Criteria: 2012 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees. Names are in alphabetical order.
(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
Written By: Sampson
Last Updated: 2011-12-20
2012 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
It's gotten to the point where the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame can be viewed like a private social club that once upon a time had the best of intentions and lofty ideals but along the way became increasingly controlled by a select few who attempted to steer it in a direction to suit their own personal and self-centered needs. In the process it has become the very thing rock 'n' roll itself has always railed against - moldy establishment figures dictating conformity and upholding the status quo, resistant to change and too narrow-minded to see their growing irrelevance as the musical landscape changes around them at lightning speed. Over the past decade the stagnant nominating committee and decrepit voting rolls have systematically turned the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame into a personal referendum on their own limited tastes and shortsighted view of what rock 'n' roll was, is and should be. The late 60's and early 70's period of rock continues to be given far too much attention, unsurprising considering the most visible members of the voting body came of age during that period. The overwhelming white male demographic among the voters perpetuates the racial neglect, as evidenced by the fact that six of the nine white nominated acts made it in this year while just one of the six black artists on the ballot got in, and he, Freddie King, was a bluesman who is far more idolized by white British guitarists than even known to black audiences today. As this disturbing trend continues the Hall of Fame refuses to address its most glaring problem, that those making the selections represent an inordinately small cultural demographic, and compounding the problem further is that by refusing to apply objective standards to the voting process and instead leaving it up to each voter's personal musical taste when casting their ballots the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame has become increasingly open to criticism and worse yet, completely irrelevant to accurately assessing rock history.
While this year's inductees include some very deserving artists, notably Guns N' Roses, The Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the overall slant of the other artists is so heavily tilted towards the voting body's predictable demographic tastes that it would be widely seen as scandalous if anyone outside a select few took this process seriously anymore. But anyone who truly wants to view the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame as a legitimate historical institution have had their hopes dashed year after year by the voting body's repeated transparent efforts to validate their own myopic tastes, something that reaches its nadir in 2012 with four of the seven inductees.
Yet just when you're about to give up on the Hall ever taking their role in charting rock history properly comes a ray of unexpected sunshine. It is one that has been long hoped for here but never seemed likely, and that is the long-overdue crediting of the bands and vocal groups who had the "misfortune" of being fronted by a star who, through misinterpretation of somewhat faulty rules the Hall foolishly enacted from the start, were elected singularly while their officially credited groups were left out. Even with the advent of the Sideman category in 2000 no full backing instrumental band was inducted as a unit, though Elvis Presley's three sidemen all got in eventually. This year, in a startling move to correct this inexplicable error in judgment that was allowed to stain the Hall for over a quarter century, six vocal or instrumental groups will finally get their brief moment in the spotlight years after their frontmen were inducted without them. It's hard to praise the Hall for simply doing what should've been done from the start, but it's still a welcome sight.
Though that much less publicized move offers hope that the Hall Of Fame is painfully aware of its shortcomings and will eventually stop dragging their feet and take steps to rectify past injustices and maybe even prevent similar embarrassing gaffes in the future, until its larger systematic failings are addressed the move is rather like applying a band-aid in an attempt to cover its more gaping self-inflicted credibility wounds. A major blood transfusion is still desperately needed in their nominating committee and voting ranks or the slow death of the institution will continue unabated, especially as each year the most focused upon category, the Main Performers, remains riddled with bullets fired by their own inherent cultural and musical biases. Here then is the latest autopsy for their credibility.
THE MAIN PERFORMER INDUCTEES
THE BEASTIE BOYS
At least the Hall Of Fame kicks off its inductees alphabetically with a group that is long overdue and entirely justified, but once again until the race issue is finally shown to be a moot point with the Hall Of Fame the question has to be raised - Had the Beastie Boys been black would they have gotten in? Answer: Eric B. & Rakim, equally qualified and more influential rap artists from the same era were on the ballot and they failed to get in. But then that's not the Beasties fault, for while they unquestionably benefitted from their race, both on the ballot for the Hall and historically, as they became the first rap artists to top the album charts at a time when hip-hop was being stigmatized culturally in the mid-80's, they also faced an uphill battle initially for respect within the rap community precisely because they were Caucasian. They quickly proved their mettle however and became legitimate stars in the field, and were among the most experimental in charting new territory, particularly with advances in sampling, while maintaining their high quality across two decades of releases in an increasingly diverse manner. Still in the eight years since anyone from the genre first became eligible, this brings the total hip-hop artists inducted to a measly three, a shameful blight considering how dominant and revolutionary the style of music was from the start. By contrast punk rock, a far less popular and groundbreaking style whose peak was much shorter lived, has five artists in the Hall. It's not for lack of qualified hip-hop candidates either, as this was already the Beastie Boys fourth time on the ballot, and their peers from the 80's rap scene have made numerous appearances as well to date, with the voters showing little awareness or respect to the most culturally significant and enduring popular forms of rock 'n' roll to ever be created. Decades after they fought for their right to party, they had to fight for their right to be properly rewarded for their efforts and even with their official induction this year the fight continues for their brethren.
