Criteria: 2021 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: 2021-05-13
2021 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
Any time you have people voting on anything the results are never guaranteed. That's the nature of democracy. People make their choices based on a number of reasons, some sensible, some not, but all of them equally valid when the decision is left up to the voters themselves.
Which is why so many would-be dictators try and undermine democracy by purging voter rolls, creating obstacles for certain constituencies to cast a ballot and challenging elections by spreading lies based on easily disproved unfounded rumors and trusting the uneducated and conspiracy minded sheep they call their supporters will nod their head in agreement and double down on these charges with the goal being to circumvent the will of the people and establish a totalitarian regime in its place.
The Republican party is currently the biggest offenders in this realm, desecrating the ideals the country was founded on at every turn over the past five years, but not willing to be left behind in this movement are the people in charge of The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, who have the same kind of shameful legacy of their own to uphold.
Though the voters - many of whom they handpicked over the years and which already have an indefensible dearth of minorities in their ranks - made their choices of their own volition this year and came up with a largely solid class to represent rock in the Hall, the body's behind the scenes power brokers once again circumvented the established rules to get results that were more in line with what they'd hoped would be achieved through a free and legal election.
That their choices in the side categories this year are by large well-deserved and thus many will claim they should be commended for addressing past injustices in this way, the problem is those past injustices were the direct result of severely restricting the voting body in the first place so that it'd benefit the type of artists their organizers have long preferred. Now that they're getting increased scrutiny for their shameful lack of diversity brought on by rewarding the limited cultural perspective of that voting body they're forced to cut corners to provide immediate redress rather than committing to restructuring the entire process to ensure a more representative field from year to year.
But as that kind of big picture thinking has long been out of their collective reach, the problems it causes will only resurface again in the future, even if this year's slate of inductees makes it seem on the surface that they've somehow righted the ship.
THE MAIN PERFORMER INDUCTEES
Hardly a surprise and hardly controversial either, one of the more widely known and well respected hard rock groups of the past thirty years easily made it into the Hall on their first attempt. Though this style of rock tends to not have the level of mainstream crossover appeal that results in recognizable hits - and thus is always at risk for being marginalized by the Hall - the presence of a frontman as iconic as Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana remember, means they were never going to be overlooked. With a deep catalog that avoids stylistic parody and with the universal respect of those outside that niche this was pretty much a forgone conclusion.
Long overdue New Wave stars who redefined the image of a girl group by writing, singing and playing their own music and still scoring hits their time on top was relatively brief but memorable starting with what is widely acclaimed to be the album of the year for 1981 and one of the best debuts in rock history. With music that was aggressive, lyrical insightful and filled with hooks they helped define the early 80's scene and the lack of so much as a nomination in their first fifteen years of eligibility was inexplicable, but this year in their first appearance on the ballot they rightly breezed in.
Each year has an unquestioned headliner and this year the Hall has one that towers over the field. The most recognizable hip-hop artist of all-time and the man arguably most responsible for bringing the street to the boardroom in music while overseeing an empire initially built on music but eventually encompassing so much more. Because of his diverse accomplishments he's possibly the most successful rock artist - at least in terms of a diverse portfolio - in history. If those other areas overshadow his legacy as a rapper they shouldn't, as his early albums were epics while the overall image he built was forged with deft lyrics and rhyme skills. A daunting figure in every way.
The first person to be inducted as both a Non-Performer and now a Main Performer, King's songwriting for hire got her an early nod along with ex-husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin way back in 1990 and now thirty-one years later she's finally being credited for her explosive arrival on the recording scene in the early 1970's with one of the most indelible albums of all-time. Though she'd released records under her own name before that, and frequently played piano on the tracks she was making for others in addition to arranging them, it wasn't until after her divorce that she took on the mantle of an artist and for much of the 70's excelled in this area as well. That she's also one of the most beloved figures in music made this virtually an automatic selection once she was placed on the ballot.
The one selection the voters made which could be questioned on merit, though even here the criticism of the choice dissipates somewhat if you expand the parameters of what he's actually being honored for. Rundgren's own recording career, while notable, falls short of many of the others on the ballot who failed to get in, especially Mary J. Blige who is this year's most egregious and indefensible omission. However as a producer for others Rundgren adds an element that few others can match and which in the long run will probably be seen as his most lasting impact on music. The biggest criticism therefore is the category for which he's being honored is a little misleading, not that he isn't deserving of recognition for what he accomplished.
Another two-time inductee this year, joining King and Grohl, capping off a year which saw a major documentary released on her life and career, one which began at the dawn of the 1960's when she and then husband Ike formed one of the most potent live shows of the ensuing decade and a half. Upon leaving him and setting out on her own it took nearly a decade before she was able to carve out her own image but once she did she reminded everyone why she'd been so revered as a singer and performer. Considering the universal respect she has it's amazing it took this long to honor her a second time.
