2011 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Criteria: 2011 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)
Last Updated: 2010-12-20
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
2011 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
For the first time in years the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame has a truly deep and diverse list of nominees for consideration for the 2011 class. Fifteen artists spanning the earliest days of rock with Chuck Willis to artists who defined the many facets of rock 'n' roll in recent decades like L.L. Cool J., Bon Jovi and The Beastie Boys, have made the list with many, such as Alice Cooper, Donovan and Dr. John, being nominated for the first time after years of being overlooked. The Hall Of Fame nominating committee clearly continues to push for personal favorites as evidenced by the inclusion of the talented but largely overshadowed figure of Darlene Love, as well as critical darling Laura Nyro, both of whom failed to make it last year and everybody's friend Peter Wolf, whose J. Geils Band gets a second appearance on the ballot. Meanwhile other returning nominees Chic and Donna Summer are rightly trying to get the notoriously despised disco field of rock represented in the Hall Of Fame, having failed to do so in the past decade despite multiple nominations each. Joe Tex, one of the most deserving candidates yet to make it, gets his fifth appearance on the ballot. The nomination of the critically adored Tom Waits seems to have taken longer than many expected. Lastly, the presence of the massively popular but widely ridiculed Neil Diamond, a songwriter of impressive stature but a performer who's adult contemporary pop slant makes him this year's most questionable act, ensures that the Hall Of Fame is not ducking the slings and arrows that will surely fly once more from enraged rock fans who feel the Hall has already become too broad in its scope. However, the ballot is not lacking for qualified candidates and all types of listeners should be able to find at least one artist to throw their support behind.
One of the longest lasting, most versatile and innovative rap groups in history, the Beastie Boys had enormous impact in breaking the color line hip-hop was faced with and helped bring the style into the white middle class teen realm, pushing sales of all rap artists higher, an achievement few can match. Their punk-rap classic "Licensed To Ill" was the biggest selling rap LP of the 80's, but their follow-up "Paul's Boutique" was the album which contained their most experimental work and became massively influential on the sampling culture, which came to dominate hip-hop in the decades since. Their career highpoints continued unabated throughout the 90's as they became for many fans the gateway group to discovering and appreciating hip-hop making them one of the most consistent groups in any rock field during this time. As more rap artists become eligible in the near future, and considering the dominance of the style in the past quarter century that gives it the most deserving array of candidates to choose from in upcoming years, it is crucial that the biggest and best from this era and form of rock get inducted quickly so as not to further create a perception that rap itself is somehow inexplicably unwelcome in the Hall Of Fame.

Qualifications: 8
Each decade has a style that is wildly popular and helps define the times, yet which is seen by many critics as excessive in its image and shallow in its content. In the 1980's that style was hair metal, a form of rock that took what had been a largely niche facet of rock that appealed outside the mainstream singles oriented audience and put a sheen on it that got it massive airplay. Bon Jovi typified this approach, with their succession of power ballads and dramatic working class anthems that made them staples of Top Forty radio. For the latter half of the 80's, when hair metal was at its zenith, few artists were as successful as Bon Jovi, who scored five #1 hits and multiple platinum albums while selling out arenas regularly. Yet as hair metal's dominance dissipated by the early 90's with the advent of harder edged speed metal, gangsta rap and alternative, Bon Jovi expanded their approach and gained more critical respect, even as their popularity fell off among listeners. It would've been hard to fathom that they'd ever have the staying power to be given a nomination, let alone the respect of those who decide such things, but their work has proven to not be reliant on short-lived stylistic trends and so their appearance on the ballot is not as surprising as it once would've seemed.

Qualifications: 7
The greatest self-contained disco group in rock history, Chic has multiple nominations without getting in, despite their achievements which include two #1 hits for themselves, plus numerous hits that their founders, guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, wrote and produced for others. Those two, along with drummer Tony Thompson, were widely considered the greatest and most influential rhythm section of any group in the past 35 years. The cultural backlash against what is widely perceived to be an excessive and decedent style and era has likely kept their support for the Hall from growing, but disco was far too big a piece of rock for a full decade to be ignored. The nominating committee, which has certainly had its share of personal biases effect who gets selected for the ballot, should in this case be commended for trying to ensure that this shamefully neglected area of rock gets proper representation in the Hall, despite massive resistance from some public quarters.

