It wasn't a very stacked ballot to begin with but it'd be hard to find a class that was simultaneously weaker in terms of the artists impact on rock and yet still filled with big names than this one in the institution's thirty-six years in operation.
Though you do get one very deserving headliner out of the bunch and one artist who is quite possibly the most honorable human being to ever set foot on their stage, the overall résumés of the collective group of main performer inductees is questionable at best and troubling at worst.
They attempt to make up for it in the side categories with a few of the most vital figures in rock history who are finally getting their due, but it's shocking that with so many crucial artists still waiting for a call - including one on this year's ballot who inexplicably didn't get enough support - that they'd have a slate of inductees as head scratching as this year's.
But then again by this point in their confused and corrupt history can anyone really claim to be shocked by what this Hall Of Fame does?
|THE MAIN PERFORMER INDUCTEES
It was inevitable after Joan Jett got in a few years back that Benatar would soon follow as they were viewed during the 80's as two sides of the same coin, but while she's not without some credentials they pale in comparison to the long list of female rock acts that have yet to make the grade from Mary J. Blige to The Pointer Sisters and countless others. But Benatar embodies the image the Hall prefers and so this can hardly be called a surprise.
For years it seemed as though they might be made to suffer from a contingent of older taste makers who never embraced the importance of the visual appeal of the MTV generation acts but eventually their qualifications were too big to ignore. Few artists were as consistently popular throughout the 1980's which resulted in eleven Top Ten hits in their career despite the departure of two key members mid-way through their run. Long overdue.
The slam dunk nominee with the kind of staggering generational impact that puts everyone else to shame. He was the rare artist who was culturally transforming, commercially successful, critically acclaimed and artistically innovative, the first legitimate white rapper of any consequence who raised the bar lyrically and helped to define the punk image of the new century in rock's most dominant creative subgenre.
Not undeserving of induction by any means but with Hall's disdain for the synth-driven music that shaped the 1980's during the first twenty-five years it was eligible there was a notable backlog of qualified candidates in this field and the Eurythmics were a safe and predictable candidate who fit neatly into their cultural preferences. The real test now will be how diverse the synthesizer-centric inductees who follow will be as the black dance rock scene from that era needs immediate attention.
Being exceedingly nice, generous and ethical are not typical qualities to describe rock 'n' roll, which is only one reason why Parton, a towering country star, was always out of place on the ballot. When she asked to be removed because she never recorded rock 'n' roll and felt it was not right to draw votes away from those who had, the Hall and its voters ignored her. Though her presence will grace the Hall for sure, it will only serve to highlight why she's far too good to be included in such a disreputable establishment.
Though versatility is an admirable trait for any artist, it's telling that the music Richie made with The Commodores in the 1970's was far more consistently focused on rock before he left to pursue middle of the road pop with a few credible dance-rock hits thrown in. By inducting Richie alone they get to credit his entire career while ensuring The Commodores won't ever be considered and risk throwing off their carefully cultivated imbalanced voting body with too many black inductees.
Another pop-oriented singer with a stray rock side whose overall work as an artist, regardless of genre, is substantial, but whose presence here shows the extent The Hall and its voting body are resistant to properly telling rock's full story, choosing instead to bypass game changers like A Tribe Called Quest to induct someone who did not significantly impact the course of rock 'n' roll in the least over a career spanning five decades.
|MUSICAL EXCELLENCE AWARD
Ever since this category was reconfigured and renamed a few years back it's been used to bypass the traditional self-explanatory categories that had attempted (not always successfully) to shed light on Sidemen, Early Influences and behind the scenes creative figures. This category has become renown for inducting artists who failed to make the grade on the same year's ballot, thereby making more of a farce of an already farcical voting system.
JIMMY JAM AND TERRY LEWIS
No string pulling here, but what's so troubling is that it took as long as it did for a pair of rock's most successful and influential writing and producing teams to be inducted, as this duo basically invented New Jack Swing, a style that quickly became so ubiquitous in the early 90's that it stopped being referred to by any special name and from then on was simply the dominant approach of an entire generation.
This year's back door inductees who were on the Main Performer ballot and missed the cut again. Realizing that was unlikely to change, and rightly sensitive to the charges that the Hall was dismissive of metal which for years has succeeded without mainstream appeal thanks to a famously loyal core fan base, the Hall put a band aid over the problem by giving them this "honor". Their influence is immense and they shouldn't need such machinations to be properly credited for it.
Any time you can publicly honor someone as noble as Belafonte, not just as an artist but as a Civil Rights crusader, especially at a time when Civil Rights are being dismantled by state governments and The Supreme Court, is a good thing, but to call him an Early Influence on rock is about as far-fetched as it gets. A fantastic singer, but one who, as rock 'n' roll hit its highest commercial peak, was held aloft as an antidote to that by the establishment. Give him a platform to speak out, but withhold an honor better suited to those who gave birth to rock and will continue to be ignored.
A tremendously inspiring story, the self-taught guitarist who wrote songs in her teens gave up the instrument soon after and worked as a domestic for decades until she began playing again in her sixties, doesn't change the fact that she's not influential to rock's creation or development. Her biggest verifiable achievement is her self-penned "Freight Train", which was big on the British skiffle scene in the mid-1950's, but considering how many legitimate early rock acts have been snubbed by the Hall, this choice unfortunately comes across as them looking to get credit for themselves for thinking of her.
|AHMET ERTEGUN AWARD
It's either ironic or fitting that a category renamed for someone who made a fortune violating the contracts of the artists he signed to his own label is now honoring someone on the opposite side of those contracts as Grubman was one of the first lawyers to break the stranglehold that companies held over their creative talent... not an insignificant feat, but something he got paid well to do and thus hardly deserving of an award when so many who contributed far more to the artistic side and neither got paid nor honored are left on the outside looking in.
Producer turned record label owner (Interscope), his credentials are both diverse and very deep, but he's yet another inductee over the past few years - as was Grubman - with a personal connection to Bruce Springsteen, which raises more ethical questions that the Hall is unprepared to answer. Iovine can obviously get in without the help, but it still seems as if being close to key figures is worth far more than anything else, so while he should be honored for his achievements, calling the Hall out for this weirdly incestuous web might at least embarrass the participants enough to change their practices.
The most qualified inductee this year is someone most casually interested parties have no awareness of and thus should be the one who has the most attention bestowed upon her career. As 14 year old she released her first records as an artist sounding far more mature than her age and a few years later after taking guitar lessons from Mickey Baker they decided to form a duo and scored a number of hits including the all time classic "Love Is Strange". Meanwhile on the side Sylvia produced and contributed the lead guitar parts for Ike & Tina Turner's "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", with Mickey taking the male vocals alongside Tina. In the 1970's Sylvia scored a huge hit on her own with "Pillow Talk" before turning her attention to Sugar Hill Records which she and her husband founded and for over a decade she oversaw their production on its way to becoming the first rap label to achieve legendary status earning her the title The Mother Of Hip-Hop. Her songwriting and production skills in addition to her business acumen and her singing and guitar abilities make her without question the single most talented female in rock history.