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2010 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees

Criteria: 2010 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees. Names are in alphabetical order.

(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
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QUALIFICATIONS (on a scale of 1-10)
10 - The Immortals
9 - Deserves To Be A First Ballot Lock
8 - Should Be Guaranteed An Induction
7 - An Eventual Induction Is Likely
6 - Should Be Nominated At Some Point
5 - Worthy Of At Least A Debate For A Nomination
4 - Not Insignificant, But Shouldn't Be Nominated
3 - No Business Being Debated By Committee
2 - No Business Being Even Mentioned
1 - No Business Visiting The Hall Of Fame Without a Ticket
2010 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
OVERVIEW
Nothing is trendier, or more passé, than criticizing the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, its nominating committee, its voters and at times its very existence. For a quarter century now the question over not only who is deserving of induction to the Hall of Fame, but what exactly IS rock 'n' roll as they see it, has been an ongoing debate that has filled thousands of web pages with little consensus and virtually no headway made. To be fair, the Hall of Fame has attempted with some success, probably more than they're generally given credit for, to define the boundaries as broad and accurately as can be done. While at times they've veered into a few primary musical genres outside of rock (blues, country and jazz), and have blindly neglected some authentic rock subgenres (prog entirely, metal, funk, Philly soul and early 50's rock to some degree as well), they have wisely seen fit to state unequivocally that such styles as disco and rap are every much a part of the rock 'n' roll landscape as punk and alternative, neither of which are closely related to rock's origins themselves, musically or socially. Their inclusiveness has drawn criticism from many uninformed commentators, both amateur and professional, but the Hall is clearly in the right when it comes to this question and should be commended for acknowledging virtually all of rock's many styles and subgenres in the face of often ignorant public outcry.

For the most part the Nominating Committee have made the obvious calls through the years without much trouble, but then invariably have wound up undercutting their own credibility when they've tried to justify filling the remainder of the ballot with a few leftfield choices and selections of personal favorites whose appearance has no legitimate defense using purely objective measures. This dichotomy is what makes following the Hall Of Fame so frustrating for serious rock historians. 

The 2010 Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame nominees however threatens to place fair minded analysis squarely alongside the fanatical ravings of legions of hotheaded no-nothings, for this year's ballot is a shameful ode to committee favoritism and murky credentials, with two candidates in particular that are bewildering choices to say the least, obscuring the fact that many of the remaining artists are eminently worthy for induction. Once again the Hall is left mired in a controversy of its own making which sadly invites scorn upon even the most qualified names on the ballot merely for their association with the questionable motives behind the committee's other choices. A decent induction class can indeed be chosen from the twelve candidates on this year's ballot, the most up for consideration since 2006, but it is another missed opportunity for the Hall Of Fame to counter charges of what are widely perceived to be institutionalized deficiencies of the entrenched Nominating Committee.
THE NOMINEES
ABBA
Though accomplished musically with first rate vocal harmonies and exquisite production that made them huge international stars, ABBA nevertheless found their appeal veering more to the mainstream pop market, as evidenced by their five Top Ten Adult Contemporary hits. As rock itself had become the dominant form of popular music by the early 60's in terms of sales, the traditional pop styles receded into memory while newer pop records took on more characteristics of rock 'n' roll, causing the line between the two to blur. ABBA straddled this line throughout their run, and while their more dance oriented records offered a link to rock's origins, in the end it is telling that their immense overall popularity had far less impact or influence on rock's direction than would seem likely if they were firmly within that camp. Others may see it differently, as someone within the Nominating Committee clearly does, this being their second nomination, but there are far too many other groups of that era whose impact on rock 'n' roll was much more well defined and deserve a nod before they do. A big name overall in this case does not equate to the specific credentials necessary for induction.