What are the odds that a 60's act would be elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame? Statistically, almost 100%. In 26 of the 27 years of its existence, there has been at least one inductee whose primary career achievements took place in the 1960's. The one year that failed to qualify was 2006, when Miles Davis, who recorded extensively in the 60's, though it was his 1950's and 70's work that may have taken precedent in his résumé, came closest. Additionally, over the past decade or so, as the most deserving of the 60's artists had long since been enshrined, many of the Hall's most questionable inductees (Darlene Love, The Hollies, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Percy Sledge, The Righteous Brothers, Brenda Lee, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield) have continued to come from that era at the expense of the other, far more overlooked, decades since rock's late 40's birth. Now add Donovan to that list. Like some of those others he's not totally undeserving, he was a consistent hit maker, a strong songwriter and seemed to embody the hippy cultural idyll that much of the 60's lore is based on. But whether that is an accurate image of the decade to begin with, and whether Donovan's contributions to the rock scene overall earned him the right to get in, especially over far more qualified candidates of a much more recent vintage, is still debatable. He doesn't have to apologize to anyone for getting in, he at least earned the right to be taken seriously after years of being viewed as a pretentious second rate Bob Dylan, but his presence among this year's inductees points to far greater systematic flaws that marks the Hall's growing cultural isolationism.
GUNS N' ROSES
Funny that the ultimate symbols of controversy over the course of their stormy career are in fact the least controversial inductees in the class of 2012. There was never any doubt they'd get in, nor any reasonable objections to their qualifications for being deserving of the honor. They were the biggest headline grabbers of their generation, as much for their anti-authority attitude as their platinum selling records, as GnR embodied the rebellious spirit that many feel is rock's most important cultural facet. They also backed that up with music that was wildly popular on a mass level, six Top Ten hits in their brief career, with all of their albums of original material going multi-platinum many times over, while still maintaining their credibility with the anti-consumerism mindset that dominates much of the hard rock audience. Since rock 'n' roll, more than any other style of music, thrives on larger than life figures, conflict and excess, both good and bad, GnR fit the bill as well as any in history and made them infallible candidates. Since bursting onto the scene in the mid-80's, a time when much of the dominant form of music was synthesizer driven, clean-cut and polished for maximum appeal, this bunch of hoodlums, drug addicts and outlaws from the seedy underbelly of the L.A. club scene shook up the music biz, brought riff heavy guitar rock back to the forefront and gave the press a new poster child for decadence... and truly fitting their image, they reveled in it. Unlike many who preceded them as rock 'n' roll bad boys, who seem trite and musically shallow when looking back years later, Guns n' Roses' reputation, both personally and musically, has never waned. The craziness surrounding them made them infamous, but their music made them enduring and earned them their ticket to the Hall.
