Criteria: 2013 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: 2012-12-21
2013 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
It gets increasingly difficult to fairly evaluate the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees as the years go by, as the very nature of the process ensures that the standard for immortality gets increasingly lower over time the more names get called. The types of automatic selections that flooded the Hall in its first half decade become fewer and farther between so the star power they hope to spotlight naturally grows dimmer as a result. An unchanging nominating committee ensures the ballots have a similar look and feel each year and the voting body, whose demographics are far too narrow to begin with, are given no criteria guidelines with which to make their choices. Thus it is left up to the wildly divergent individual personal tastes of those with ballots to decide who gets remembered as historically relevant and who gets discarded to the pile of forgotten relics. With six selections chosen from fifteen nominees it was unlikely that there would not be at least some eminently worthy selections, but that many inductees also all but guaranteed that stylistic biases long found within the electorate would rear their ugly head once again and provide the Class of 2013 with some head scratchers.
So once again it becomes necessary to break down the ballot and look at the underlying trends and discrepancies that make the post-election analysis as frustrating as it is fun. Since this year's ballot contained one group that towered over the field, first time eligible nominees Public Enemy were all but assured of being the rightful headliners when the results were tallied. The voters upheld their end of the bargain making PE the fourth hip-hop representative to make the Hall of Fame. But as expected as that choice was, whether out of a rightful assessment of their credentials or the fear that to not elect them would've set off a firestorm that the Hall wanted to avoid at all costs, it should've been equally predictable that the second most qualified among the first time nominees, gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A, would likely not get in. Any study of the Hall's history shows that the electorate is lacking in knowledge of rap's achievements and are uneasy with the form and its practitioners as a whole. Despite influence that lays to waste all of the other inductees this year, the Compton crew will have to wait at least another year to be enshrined which is reprehensible.
Another massively popular form of rock that the Hall has been uncomfortable in crediting is disco, but the recent death of Donna Summer, coupled with a few loud voices coming from within their own community of white critics and artists protesting her absence, finally led the voters to make the right choice after five failed attempts to do the right thing. The fact she is no longer here in the flesh to accept the honor in person points to another of the Hall's most shameful and easily remedied blights, as she becomes another in a long list of posthumous inductees who had been eligible while still of this earth.
There was a surplus of equally viable candidates that filled out the ballot this year, any of whom would've made a good selection, but any of which who failed to make it would raise questions as to why they were left off in favor of someone of roughly equal value. The beneficiaries in this field were Rush, who had the overwhelming support of the rather one-sided online community of white male intellectual rock fans, and Heart, whose familiarity and popularity to at least two distinct audiences over the years aided their cause immensely. Both were good choices, and arguably overdue, though neither were outright snubs in the past, their presence unquestionably strengthens the Hall's standing. Those of equal merits who failed to make the cut however calls further attention to the ongoing demographic issues that the Hall refuses to address when compiling their voting body, as the Marvelettes, Meters and Chic all face longer odds due to their skin pigmentation, while Deep Purple has an uphill climb to convince voters that metal is not simply the domain of teenage outcasts. Had any of them made it over the names to follow, the Class of 2013 would've been considerably stronger.
Unfortunately that wasn't the case and therefore we come to the most troubling, and yet predictable, misfires of the election. That both singer-songwriter Randy Newman, and blues guitar titan Albert King were granted entrance when not deserving of the honor is not a reflection on their skills as musicians. Too often the response to criticism of an artist getting in seems to miss the point, somehow suggesting that such unqualified acts are not quality performers with notable accomplishments. Both Newman and King have as much talent as any of the others who made the grade this year. Unfortunately both made it because of who they were, what they represented to those casting ballots, and just as pointedly who they weren't when compared to other more qualified candidates from styles outside their comfort zone. The voting body simply is more comfortable electing a recognizable name with a vast résumé but little tangible success within rock, such as Newman, or dead bluesman who have great appeal to the British guitar slingers they admire, than they are ushering in a second hip-hop group in a single year, or a second disco act, or a metal group, and that remains the Hall's most glaring deficiency. The number of these types of periphery figures have risen dramatically in recent years as the later eras of rock that had fragmented audiences, frequently at war with one another, become eligible. Lacking a consensus as to what even should constitute rock in the MTV age, the voters reach back for the safer choices that inevitably get nominated each year for just such a purpose. In the end while they get many inductees right they are usually the obvious ones and they shouldn't necessarily be praised for that, it should be expected. The real litmus test comes at the back end of the ballot and once again in that regard they went with who didn't offend them it seems rather than who shook up rock 'n' roll and altered the course of its history. Rock 'n' roll should never be about comfort and sometimes you wish the Hall voters would remember that.