Qualifications: 4
THE CHANTELS
Another group that was nominated already without the stronger credentials of those left out from the same era and/or style, which would seem to suggest that again the committee's personal views are the primary consideration for being added to the ballot. It's not as if the Chantels aren't notable however, as they were the first true "girl group" in rock, bringing the vocal style and subject matter that would help define the early 60's to the table when they released their immortal hit "Maybe" in 1958. The problem is that song was the extent of their historical legacy. Lead singer Arlene Smith soon left the group and while they scored a few other smaller hits, their impact was alarmingly brief and their influence was absorbed and then built upon by The Shirelles who took the style into its most recognizable form. Widespread accusations that the committee attempts to have one 50's era act per year to ensure interest from that fan constituency appear to have credibility when such acts as the Chantels are routinely included. They aren't totally undeserving of consideration by any means, but far more qualified artists from that era are waiting who've yet to even be nominated, Larry Williams, Shirley & Lee and The Clovers, among them, along with the previously rejected Chuck Willis, The "5" Royales, The Dominoes and Johnny Ace. The choice of The Chantels yet again as opposed to these and other deserving artists is one more piece of evidence that the Hall Of Fame selection process is in dire need of overhaul when it comes to properly crediting rock's first full decade.

Qualifications: 5
JIMMY CLIFF
A welcome sight on the ballot, if only because reggae, the most identifiable non-U.S./U.K. strain of rock 'n' roll, has been on the outside looking in for a decade and a half following the automatic induction of Bob Marley in 1994. Cliff was one of reggae's iconic early figures, moving seamlessly from ska in the early 60's to the form that would capture the attention of much of the world by the 70's, a cause he helped greatly by starring in the landmark film, "The Harder They Come", which introduced reggae and Jamaican culture to Anglo audiences. Yet for all of his credentials Cliff takes as backseat to Toots Hibbert as reggae's most qualified artist awaiting induction, while non-performers Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Sly & Robbie who've yet to be inducted are also more deserving in their categories. Cliff, however, has the benefit of familiarity to the casual music audience the Hall seems to play to thanks to his acting appearance and ironically with his biggest American hit, a 1993 cover of the Johnny Nash reggae feel-good anthem "I Can See Clearly Now", that came long after Cliff had made his true mark on the rock world. If inducted it will be his seminal early work that will be, or should be, the focal point.

Qualifications: 6
GENESIS
It took the Hall Of Fame more than a decade to figure out how to deal with Genesis, a group that has been a solid presence on the rock landscape since the early seventies, but thanks to two totally different musical incarnations, featuring two different lead singers (Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins), resulting in two entirely different audiences for their work and two diametrically opposed legacies, they've never had the momentum to even secure a nomination before. Their first era will please prog fans who've suffered the indignity of never seeing any act from that style considered by the Hall, but that period saw it's appeal confined largely to the U.K. market and their greatest credentials for induction largely confined to influence. Their second era found them aiming squarely at the top 40 singles market with consistent success while at the same time being critically massacred for this mainstream appeal. Both versions of Genesis, taken separately, have credentials enough to be considered strong candidates, and combining the two eras and styles their induction would seem to be all but assured if these things were judged strictly by merits, not tastes. This being their first appearance on the ballot it will go some way in allowing the sensitive Hall hierarchy to stave off criticisms that they are anti-prog, even while many casual observers who know the group from their 80's singles heyday are oblivious to their prog beginnings. In short, this seems like the ideal compromise candidate for skittish voters.

Qualifications: 7
THE HOLLIES
As stated earlier, the Hall of Fame has been frequently accused of trying to hit key demographic areas in their selections each year.  Sometimes those choices are easily justified based strictly on the facts and an overflow of qualified artists from rock's first two decades, but too often it seems as if they are simply reaching for a name that will keep a glimmer of interest burning in the eye of a particular segment of longtime audiences. It also could be that the Nominating Committee chooses names that they themselves are more comfortable with from their own musical upbringing as ever more contentious styles of rock - rap, metal, alternative - become eligible as the years go by. The Chantels representing the 50's appears to be such a case this year and the Hollies are the 60's equivalent of that effort on the same ballot. In Graham Nash they have a well-respected figure in their midst, albeit one who was inducted already in the far more qualified Crosby, Stills & Nash. By contrast The Hollies, while admired for their harmonies and possessing a few pleasant hits, were not anywhere near vital enough on the late 60's scene to warrant a nomination above such contemporaries Joe Tex, Paul Revere & the Raiders or The Meters. However, they present a fairly likable and non-controversial alternative to some of the more divisive candidates on the ballot and thus remain a threat for induction despite their falling well short in the objective standards that should be used.