Rest easy Leonard Cohen, Ritchie Valens, Neil Diamond and ABBA, no longer are you the Hall of Fame's least qualified Main Inductees and unless they decide to enshrine the likes of Freddie & The Dreamers, Menudo or Fabian, there's not much chance of Laura Nyro losing this dubious honor anytime soon, though if anyone can find a way to do so it'd be this Hall Of Fame. How Nyro was even nominated, not once but three times, is hard enough to fathom. Her hit making career as a singer consisted of a bland cover of the Drifters classic Up On The Roof, which barely reached the Top 100 on the charts, and as a writer she penned hits for the likes of The 5th Dimension, Blood Sweat and Tears, Three Dog Night and Barbra Streisand, which hardly places her in the epicenter of rock 'n' roll. Her influence was nonexistent, for while she was a fairly talented songsmith, that work broke no new ground and implemented no stylistic shifts to the musical landscape, which is where influence is derived. Her most notable moment in the spotlight during her career, an appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, was widely considered a disaster, and in the annals of rock history her presence is insignificant at best. Was she without talent? Of course not, she could write and she could sing, and she released some fairly well-received, though poor selling, albums, but that's a résumé that literally hundreds, if not thousands, of artists can easily top. How on earth could anyone justify having Nyro in when Joe Tex, who wrote every one of his 27 hits, all of which were far bigger than her lone cover version hit, and was very influential stylistically as well, failed to get elected the four times he was on the ballot? Just confining it to women, Salt-n-Pepa haven't even been nominated yet since first becoming eligible a few years back, despite huge influence in breaking ground for female MC's in rap and having a string of hits that remain widely known decades later, while nothing in Nyro's career accomplishments come remotely close to those achievements. More pressing, how could voters ignore Donna Summer for the fourth time this year when she was by far the most popular female artist in all of rock over a ten year stretch, writing much of her own material no less, totally defining the most dominant style of music during her era, while by contrast very few music fans who grew up during Nyro's productive period were even aware she existed? There are no answers, only more troubling questions. Message to Pat Boone, get your speech ready as you now have a legitimate chance at making the Hall of Fame, because if Laura Nyro's in without doing anything to deserve even remote consideration then apparently anyone can make it.
THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Finally another eminently worthy inductee. Three out of seven isn't bad, is it? Well actually, yeah, it is, but the overall disgraceful quality of the Class of 2012 shouldn't detract from the Chili Peppers legitimate qualifications for enshrinement. However even in this case it wasn't as easy as it should've been for them to make it, as two years ago they were passed over on their first appearance on the ballot, but the much maligned voters rectified their mistake rather quickly for once, bringing this year's inductions some desperately needed credibility in the process. Their credentials should've made them shoo-ins from the start, after being lumped in with the alternative movement as the 90's dawned, they quickly showed they were far more versatile than most in that field. Unwilling to be confined to any one narrow stylistic compartment, their meshing of influences from funk to punk to elements of rap, hard rock, metal and alternative, along with having some of their most notable songs done in an acoustic setting, kept them from ever becoming stale and made them among the most interesting bands of their time. Their musical chops, in particular Flea's work on bass, can stand with anyone, and their songwriting was always first-rate. The RHCP's often controversial stage shows and mix of tender, intricate ballads and harder riff-oriented rave ups made them among the last few generation's most notable bands, sometimes taken for granted or obscured by the glow of a few shorter-lived shooting stars. All this despite enduing an unusual amount of turmoil, with death and detox, members coming and going and coming back again, while still maintaining a remarkable consistency and popularity that finds them every bit as relevant in the 21st Century as they were when they first hit big in the late 80's and by all rights will be expected to add to their already stellar credentials in the years ahead.
THE SMALL FACES/THE FACES
If Nyro is unquestionably the most unqualified inductee this year, and Donovan the most emblematic of the Hall's voters personal affinity for a specific era, and King the token minority aimed at keeping the critics at bay while still not betraying their devotion to their own musical interests, then the Small Faces/Faces selection is simply the Hall's "Ahh, fuck it, let's put them in, we can do whatever the hell we want to anyway" inductee that exemplifies the voting body's collective arrogance when it comes to their dismissal of any objective standards. It's not that the Faces assemblage doesn't have some merit as artists. They were fairly successful, much more so in Great Britain than America, and they had an impressive roster over the years, featuring not just previous solo inductee Rod Stewart, who became lead singers of the reformed Faces, but also longtime Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, as well as original Small Faces visionary Steve Marriott, later of Humble Pie. For those reasons some moderate consideration had to be given them, even though they'd still fall well short. The real issue is their induction over far more qualified candidates on the ballot this year and what that, along with the other aforementioned dubious inductees, signifies. Simply look at the characteristics of the six (out of eight) who didn't make the final cut who have far greater qualifications than the Faces and you doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the