Qualifications: 7
Traditionally 70's hard-rock superstars get more fan-based support for induction than any other field, yet as evidenced by the lack of nominations over the years the committee finds the style overly indulgent and unworthy of serious consideration. This schism in perception alone has resulted in more derisive knocks against the very existence of the Hall Of Fame in the first place. While the constant calls by hardcore fans of the style for each and every act that has one song played on classic rock radio is absurd, the continuing resistance by the nominating committee against any artist who falls into that category is equally outrageous. Of all of the artists in this camp Alice Cooper makes for one of the best candidates, as the group were one of the most theatrical performers of all-time, and had a surprisingly diverse body of work ranging from loud rock anthems to tender ballads that resulted in over twenty hits. It took far too long for them to be given a shot on the ballot, but their influence, steady mainstream success and an image that is instantly recognizable, along with Cooper's own reverence for rock history in all styles, gives their resume the needed punch to get in.

Qualifications: 7
The Hall Of Fame has rightly taken the approach the Rock 'n' Roll is a multi-faceted and diverse music, with artists and influences that span many fields. At its core of course rock 'n' roll is popular and populist music and even as cult-favorites with few hits and low record sales get the critical acclaim and fan support the bulk of nominees for the Hall should represent the peak of success within the rock field. Yet the rock field is not where Neil Diamond always plied his trade and that makes him this year's most controversial and perplexing artist on the ballot. To be fair, Diamond the songwriter is well-respected within rock, even if his biggest hits came writing for the Monkees, a group well-deserving of consideration themselves but unlikely to ever be given a nod because of their even lower image among rock critics. But Diamond's massive success as a singer, 56 hits including 13 Top Ten smashes, came squarely in the pop/adult contemporary field, making him only tangibly connected to the music the Hall is supposedly spotlighting. As an overall artist of popular music few in American history have the credentials that Diamond can boast, and regardless of his almost caricature-like image that is easily mocked by many, his career has touched upon rock enough for him to be given consideration, a la Miles Davis or Bobby Darin, both of whom got in. Yet when the primary output of his career was in a style that was seen at the time and ever since as the antithesis of rock 'n' roll, the full weight of those credentials can not easily be applied to his candidacy for a Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame.

Qualifications: 4
As folk-rock became one of the more popular and intriguing styles of rock 'n' roll in the mid-60's the artists with the most success at it were almost entirely American. The one massive exception was Donovan, whose trippy minstrel persona gave a unique twist to the form and resulted in him scoring a dozen Top 40 hits, many of which remain among the most connected to that era and image of any released. Yet that image which served Donovan so well at the time, making him one of the darlings of the flower-power generation, has resulted in a less appreciated legacy today, despite constantly daring musical experimentation, great melodies and strong vocals. His songs frequently had themes that were later viewed as trite or pretentious and his mellow troubadour style is seen by some not to have the requisite bite of his contemporaries, especially as he rarely delved into social issues that were considered a folk-rock artist's calling. But there were few better song craftsmen than Donovan in the late 60's and even his lesser hits are still widely known and frequently referred to as standards of their time. Because this period in rock, particularly the Anglo-Saxon styles, have received an inordinate amount of critical praise and mainstream focus, especially within the corridors of the Hall Of Fame, it is surprising that this is his first nomination.

Qualifications: 6
A near-legendary figure, musician and all-around character representing the melting pot of New Orleans music that makes the city so vital, had a long and varied career with only one big hit along the way, but lots of well-regarded classics to his credit. The former Mac Rebbenack, a session musician and arranger, who adapted the Dr. John the Night Tripper persona as a performer, was one of the first to successfully turn rock into theater and remains a name that other artists respect immensely and one who constantly keeps the heritage of the Big Easy musical kaleidoscope of sounds from slipping away. As eccentric and eclectic an artist that can be found anywhere in rock history you'd think that Dr. John would've been inducted long ago, just for that immortal image alone. His seminal 1968 album Gris Gris nearly invented the idea of underground rock and his stretch of funky records in the early 70's brought that sound to white radio. Never content to recycle his formula, Dr. John's later work has run the gamut of jazz and pop standards to down and dirty funk and blues. Few artists with as limited a commercial impact as Dr. John are as instantly identifiable.