Qualifications: 5
KISS
An entire suburban army of now middle-aged white males with KISS emblazoned on the dusty covers of their childhood notebooks let out a collective "About time!" cry upon hearing the news that the 70's most notorious purveyors of rock 'n' roll excess and staged showmanship have been nominated at long last. Gene Simmons is now frantically looking for new ways to profit on this unexpected acknowledgement of their careers from a body he's long railed against. To be fair, Kiss was deserving of nomination when they first became eligible in the mid-90's, but their over-the-top image that had played best to the type of fan the Hall voters would rather distance themselves from socially meant that their actual accomplishments were overshadowed by their naked quest for commercial dominance. Though they did not start the theatrical stage-show by any means (for that see the still ignored Screamin' Jay Hawkins) they were one of the decade's biggest sellers and consistent draws on the road, and for a commercial enterprise such as rock 'n' roll those are genuine credentials. Their catalog is rife with familiar hits and their impact in defining rock's most decedent era is uncontestable. Will a still fervent anti-Kiss backlash among voters prevent them from getting in, or will they beat the odds for election in part so the Hall does not have to deal with the questions regarding their candidacy from the Kiss Army any longer?

Qualifications: 7
LL Cool J
Each year has an obvious headliner among the first-time eligible candidates and LL Cool J is this year's choice in that regard. As rap established itself throughout the 80's on its way to becoming the most dominant form of rock 'n' roll ever since, it was a 16 year old who helped lead the charge when the former James Todd Smith and his ever-present bucket hat released the stunning debut album "Radio" in 1985. From there LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James) became rap's biggest solo star over the next decade, pushing the style firmly into the mainstream at a time when it was still in danger of being dismissed as a fad and subsequently when its more controversial aspects came to the forefront. Groundbreaking, technically skilled and rap's first sex symbol, LL's sustained hit making career helped dissuade the notion that hip-hop was a disposable entity or fringe movement. He brought romance into what had been the ultimate party music with his crossover hit "I Need Love" in 1987 and by the early 90's he mounted his first comeback in an era of gangsta rap with his most acclaimed album ever, "Mama Said Knock You Out", offering a straightforward style that proved artists didn't have to jump on the latest trends to maintain an audience. Above all else he established long-term viability for rappers, with 9 Top Ten albums stretching over two decades of releases, making him one of rock's most bankable commodities in its most tumultuous subgenre. If he's not a lock for induction this year then something is amiss.

Qualifications: 8
DARLENE LOVE
One of rock's greatest female vocalists is faced with a troubling question regarding her candidacy for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame. Namely, in what way can the Hall honor her talents when her career was mostly served in the background for others? Love was the leader of the Blossoms, who were the 60's best uncredited female backing group, appearing on work of such artists as Duane Eddy, Dick Dale and a host of Phil Spector productions. Spector then took Love and tried using her more prominently, but his reluctance to give credit to the artist as opposed to himself meant that she was either saddled in a group with the unenviable name Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, or worse yet, was anonymously subbing for the already established group The Crystals on two of their biggest hits (including "He's A Rebel"). As a result Love herself never received proper credit, nor became a household name and her own career achievements, notable as they are, find themselves spread over far too many areas to be a strong candidate on her own. In fact, she is probably a better fit in the Sideman category than Main Performer because of this. Yet any Hall of Fame that can slip Wanda Jackson in as an Early Influence when she was no such thing, and was on the ballot in another category the year she made it, can manipulate the boundaries to find a spot for the more qualified Love. The fact that two of her most vocal fans, Dave Marsh and Little Steven Van Zandt, who produced one of her few actual chart hits under her own name in the 90's, are on the Nominating Committee brings a cloud of personal favoritism over her selection. Love deserves official recognition by the Hall in some way but should not have to be reliant on patronage or category manipulation to achieve it.