THE MAIN PERFORMER INDUCTEES
For years Heart seemed to be an obvious eventual selection, both for their accomplishments (14 Top 25 hits, two of which hit #1) and their pedigree which saw them appeal to both hard-rock fans they broke through to in the seventies and adult listeners who knew them for their eighties ballad-oriented smashes. Yet it took years for them to even make the ballot and then when they did they had to endure one rejection before getting the nod this year. But their induction should come as no surprise because they represent the ideal compromise candidate, as voters from multiple eras, backgrounds and varied tastes could find something within their body of work to personally relate to, which often seems to be the most important criteria for the Hall's imperfect voting process. That said, there's also no one who can complain about their getting in. They've earned widespread respect for their musical abilities, as Nancy Wilson has been the most iconic female guitarist on the rock scene for decades, while sister Ann always enjoyed universal praise for her vocal skill and were rare in that the two females were the faces of the otherwise mixed-gender rock band. Their seamless transition from their more uncouth roots to the mainstream showed their versatility and lasting appeal. Their high points may not have the glamour and decadence that separates the immortals from the merely consistently good, but being that consistent in the ever changing world of rock 'n' roll is an accomplishment unto itself and there are a far greater number of smaller stars in the Hall of Fame's skies than there are the supernovas that get most of the attention, and Heart should be proud to join that constellation.
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame has always placed too great an emphasis on the blues because those most closely associated with the Hall's governing body came of age in the sixties listening to the blues-rock disciples from Great Britain. The guitar likewise has always held a mystical place in their minds, far overshadowing the piano and saxophone origins of rock 'n' roll. So it's no surprise that many of the weakest inductees over the years come from the field of blues, a separate major genre of music, however influential it might've been to rock's development. Questioning King's induction under that critical viewpoint of the Hall itself should be no reflection on his brilliance as an artist however. King was the premiere bluesman of the late 60's while on Stax Records, his left-handed technique and Flying V guitar as familiar to any Fillmore Auditorium rock audience as they were to hardened blues fans. His influence on the instrument is well-credited, the familiarity of his catalog over the years has only grown in stature, and with the backdoor induction of Freddie King last year it shouldn't be a shock to anyone placing bets on who would get in that this year would be Albert's turn. But while his contributions to rock are noteworthy, he was still first and foremost a bluesman, and those on this year's ballot whose entire oeuvre came in rock fields such as rap, disco and metal have a legitimate gripe that the Hall's personal allegiance to blues have cost one of them an induction. That said, listen to Albert King as much as possible, he's worth the effort.
Of all this year's inductees it is safe to say that none are as well-rounded musically as Randy Newman. A prolific composer whose movie scores alone guarantee his name will be forever mentioned among the 20th Century's most gifted musicians, Newman however is the least deserving for this particular honor among not just those inducted, but those who he beat out on the ballot. If that seems an unfair position to take consider that Newman's work as a solo artist consists of just one hit single, the novelty "Short People". While his compositions have been recorded by some of the most prominent artists of his era, from Etta James to Dusty Springfield, few were actually hits and so their inherent quality is unfortunately purely subjective, even if there is a general consensus that few write with the depth and musical flair of Newman. But if an honor is to be justified on objective grounds there needs to be easily proven criteria that one meets within the field they're being honored for and Newman, as great as his material is to so many of ears, comes up short as a rock artist, particularly when compared to those who failed to make the grade this year. Quirky and idiosyncratic are oftentimes far more entertaining qualities to have than formulaic and accessible, but success and especially influence can be achieved while still maintaining a unique perspective and Newman, for the most part, missed that. It's safe to say that most music fans with an appreciation of craft will become fans when hearing Randy Newman's best work, but strictly in terms of credentials based on tangible achievement as an artist he was the weakest candidate on the ballot. Maybe because the induction ceremony will be held in Los Angeles where he can serenade them with the snarky "I Love L.A.", one of his most notable songs, the Hall can defend the selection on those grounds. It's too bad N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton" would've been far more appropriate for the proceedings and far more deserving. Newman's skill should never be in doubt, but he doesn't need, nor deserve, an induction in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame to give his incredibly diverse career additional validity.