Qualifications: 7
An interesting case study - a bar band whose repertoire included a large amount of covers gets a record contract and become a respected live act, primarily because they revive the spirit of the artists they revere, eventually breaking through with two huge original hits of their own, but whose output before and after that brief period never made much of an impact. They have no influence to speak of, no enduring image, but in frontman Peter Wolf they boast one of the most ubiquitous figures in modern rock, a friend to other artists and critics, namely committee members Steve Van Zandt and Dave Marsh, who seem to have pushed through another nomination for the group. Considering the sheer numbers of far bigger, more unique and influential artists spanning sixty years of rock history, many of whom were more successful prototypes for the J. Geils Band themselves, it is curious that they receive a nomination with simply a workmanlike career as their calling card.

Qualifications: 4
Indefensibly failed to make it in last year as a first time eligible on the ballot, the voters have a chance to rectify that injustice this year. 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 released the stunning debut album "Radio" in 1985. From there LL Cool J 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. Subsequently when more controversial artists came to the forefront and began to define its image in the media, LL Cool J ensured that rap never became only about conflict and negative headlines. 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 maintained his status 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. The first unquestioned rap solo superstar.

Qualifications: 8
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 artistically, 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. 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 which once more brings a cloud of personal favoritism over her selection and indicates they are determined to push her through no matter what. Though Love deserves official recognition by the Hall in some way for her astounding vocal abilities and presence on dozens of immortal records, she should not have to be reliant on patronage or category manipulation to achieve it. 

Qualifications: 5
For years the Hall Of Fame has wrestled with the question of how to reward artists whose work is largely unknown but for whom there is a level of critical respect that they feel is justified and deserves recognition. Laura Nyro is the perfect example of such a case. 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. Absent the usual objective based criteria for which all candidates must be judged one finds her credentials sorely lacking. Nyro is renowned by many as a peerless songwriter, but her 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 of her own either. Yet she is deified by a small handful of fans, critics and artists who've chosen to support her candidacy over the far more prominent achievements of dozens of others who are more deserving. While it is nice that rock 'n' roll allows for niche and cult artists to have the spotlight shine on them from time to time, giving rock an enormous breadth that makes it unique, the immortalization of artists still needs to be reserved for those whose impact and influence is beyond reproach.

Qualifications: 2
One of the most successful female artists eligible for the Hall Of Fame who have not yet gotten in remains the Queen Of Disco, whose dominance spanned a full decade and produced some of the most identifiable records of her, or any, era in rock. Normally this would be an advantage for any artist to be officially recognized by the Hall, yet because disco, the style of rock 'n' roll in which she performed, is at times the most widely ridiculed and misunderstood form of rock to ever reach a mass audience, she has not broken through in her two previous times on the ballot. Yet in denying disco's legitimacy as a whole voters have effectively tried to re-write history to suit their modern biases and satisfy the most vocal critics of the style who recoil in horror at the thought of a dance floor diva like Summer getting enshrined. But her presence in rock history is undeniable, whether she's given proper credit for it or not, as she notched 13 Top Ten hits, including four #1's, and provided a large portion of the soundtrack rock 'n' roll lived on in the 70's and early 80's. Her songs were largely written by Summer herself, giving her more hits as a writer than fellow-nominee Nyro, who's on the ballot strictly for her songwriting ability, while Summer's records also featured some of the most immaculately produced sounds of all-time which even the most vocal critic would have to admit defined the era in question.