Qualifications: 5
LAURA NYRO
It's not entirely fair to suggest that any artist is the worst nominee ever offered for official consideration for the Hall Of Fame, but it is perfectly legitimate to call Laura Nyro the least qualified artist based purely on objective measures. Her career is that of a cult figure appealing primarily to the literary based critic and intellectual rock fan that holds far too much sway in deciding which aspects of rock are most deserving of praise and canonization. Like the similarly unqualified Leonard Cohen before her (elected 2008) it is not that Nyro's style or appeal to that type of listener that is in question, it's the fact that absent the usual objective based criteria for which all candidates must be judged one finds her credentials sorely lacking. Both her and Cohen were renown as writers with their work more popular in the hands of other artists, but Nyro's songs found their popularity on the outermost fringes of the border between rock and pure pop with groups The 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night and Blood Sweat & Tears taking her material to the charts, hardly the cutting edge of rock 'n' roll that would gain her any influence points. She had one top 40 album and one top 100 single herself, which means she can't claim any commercial success as credentials either. Considering the sheer number of qualified artists from over sixty years of rock 'n' roll who have yet to even be nominated, let alone inducted, it is downright inexplicable and indefensible that the committee felt a relatively obscure, if respected, figure like Nyro, with no major impact on rock's historical evolution, was worthy of consideration. 

Qualifications: 2
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Doubtless many armchair observers and perhaps even the Hall Of Fame themselves see the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the debut candidate of note as opposed to LL Cool J, as they are still near the peak of their careers upon their eligibility for induction. While their overall credentials can't quite compare to his, as their career has been up and down with various members coming and going, they are still probably a sure thing for election and rightly so. Combining a host of influences, from funk to punk, the RHCP were exactly the type of colorful, decadent and musically aggressive band that helped define the late 80's and early 90's rock scene when they exploded into the mainstream with two vital albums back to back. Following the departure of guitarist John Frusciante following their breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, they hit a dry spell with several incarnations of the band failing to recapture their momentum before Frusciante was finally able to kick drugs and returned to the fold. Their creative rebirth with 1999's Californication cemented their legacy and gave them the career longevity needed to take their place alongside the best artists of their era. Defined by their energetic and often controversial stage shows, including a riot inducing set at Woodstock '99, the group's creative resurgence has continued throughout the new decade as their influence continues to spread. 

Qualifications: 7
THE STOOGES
Over the past few years a number of candidates have made the ballot multiple times only to fall short when the vote rolled around. Of these Ralph Naders of the rock world none have received the support for their induction from the outraged music press as Iggy & The Stooges. One of punk's leading figures, Iggy brought a palpable sense of anarchy and violence to the forefront and the Stooges brand of rock was both controversial and entertaining. Each year they've been nominated (this is their seventh time on the ballot, their first coming back in 1998) they seemed like a fair bet to make it only to find themselves nosed out by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Percy Sledge, the Dave Clark Five and fellow Detroit native Bob Seger, all of whom it could be argued had negligible advantages over the Stooges. Their notorious, yet respected, image alone would seem to make them sure things from an institution that often instinctively gravitates towards notoriety. In fact, few eligible artists who've yet to be inducted have the type of iconic persona that Iggy possesses and that, along with the group's massive influence on punk rock, have led hordes of writers to champion their candidacy year after year, to no effect thus far. But perhaps to build on the groundswell of support he's received Iggy himself delivered Madonna's Hall of Fame induction speech a few years ago and that bit of statesmanship (or gamesmanship) may help sway a few reluctant voters one of these times.