In their history the Hall has had a maddening tendency to fail to honor people when they were alive, some famously being eligible for decades but never being considered until after they passed away at ripe old ages when the Hall finally decreed them worthy. So the induction of 90 year old Black Godfather, Avant, founder of multiple labels, is nice to see for he and his family's sake if nothing else. It's also a hopeful sign that the Hall is trying, belatedly, to address their sickening racial disparities by honoring somebody whose primary contributions are in their groundbreaking nature in regards to "firsts" in terms of black ownership. His career encompasses a staggering breadth of projects, from artist representation to radio and film over more than sixty years.
LL COOL J
When the Hall renamed the Sidemen category a few years back it was done to circumvent the pesky rules that the Hall never respected and now we have another example of why their ineptitude resulted in this change. LL Cool J failed to make it into the Hall in the Main Performer category again this year despite overwhelming credentials, a reflection of the aging white demographic of the voting body. Rather than broaden the pool of voters to actually reflect the music's interest, something that should be done so it doesn't look like the Mississippi Legislature circa 1967 to begin with, they've shoehorned a deserving artist into this category instead just to avoid having to deal with their own shortcomings. LL Cool J should've made it in under normal procedures any one of the five previous appearances on the ballot for his massive credentials as an artist, instead the Hall has cheapened his induction because they remain unwilling to address larger systematic biases that led to them needing create a back door such as this in the first place.
Had the Hall kept the Sidemen designation all along, this is exactly the kind of artist that was most deserving for such an honor from the start. Though Preston had a strong recording career in his own right with a number of massive hits in the 1970's, his greater legacy was always his work behind others on keyboards, playing with everyone from Sam Cooke to The Beatles and being a frequent guest on major tours of a laundry list of huge names through the years. His impact on the role of organ in rock places him behind only Bill Doggett and Booker T. Jones in rock's long history and he was one of a handful of sidemen to parlay that success into solo stardom.
Another worthy selection under this designation's original terminology, Rhodes was one of the most gifted and tragic figures in heavy metal, becoming an icon in the field before his tragic death at 25 in 1982. Packing a lot into a short career founding Quiet Riot and later for his acclaimed stint as Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist, he not only contributed some of the most legendary riffs in metal but was instrumental in expanding the music's written approach as well and decades after the plane crash that took his life his name recognition remains astonishingly high for someone with such a small catalog.
Yet another example of the Hall pre-determining who deserves to be in and then contriving ways to ensure that they make it, in this case distorting the entire concept of Early Influence to be able to include a group that - while unquestionably influential - came along in the mid-1970's, hardly making them early in rock's evolution, all while the true originators of the music remain callously ignored by the institution. Five appearances on the ballot wherein they were always a borderline candidate resulted in no election and so they utilized this backdoor to bypass the voters. Kraftwerk's presence as inductees isn't a problem, they're deserving of recognition, but the way in which they got it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Aside from the fact that Scott-Heron hadn't appeared on the Main Performer ballot before, and thus unlike Kraftwerk hadn't come up short in the traditional voting procedures, their cases are remarkably similar in that the Hall has re-defined the Early Influence category to broaden the list of candidates to consider. While it could be argued that there should've always been a separate category for those whose greatest effect on rock came through influence rather than their recorded legacy, this designation was clearly designed to honor pioneers who pre-dated rock and only recently has it been twisted to sidestep their own shortsightedness. As for Scott-Heron his sharp-eyed cynical spoken-word efforts, backed by Brian Jackson's piano, were indeed influential on both protest-rock and rap and it's nice he's being credited, but unfortunate that it has to be done in such a questionable manner.
Finally somebody who qualifies under the "Early" part of the description, as Patton was one of the most influential bluesman of all time, a towering figure of the 1920's whose work as both a singer and guitarist resonated over the years with many elements he popularized working their way down to rock. As such he fits the image of this category better, although once again the Hall chooses to honor distant blues connections rather than rock originators, as this remains one of the most poorly representative categories in the Hall, as the biggest of rock's founding artists of the late 1940's remain on the outside looking in.
For the first time in years there's not anybody truly undeserving going into the Hall but that doesn't mean they've turned any corner when it comes to integrity or credibility. The foundation's biggest problem remains the unmitigated corruption that infests its highest ranks, wherein a small circle of power hungry people want to hold sway over what should be a far more democratic operation.
Having empowered a nominating committee that remains virtually unchanged from year to year, they've ensured no new views are even offered for consideration, and since the members are far too old, white and male, it guarantees the type of interests reflect that of the higher-ups at The Hall. They've then systematically kept the voting body largely confined to demographics that will validate those narrow interests thereby all but ensuring homogenized inductees year after year.
When rightfully faced with mounting criticism over their shameful record on black and female representation in their ranks they never address the source of that problem by overhauling the committee and expanding the voting body to reflect the diversity in rock, but instead manipulate the side categories to induct those who've been the victims of those discriminatory practices they enacted and in the process try and give the appearance that they're far more culturally welcoming than they are.
Since these problems aren't being taken seriously, and in many cases being flatly denied they exist, there's little hope for any meaningful change. The solution is easy but it requires a belief in the principles of democracy which include equal representation under law, voting rights access and transparent elections... essentially stripping power from those who've used their positions to horde it all these years.
Very few are willing to do that in any arena and so while they may claim to be defending democracy by limiting who has a say in the electoral procedures, what they're really defending is their own grip on the system to maintain control.