In the history of rock 'n' roll there have been too many hit makers to count but relatively few who radically change the entire focus of the genre itself in any lasting and profound way. Public Enemy was one of those who did so and whose influence could still be felt just as strongly upon their eligibility for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame a quarter century after their appearance on the scene when they shook the entire rock world with their ferocious approach and intelligent lyrics that set them apart as uncompromising social, political and musical visionaries. The transformation of hip-hop from party music to seething cultural commentary had begun incrementally before PE, but no artist fueled its ascent more brilliantly than they did. Their presence on the landscape forced the mainstream who'd previously dismissed rap as inconsequential to address it head on, sparking controversy, rage, protest and eventually, though it came stubbornly over time, full-fledged acceptance for its role in acting as a loud and unrelenting voice for a huge bloc of society that was always on the fringes of being totally disenfranchised. That they did so while simultaneously altering the entire sound of music, ushering in a sample-heavy sonic onslaught that was as jarring as it was exhilarating, gives them credentials that overwhelm their rather limited presence on the radio and pop charts. Their indelible 1988 release "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" has little competition for the most important rock album of the past thirty years,while their relentless touring ever since made rap a far greater presence on stages than it had been previously. As such their overall stature as absolute game-changers within music allows Public Enemy to tower over all of the other inductees making them the mandatory headliners of the Class Of 2013.
Fans of each stylistic subgenre of rock naturally push hardest for the induction of the biggest names in their respective fields, with few being as unified and single-minded as those who helped propel Rush into the Hall after years of utter neglect. The Canadian power trio whose mixture of progressive and hard rock styles have long been internet poll favorites for induction and have received the most clamor for their absence when year after year they were not even nominated. Their lack of mainstream familiarity to casual listeners was never an accurate indication of the depth of their fan base, as their albums consistently were huge sellers, with twelve going into the Top Ten, including one released this past year, while their concerts have long been incredible draws and their influence remains far bigger than most critics would attest. Since progressive rock always failed to connect with singles-oriented radio it was left to the album market to carve their niche and in doing so with tightly constructed songs highlighted by incredibly skillful playing, they long had the best overall credentials to be found in that arena. At long last the blockade against this style of music in the Hall has begun to break down and is proof that if the ballot opens up to a wider array of artists there's hope for similarly excluded subgenres to get in. Ironically, for a group that long flew under the music media's radar their selection has garnered them international headlines befitting of the vast fan-based push they enjoyed leading up to the election. Now that they've gotten in the vacuum created by their induction could cause the entire internet music site fan-oriented network to collapse.
It never should've happened this way. When Donna Summer first became eligible for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, way back in 1996, her nomination and subsequent induction should've been all but guaranteed. Few artists from any style of rock were as successful as she was, notching 11 Top Five hits, or to put it into perspective, more than the rest of this year's inductees have combined. She was the face of the most popular subgenre of rock for a full decade, the unchallenged Queen Of Disco, whose reign oversaw its move from fringe club scene to international movement. Additionally she wrote many of those songs herself, while the sleek production of her work altered the entire sound of rock for years to come, helping to usher in the extended dance floor versions of songs that became commonplace in the decades since. But by the time she became eligible for the Hall the disco era for many had become a blight on the rock landscape, an easily caricatured exercise in glamorous excess, sterile and inorganic. For voters who too often used their tastes alone as litmus tests for music's credibility, disco became an object of scorn and derision and thus it took Summer a decade to be nominated and then five appearances on the ballot to finally make it in. The ceremonies will honor Summer posthumously, for she died this past year, long after she should've been celebrated publicly for her vast contributions to rock history. There will be tears, praise and a thundering standing ovation that Summer herself will never get to enjoy, given by the very people who cruelly denied her that right in the first place. Any questions as to why the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is so widely detested need to look no further than the empty podium when Summer's name is at long last called.