Qualifications: 6
DONNA SUMMER
Of the other artists with recent multiple nominations to their names the fates of Chic and Donna Summer, who gets her second nomination this year, have not received anywhere near the level of critical support in the rock press as the Stooges, which is a travesty because disco, for all of its own over-the-top imagery connected to it, was a far bigger and more influential piece of the rock pie than punk during the same period in history. Making the snub worse is the fact that Summer was its leading practitioner, enormously successful and very influential, and yet she faces a voter backlash for the decadent and decidedly un-hip image the entire style endures. With Chic not appearing on this year's ballot for the first time since 2005, Summer has the disco spotlight to herself, which could work to her advantage as votes for that style may not be split. With five female-based acts on the ballot however, the most since 1995, she will probably not gain an advantage from voters looking to ensure token gender representation, even though few woman in history can match her achievements. Her greatest obstacle remains that a lot of voters are uncomfortable with the appearance of so many rock styles (rap, metal, disco and now Kiss) that are targets for insecure critics so they instead mark their ballots for safer choices. That pressure to conform to satisfy the opinions of cultural highbrows has spelled doom for a lot of qualified artists over the years and could hurt Summer's chances again this year.

Qualifications: 7
SUMMARY
There seems to be two unquestioned selections on the ballot this year, both first-time eligibles in LL Cool J and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as two frequently nominated and qualified candidates in The Stooges and Donna Summer, both of whom are looking to turn the recent tide against them. Those would seem the best bets for induction on the surface. The wild cards are Genesis and Kiss, both of whom have the requisite qualifications and for years have not been afforded even the opportunity for selection thanks to the committee's decision to keep them from the ballot entirely. Which of these receives the most support from the electorate will be the most interesting thing to watch with fans of both poised to cry bias if either, or both, fall short. With so many women in the running it would seem that one female act at the least will get in, but while Summer's got the best credentials, the anti-disco sentiments could do her in. The remaining candidates are a strange cross-section of eras, styles and qualifications ranging from virtually non-existent to mixed. Should any of these artists break through at the expense of one of the aforementioned six (only five of which can be elected through normal channels) then it will be a major story and cause for more needless controversy for the Hall to endure.

With such a mixed bag of Main Performers on the ballot the hope for a worthy and memorable Class Of 2010 rests increasingly on the other categories which have long been a source of trouble, controversy and downright ineptitude. The Early Influence category in particular has a history of atrocious selections representing a completely inaccurate view of rock's origins. Still waiting to be enshrined here are Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, The Ravens, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Big Jay McNeely, among many other notable names, all of whom should've been inducted twenty years earlier as the true founders of rock 'n' roll. Two or more of these artists receiving recognition should be foremost in the Hall Of Fame's plans. As for the sidemen category, last year's three inductees were the first in some time from this field and that's a trend that should continue with three per year for the foreseeable future. There are no lack of candidates waiting, starting with Mickey "Guitar" Baker, Sam "The Man" Taylor and Huey "Piano" Smith as the most deserving and long overdue. Perhaps the area most in need of oversight is the Non-Performer category where rampant cronyism threatens the very credibility of the Hall, as each and every label owner of the past 60 years have been feted at the expense of those who were the musical brains behind their financial empires. Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Jesse Stone should've been elected years ago and only Matassa remains with us in the flesh to be honored. Other key figures on the musical side of the equation, such as Norman Whitfield and Richard Barrett, have recently departed making their potential selections sadly posthumous. All should be elected at some point in the near future before another executive is patted on the back for various crimes and misdemeanors in the boardrooms.

Overall, the Hall Of Fame's biggest ongoing problem is their resistance to restructuring its nominating committee, expanding its voter rolls and overhauling its selection process to address shortcomings and inherent conflicts of interests as well as to quell suspicions that a handful of prominent names in effect control the entire proceedings and have made the Hall into a referendum on their personal views. Having a revolving nominating committee to ensure different viewpoints and a wider array of candidates from year to year along with a concerted effort to diversify both it and the voting body to reflect a fair mix of racial (50/50%), gender, country of origin and era-based participants would go a long way in overcoming the criticisms of the Hall Of Fame being an elitist and close-minded body. Rock 'n' roll's legacy deserves to be presented accurately, with no biases, tastes or historical blind spots of a few key figures allowed to re-write that history. Until that occurs the Hall Of Fame will continue to face criticism that could easily be remedied.






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