skewed pattern at work. It is inarguable the Hall has an overwhelming racial bias, both for individual artists and the successful rock styles that are continually snubbed. This year the Spinners, Rufus with Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Eric B. & Rakim and War were all objectively superior candidates than the Faces (more successful in four out of five cases, more influential in every instance and all of whom were absolute cornerstones of their vital respective styles), yet all were minorities and they got sent to the back of the bus yet again in favor of another white act. The other remaining artist with more in the way of credentials who got left out, Heart, who are white, had the misfortune of having much of their respected rock legacy be compromised by the negative view of their later ballads, a form the Hall voters are always uneasy about, feeling that balladry equals pop-sellout. By contrast look at what the Faces represent - the late 60's/early 70's British reinterpretation (some would say misrepresentation) of black American music, which voters and white critics are always more comfortable praising than the authentic form under their very noses. Add the earlier Small Faces incarnation that was even more Anglo in nature and the fact they have such big names in their midst, even though two of those names are already in the Hall, and it's easy to see why a voting body made up of people who are devoted to that constituency and for years now have constantly rewarded that area of rock to a far greater degree than its earned, would give them a pass while ignoring the more significant achievements of artists outside its comfort zone. The Faces can make an outside case for their inclusion, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny when the candidates they beat out to sneak in this year all easily trump their rather shaky credentials. As an underserving inductee their inclusion itself isn't horribly offensive, but when the underlying voter rationale becomes apparent the offense becomes far less tolerable and it winds up being yet another black eye for the institution.
MAIN PERFORMER ADDENDUMS
From the start The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame established rules regarding eligibility as well as official accreditation for its nominees and inductees that, true to form, it rarely followed consistently and frequently violated outright. How an artist's name was officially offered for nomination determined just who specifically got inducted and there was often little rhyme and no reasons for these choices. The end result was that too often a major star was allowed entry without being joined by the supporting cast for much of, if not all of, the work he was actually being honored for! At long last they've remedied this shameful chapter in their history brought about by their own bumbling with the naming of six prominent groups who saw their famous frontmen get inducted while they were snubbed. But even so, while they're being added to the official rolls of inductees, they're still not as prominently featured as this year's "new" Main Performer inductees since of course their visible headliners already made it long ago. Let the record show however that the following are now official Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Famers, whatever that's worth.
THE BLUE CAPS
Gene Vincent - 1998
A tremendous rockabilly band who backed Gene Vincent and featured one of the era's most electrifying guitarists in Cliff Gallup and tireless 15 year old drummer Dickie Harrell, who along with the other Blue Caps, Willie Williams or Paul Peek on rhythm guitar and Jack Neal slapping the bass, made their records seem like barely contained mayhem, if not downright anarchy at times. Considering Jeff Beck's worshipful devotion to Gallup it is downright shocking that he didn't get in as a sideman in his own right a few years back. But while the Blue Caps peak was short-lived, and the notoriously introverted Gallup in fact left after the first few sessions, where the bulk of their iconic work was done, the band in their heyday were among the best put together.
Bill Haley - 1987
The first non-session oriented, prominent self-contained backing band credited by name on records in rock, The Comets helped establish and define the requirements for such units forevermore with their tight playing, democratic spirit and dazzling live shows. Haley was always very altruistic to them on record, giving each member spotlights, something that was expanded even further on stage, where they all would get solos and collectively the group's show stopping antics gave rock performances a very visual template to follow. Arguably no group was more vital to their leader's success in the 1950's than the Comets, and while they didn't much resemble a rock band, men in their 30's dressed in checkered dinner jackets, once they began playing there was never any questioning their credentials or authenticity.
Buddy Holly - 1986
When Buddy Holly was elected alone in the first year of the Hall's existence it didn't raise too many eyebrows. For while he was the leader of the Crickets, which was the full credited name under which he scored his biggest hits, he also had records released under his own name alone for another subsidiary label due to a contractual quirk, even though the Crickets were present on those as well. It may have just seemed at the time to be a second unfortunate quirk of the system that denied them credit yet again. When the sidemen category was established fourteen years later it seemed all but certain that the Crickets would get in fairly soon, especially legendary drummer Jerry Allison. But more than a decade passed without any such honor and that original omission now seemed glaring and unnecessary. Consequently this is the longest any group had to wait for their rightful due, but it was a mandatory inclusion. The Crickets, with Holly on lead guitar, Allison on drums and Joe B. Mauldin on bass, sometimes adding Niki Sullivan or Sunny Curtis on second guitar, were the original power trio in rock, writing and recording with Holly throughout his meteoric two year career, the resulting music which endures to this day.
