work ethic alone.
The Hall’s nominating committee, which consists of primarily (but not only) middle-aged white men, loves honoring obscure acts from the ‘50s and ‘60s that the mainstream has never heard of. In many ways, by including some of these acts, the Hall is doing a fantastic job of educating the public about some of these very well-deserving artists. On the other hand, it seems misguided to induct certain artists who have had a smattering of hits and leave much more influential acts out in the cold. Often, many of these artists from the ‘50s were treated horribly by their labels and not paid adequate royalties and suffered from onerous, one-sided contracts that no doubt hindered their ability to create, but is it the Rock Hall’s job to make up for that? Perhaps. I don’t know.
This year, only one artist really falls into the questionable category and that’s Chuck Willis, the King of the Stroll. His big hit was “C.C. Rider,” which was based on a blues song made popular by Ma Rainey. He also wrote, “It’s Too Late, She’s Gone,” which has been covered by everyone from Buddy Holly to Derek & The Dominos. He died at 30 from a bleeding ulcer.
Also up for posthumous induction are Joe Tex and Laura Nyro. Tex was a major link between R&B and rock, but it makes me laugh that the Rock Hall would induct someone who had a hit (along with many others) with the song, “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).” As one of the best songwriters of the pop era, Nyro should go in and it’s a shame she hasn’t been inducted already.
What about Alice Cooper, Donovan, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J and Darlene Love? All will get in eventually, but I don’t think 2011 is their year.
Let’s not forget the great roster of deserving artists who get no Rock Hall love this year: Get ready for the Kiss army to lead another assault. The quartet at least made the ballot last year. They join a list of artists who have strong, ardent fans, and who have undoubtedly made an impact on American music, but who get no love from the Rock Hall. Other members of this dubious club include Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, Rush, Leon Russell, Electric Light Orchestra and the Doobie Bros.