Editorial: Hall of Shame?

Sections: Music

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

(This editorial appeared in the February 2013 issue of TELL Magazine)

Why have a rock and roll hall of fame that doesn’t rock?

As 2012 came to a close, the 2013 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had just been announced. Refreshingly, there were some inductees named that fans had been clamoring to get in there for what seems like decades—Rush being a prime example. Heart, another popular favorite that’s been eligible for a long time (the requirement is at least 25 years of activity) also got in. Perhaps these popular favorites finally made it as a result of this being the first year in which music fans actually had a say—the HOF conducted an online poll, enabling a public vote for the nominees that wouldn’t determine outright, but could influence who got in.

That’s certainly progress for an institution that has traditionally been a closed-door situation in which a secretive cabal of music critics and industry insiders has chosen the new inductees each year.

But this crop also had some surprising inductees—as well as an even more surprising list of nominees who didn’t make the cut.

Old-school rappers Eric B. & Rakim got in. Blues man Albert King—a shoo-in. Deep Purple, who last time I looked, were second in the popular vote only to Rush, didn’t.

Huh? Deep Purple didn’t make the cut? One of the undisputed pioneers of hard rock, a member of the unholy triumvirate of founding fathers of metal (along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin), creators of monster classics including “Highway Star,” “Woman from Tokyo,” “Space Trucking” and the ultimate try-out-a-guitar-in-a-music-store riff, “Smoke on the Water”—they weren’t worthy? But the men who rapped “Juice (Know the Ledge)” were?

I mean no disrespect to Messrs. B. and Rakim, or the late, great Albert King, who could certainly rock a guitar and was a major influence to a number of rock bands, including the aforementioned Zeppelin boys.

But isn’t this supposed to be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

I see the point of inducting blues pioneers—like I said, they were a major influence on rockers that followed. But the mad rush to get everyone with a “Blind Lemon” at the start of their stage names has nudged out a number of (in my opinion) worthy bands that haven’t made the grade, at least not yet, despite having been eligible for long time in some cases.

I’ve had the good fortune to have interviewed a number of legendary musicians in the pages of Tell and its predecessor E-Gear, including:

• Jon Anderson of Yes

• Robert Lamm of Chicago

• Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

• David Ragsdale of Kansas

• Randy Bachman of two eligible and worthy bands: The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Yet of all the accomplished, prolific, best-selling artists I’ve interviewed, only two—Earth, Wind & Fire and Don Felder of The Eagles—are inductees.

I’ve often asked the ones who haven’t yet gotten in (but really, really should have) what their take on the R&RHOF was.

They’re typically good-natured about it—but usually with the mind that it would be nice. Lamm put it into perspective when he told me, “In the scheme of the universe, I sort of have a problem with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As wonderful as music is for the soul … I think that there are other people who are more deserving in other walks of life, in other careers, that really deserve a hall of fame—whether it’s firemen, policemen, whatever. So in the scheme of things it’s not terribly, terribly important.”

Couldn’t have said it better. I think it’s good that there is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to recognize these artists for their contributions to music. Why not?

I just wish the focus was a little sharper. Want to recognize rappers? Why not a Rap Hall of Fame (maybe there is one, please don’t send me angry letters)? Same for blues. And Leonard Cohen? Don’t ask me to explain that one.

I also wish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would recognize rock and roll artists who people actually like—popular bands like the aforementioned Chicago, The Moody Blues, Yes, ELP, Boston, Styx (yes, I said Styx), Hall and Oates, Thin Lizzy, Kansas, and, dammit, Deep Purple! And there are many more.

Why are these artists not in yet? Probably because the music critics on the committee don’t like them. This HOF should belong to the people. I’d love to see the popular vote be the main deciding factor.

I probably won’t. But at least I saw Rush get in. RUUUUUUUSHHHHHHHH!

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  • Future Rock Legends

    First of all, Eric B. & Rakim were not inducted this year. They were not even nominated.

    Secondly, if you want the fans to be the determining factor, you might as well use record sales as the sole criteria for induction (welcome Spice Girls! sorry, Ramones.). Good luck with that.