THE FAMOUS FLAMES
James Brown - 1986
Though for years people believed the Famous Flames were James Brown's backing band, those instrumental giants had no official credit on record and in fact had no recognized name until they were dubbed the J.B.'s in the 70's for lack of anything else to refer to them as. The Flames in fact were the vocal group name Brown joined in the mid-50's and with his presence making them Famous, they continued to use that moniker for a dozen years. They were led by Bobby Byrd, one of the most important side figures in a major star's career, and while they featured fluctuating membership over the years, the most prominent members included Johnny Terry, Bobby Bennett and Eugene "Baby Lloyd" Stallworth. The combination of the gospel-derived harmonies of the Flames and the intense leads of Brown made the group the undisputed leaders of the soul movement and the most explosive act in all of rock.
Hank Ballard - 1990
The Midnighters actually began life as The Royals and without Hank Ballard as their frontman, scoring some decent records that way. When Ballard came aboard and sent them off in another direction a name changed followed when conflict ensued with the more popular and similarly named group from North Carolina, The "5" Royales. But no matter the name, the Midnighters were no mere anonymous backing singers and they featured one of the first the self-contained road bands working with a vocal group then, contributing some of the hottest guitar licks of their time. Since Ballard didn't even have his name out front on record until the late 50's, the fact he got in alone was a sore spot for years, but the others get to join him, even if it's past midnight for them.
Smokey Robinson - 1987
Of all the oversights in 27 years of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, none was more outrageous than the exclusion of the Miracles when Smokey Robinson alone got in during Year Two of the Hall's existence. Not even eligible as a solo performer yet by the Hall's own rules, Smokey was honored while the group he fronted, whose name his did not even appear separately from until 1967, were left out altogether. Considering Smokey was one of the most generous stars ever when it came to including the other members in his songwriting, so they'd get royalties rather than just performance pay, it had to rankle him that they didn't get to share this glory too. No more. The Miracles, it should go without saying, were the heartbeat of Motown in the 60's, one of the best vocal groups ever formed and owners of some of the greatest records rock has ever produced. With their induction the Hall has remedied its most shameful chapter and the biggest miracle is it took this long to do it.
Here we go again. In 2008 The Hall Of Fame showed its collective arrogance and utter lack of integrity by ushering Wanda Jackson into the Hall through a back door, as she appeared on the ballot that year as a Main Performer but failed to get elected, which is only fair since she didn't deserve to. The Hall's brain trust, if you can call it that, were determined not to let minor factors like rules and regulations stand in the way, probably in part because there was otherwise no females represented that year and they're quite sensitive to criticism for being sexist, since that's precisely what they are. So they overruled their own badly chosen electorate and put her in as an "Early Influence", despite not being either early in rock's evolution or influential. Now they've repeated that shameful blight with Freddie King, who similarly failed to make the cut this year as a Main Performer and so the Hall dragged his corpse through the alley to use the same back door they pried open for Jackson. Like her, Freddie wasn't early, he first recorded a full decade after rock existed, and while he became influential to other guitarists later on, the whole point of the Early Influence category was to properly credit those who predated rock entirely, or at the very least came along during its nascent pre-crossover days. King doesn't qualify at all in those regards. Of course, the REAL reason he likely got in this way was because, once again, the Hall of Fame voting rolls resemble that of 1956 Mississippi and blacks are completely disenfranchised. This marks the third year in the past ten that an all-white class has been elected to an institution that is founded on the music that black people invented, popularized and advanced more than anyone for sixty-four years! But in order to hide their white hoods and robes in the closet they shredded the Hall's own doctrines to ensure King, the only black artist from the ballot this year who could even remotely masquerade as an Early Influence to a largely unwitting public and uneducated rock media, would break the racial apartheid that exists within the Hall. Never mind actually purging the voting constituency of the indefensible white supremacist mindset that's been allowed to establish a stronghold for the last twenty years. Of course King's shady induction in this category only draws attention to the most glaring omissions from the Hall of Fame, which remain the REAL Early Influence candidates - all of whom are black - such as Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Ravens, Amos Milburn and Big Jay McNeely, none of whom have gotten in despite building the entire damn foundation of rock music in the first place. McNeely is even still alive and blowing a mean tenor sax in his mid-80's and is as deserving as anyone still waiting, but then again if he were inducted the Hall would actually be forced to have a Negro on the stage in person and then who knows what riots would ensue?