Each year the Hall Of Fame, at its discretion, can induct any number of non-performers, sidemen and early influence performers, the selections of which are more often than not used to either balance a particularly troubling one-sided main performer slate, or to reward the friends of the insiders who comprise the Hall's governing body. While some of those are in fact worthy of the honor rarely are those chosen the most deserving names still awaiting to be officially acknowledged for their contributions. Not surprisingly this year includes no long-overdue Early Influence candidates, such as Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, Amos Milburn, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Ravens, The Sensational Nightingales, The Dixie Hummingbirds or Big Jay McNeely. The sidemen category is vacant yet again, despite the likes of Jimmy Nolen, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Lee Allen, Mickey "Guitar" Baker, Billy Preston and Huey "Piano" Smith still waiting for the call. But traditionally the Hall can be counted on to give recognition to those behind the scenes whose presence will reflect best on those handing out the praise. But while this year there's no Willie Mitchell or Scratch Perry, Wolfman Jack or John R. George Goldner or DJ Kool Herc, there's at least somebody, and the somebodies this year have their qualifications.
A long overdue choice, Adler was a fixture in rock during the 60's and early 70's in a variety of capacities with some of the biggest names in music. He started out with Herb Alpert as a songwriter and upon writing a song for Sam Cooke he formed a close bond with the singer who helped him get his feet wet with producing minor artists. From there he managed Jan & Dean and steered another signee, Johnny Rivers to stardom by recording his live set from which came a string of hit singles. He formed Dunhill Records which resulted in Barry McGuire's #1 hit Eve Of Destruction before embarking on a longstanding partnership with The Mama's & The Papa's, overseeing some of the most intricately produced records of their time. Along with the group's founder John Phillips he organized the first major rock festival, Monterey Pop, in 1967, and it was his decision to film the entire three-day extravaganza which helped usher in the concert documentary trend in rock. As the 70's dawned he helmed songwriting legend Carole King's breakthrough as an artist with the mega-selling "Tapestry" album before turning his attention to film. Though most today know him for sitting alongside Jack Nicholson at Laker games, his music career is what allowed him to afford those seats in the first place and will finally be rightfully honored for it.
Few overall figures in music can match the widespread name recognition of Quincy Jones, who's done it all over the course of more than six decades in the spotlight, from performer and composer to arranger and producer. Though much of his most cherished work found him far outside the rock milieu, most notably as a jazz musician alongside such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Jones's broke through in a different way with teen rock queen Lesley Gore, putting out a string of the most immaculately produced records of the 60's. One of the first black figures to be given an executive position at a major label, Jones later moved into film scores and continued amassing as diverse a résumé as an arranger as can be found, working with Frank Sinatra one day and old friend Ray Charles, whom he met as a teenager over a decade earlier, the next. Though he also worked with Aretha Franklin, Rufus with Chaka Khan and Paul Simon, and releasing many acclaimed records of his own, it was his work with Michael Jackson, overseeing the late King Of Pop's most indelible albums, including the immortal "Thriller" the biggest selling LP of all-time, that cemented his legacy in rock. Wherever his personal musical allegiance truly lies, those credentials can not be questioned and will give viewers the much needed familiar starting point that many in this category are lacking.
Twenty-eight years into the process, how does one judge the success or failure of the Hall Of Fame in their yearly selections? Inducting all of the mandatory selections? If so, it could easily be said that the Hall failed in that regard by not electing N.W.A, who should've be an automatic choice, and to a lesser extent missing out on Deep Purple, Chic, The Marvelettes and The Meters whose credentials all far outweighed two of the inductees. Yet of the six Main Performers, four were excellent choices and can't be challenged, which is a better percentage than usual. So while the Hall's overall grade this year is far better than in past years, was that a fluke or a sign of things to come? Given their history more evidence is needed to prove that they're headed in the right direction. Considering the basic solutions to their own self-made problems are so obvious and are mostly procedural, beginning with having a constantly changing nominating committee to ensure new viewpoints being reflected on the ballot and a much more diverse voting body to cut down on the demographic biases that are so prominent, there's no reason why the same questions should persist year after year. It's not unreasonable for people to expect better of the Hall and to not have the yearly outrage upon seeing what deserving candidate got left out, but at the same time there are also those who must be astonished that they didn't find a way to screw it up more. So just call it a draw between the pleasantly surprised and morally outraged and come back next year for more intrigue and drama.