Coinciding with this year's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame selections, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame announced that, after years of failing to get in despite being thoroughly deserving, former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was finally elected by the "golden era committee"... a year almost to the day after he died. Long the Baseball Hall of Fame's most visibly egregious oversight, this honor comes too late for Santo to enjoy it, as he rightfully deserved to, during his lifetime. A similar point can be made for Dowd, who was without question the single most important engineer in rock history, perhaps in all of music history in general. He got his start working on the nascent nuclear bomb program in World War Two before taking his vast technical knowledge to the music world where he helped to build Atlantic Records into the most respected company in the business. Along the way he was among the pioneers in stereo recording, eight track, 16 track and 32 track recording, just about every advancement made between the mid-50's and mid-70's in fact, and, just for good measure, as a trained musician himself, he acted as producer for dozens of major sessions, from Aretha Franklin to Lynyrd Skynyrd, including coming up with the Indian beat that turned Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" into a hit. No one behind the knobs was more versatile, talented, or personally beloved by artists than the affable Dowd. But he died a few years ago having watched the men whose careers he helped make with his expertise, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, along with so many artists, get inducted into the Hall while he was cruelly left out in his lifetime. The accolade itself is entirely deserved, he is, even more than headliners Guns n' Roses, the single most qualified of this year's inductees, but a posthumous enshrinement is bittersweet, and in his case, totally unnecessary. Too often the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame does this - recently with Jesse Stone - and as much as any of its faults, it's this habit which is most shameful and most easily remedied.
The role of the producer as a vital entity in creating rock records was established in the 50's with Leiber & Stoller, but became seen as almost a universal requirement in the 60's when all of the major stars seemed to have an equally major name attached as producer. Johns fit that role for more acts than most of his contemporaries, overseeing hits for The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Steve Miller and Eric Clapton, along with this year's inductees The Faces. Yet unlike so many from that era, he never seemed to share much in the glory. Considering the Hall's ongoing love affair with both that era and the artists for whom he was most prominently associated with, its somewhat surprising it took them so long to induct him, though maybe the wait was so they could bring up those acts in the ceremonies yet again. Either way, it is well deserved and hopefully will open the door for even more deserving producers still waiting for enshrinement.
Excuse me? Could you repeat that? Don Kirshner? In the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame? Is this a joke? It'd be hard in a year where Laura Nyro gets inducted for anyone to compete for the most bewildering undeserving selection, but Don Kirshner may just pull it off. Like Dowd, Kirshner is another inductee who is recently deceased, but unlike Dowd, virtually everyone involved is glad that Kirshner's gone and won't be around to further taint the ceremonies with his presence. Known as the man with the golden ear, Kirshner was a song plugger from the famed Brill Building during it's early 60's heyday when it was churning out hit after hit for dozens of rock artists. He started Aldon Records, a publishing house, which signed many of the hottest up and coming writers, but a publisher, while a vital entity in the music business, is by no means a creative endeavor, but rather a business enterprise. He was in no way personally responsible for any of the hits his writers submitted, other than possibly as the final arbiter of their potential. He didn't write the lyrics, he didn't write the music, he didn't write the arrangements, he simply wrote the checks and then, most tellingly, CASHED the checks those songs written by others reaped in publishing royalties. His primary claim to fame was creating the Monkees, the group and TV series, which was the most reviled concept of its era by the newly formed rock critic contingent, who oddly enough are now voting for the Hall Of Fame. Yet while that group has never recovered from its initial image problem, despite being among the most popular, innovative and yes, influential groups of their era (pioneers in music videos, the Moog synthesizer and country-rock), Kirshner, who strove to keep them locked into rigid formula and stifle any and all attempts at artistic creativity, was ultimately fired for his stringency. Bitter at his ouster, he then got his wish for total control over an artist however by creating another group, the Archies, but in order to not have to actually deal with such nuisances as human beings he presented them as cartoons with anonymous session singers who couldn't overrule his authority. So essentially Kirshner gets rewarded with an induction to The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame for giving the world the hit Sugar Sugar and the bubblegum teen pop of that era when all along he was one of the most reviled men in the business. Somewhere Mike Nesmith just put his fist through a wall in frustration.
The Hall of Fame gets criticized no matter what they do, which is to be expected when deciding (often arbitrarily) on whom to bestow immortality in a field of music that inspires so much devotional passion as rock 'n' roll. Which is why those complaining about its questionable decisions need to look at each case individually using purely objective measures of an artist's career, eliminating their personal taste as much as humanly possible when deciding on a candidate's merits. Either someone's achievements are easily proven or they're not, and that should be the only standard that applies, regardless of one's own tastes or musical interests. When these criteria aren't followed, and too often they fail to come close to any reasonable standard of qualification, the Hall deserves every ounce of criticism leveled at them. They hear it too, though they are reluctant to admit they pay it any attention, and are adamant about clinging to the source of their problems in maintaining the current nominating committee and voting body. However, history has shown that they often use the secondary categories, which are not put to a general vote as the Main Performers are, to try and blunt some of that criticism each year. When the artists in a particular class are all white they'll name a black producer to prevent the ceremonies from looking like Lester Maddox's family reunion. When women are nowhere to be seen among the performers they'll name a female songwriter, or possibly even manipulate the entire voting process to get Wanda Jackson in as an Early Influence. And when, year after year, their glaring historical blind spots are brought up, the Hall tries to placate its critics by scanning the Non-Performers categories and cherry picking a long overdue candidate for induction, hoping perhaps to shut certain voices up... (ah-hem). Well, good. If that's what it takes to get Cosimo Matassa in the Hall Of Fame, where he deserved to be twenty five years ago, then everyone out there with an appreciation for the full history of rock music should keep on complaining as loudly as ever. Matassa was one of the first, and certainly the most important, of the independent rock studio owners and engineers. His J&M Studios in New Orleans housed sessions for the cream of the crop of 50's rock icons, from Fats Domino to Little Richard. Producers craved the sound he got from his makeshift setup, artists appreciated the personal touch he lent them and record companies respected the fact that no studio churned out more hits than his. So why did it take so long for Matassa to make the cut? Maybe we didn't yell loud enough. Will his induction shut us up and get us to stop complaining about the many injustices the Hall perpetuates every year? Not by a long shot, but for a moment at least, when Matassa's name is called and he takes his rightful place in the Hall, we'll be quiet and join others in paying our respects for his accomplishments as he so rightly deserves.
No doubt people get tired of reading the same complaints each year about the Hall of Fame's dismal record centered around a lack of historical accuracy, troubling racial injustice and preferential treatment for the idols and bygone teen crushes of its voting members. Truthfully, it gets even more tiresome writing about it year after year. But if the Hall of Fame wants to be taken seriously, and by all accounts it does, then it needs to have its built-in systematic flaws and biases corrected once and for all and to have any hope of doing that they apparently need to be continually called out on their shortcomings. It's fully understood that nobody will ever agree with all selections, no matter the qualifications of those inductees, because properly crediting achievement runs counter to the subjective tastes of following music as a fan, but certain standards for an artist's credentials can always be objectively weighed and must be insisted upon, and certainly who is doing the selecting, what their agenda is, and the demographics of the voting body and the corresponding blind spots they're shown to have can all be easily remedied. Greater diversity in the voting rolls in terms of age, background, gender, race and point of origin... A revolving nominating committee to ensure differing perspectives in naming the candidates to the ballot each year... The expulsion, jailing and possible public execution of those responsible for the criminal manipulation of its own procedural guidelines.
If these alterations were to be enacted would there still be complaints over who makes it in? Of course, but the methods for arriving at those selections would stand up to intense scrutiny, something which can not be said now and which causes the Hall to crumble in dishonor a little more each year.
Ultimately a Hall Of Fame that treats induction as the ultimate award reserved only for the most deserving candidates is a much greater monument to the legacy of rock 'n' roll than anything tainted by rampant cronyism, ongoing voting irregularities, a lack of definable criteria, outright biases and widespread ineptitude. A Hall of Fame that doesn't insist upon the highest standards in its methods of operation can't ever expect to be afforded the respect it seeks from others. Until it strives to get to that point it will always face entirely justifiable criticism and unfortunately this year was no exception. In fact, this year may be the nadir of its institutionalized corruption.