Qualifications: 7
It would seem an artist such as Joe Tex would be a lock for induction. His success is easily seen, with over 30 pop hits, 4 of which topped the R&B Charts, spanning more than a decade as a star. His influence is vast, as he invented the famed microphone trick on stage that many have imitated, was one of the originators of the country-soul style that was among the 60's most enduring sounds, and as shown with his nickname, The Dapper Rapper, his vocal style was one of the prototypes for rap with his semi-spoken delivery in many songs. In addition, he wrote all of his own material, which was renown for its smart, humorous, down-home advice and storytelling ability. His candidacy would seem to be bolstered by the fact that many of his contemporaries with appreciably less success than Tex have already gotten in. But Joe Tex is one of those rare artists whose achievements at the time, which seemed certain for lasting credit, have been obscured by more flamboyant and controversial acts in the years since. His early death in 1982 meant that he was not around long enough to become a well-respected elder statesman, and his lack of one massive universally known song to keep his name in the casual listener's mind relegated him to a second tier act historically when in fact he was on par with almost any of his competitors and made the transition from soul to funk that defined black rock 'n' roll in the 60's and 70's better than most. The nominating committee seems to recognize this, for this marks his fourth appearance on the ballot, but the voting body's bewildering lack of awareness of his accomplishments has thus far kept him out, making him one of the more deserving candidates yet to be enshrined.

Qualifications: 7
At what point does a cult artist whose work never reaches mainstream familiarity, much less popularity, become a heavyweight in the music industry where their lack of success is a badge of honor rather than a detriment to their career? Whatever that point is, Tom Waits has likely passed it. The Hall of Fame has shown a propensity for rewarding figures like this with nominations despite a lack of easily measurable achievements and frequently it results in their weakest choices because like all Halls Of Fame there must be a level of objective accomplishment to warrant consideration. Waits doesn't have that. None of his songs were hits, none of his compositions have become hits for others, and while most of his albums have sold, none have even broken the Top 20 on the charts. Yet more than most who can say that, Tom Waits can also say that he occupies a unique place in rock history, that of an eclectic storyteller whose primary ambition was to be different and in fact anti-commercial. So considering he achieved the very image he set out to create, and along the way has had a career that has included not only dozens of acclaimed albums but entire film soundtracks as well, how does one bestow proper credit on him for these non-traditional accomplishments? By ignoring him as the general public always has, confining him to the fringes of musical acceptance where he seems most comfortable, or by acknowledging his successful efforts at remaining true to a vision that never had the intent to be more widely accepted in the first place? The Hall Of Fame seems to once again have chosen the latter, but the bigger question remains: would possible induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame actually tarnish the very goals Waits set out to achieve?

Qualifications: 4
In the early 70's the term singer/songwriter came into vogue to describe a style of rock that was built upon carefully crafted songs written by non-flamboyant artists than the kind who always grabbed headlines. In truth, the term should've stretched back to at least 1951 when Chuck Willis first appeared on the scene doing that very thing and achieving enormous success with it, not only for himself but for others who took his compositions up the charts. As a performer Willis was one of only a handful of artists, the other five are all in the Hall Of Fame, who was huge in the early 50's rock's scene when it was entirely confined to the black community and then was able to make the transition as a star to the latter 50's rock 'n' roll era when an entirely new white audience discovered the music and crossed it over into the so-called mainstream. It was during this later period when he launched the first rock 'n' roll dance craze, the stroll, with his recording of "C.C. Rider" shortly before his untimely death at the age of 30. During his short lifetime however he notched ten Top Ten R&B Hits for himself along with numerous Top Ten smashes for other artists, making him one of the first performers who wrote material specifically for competitors, establishing a trend that many of rock's most acclaimed artist/songwriters would follow. In all over a dozen Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Famers have recorded Willis's songs. Perhaps the most singularly talented artist of 50's rock lore yet to be inducted. 

Qualifications: 7
For once there are no clear-cut favorites for induction when the five acts to be enshrined are voted on. The two most qualified artists on the ballot, The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, have each been denied in previous years and both represent the rap segment of the rock 'n' roll kingdom which voters have shown an uneasiness about properly crediting. The Hall's integrity and credibility are increasingly on the line each year they fail to understand the massive importance of hip-hop as rock's most successful and influential style over the past thirty years. Conversely on the low end of the scale, the four artists with more questionable resumes each have something unique about them that could easily overcome flaws as candidates, either their lack of objective achievements in the case of Laura Nyro and Tom Waits, the stylistic debate over Neil Diamond, the journeyman status of the J. Geils Band, or the uncertain spot Darlene Love occupies in rock history, seemingly more suited as a sideman selection for her many uncredited performances, yet on the ballot as a Main Performer nonetheless. All which leaves a surplus of deserving candidates among the remaining artists representing a wide array of eras and styles. Any of these would be worthy choices, but obviously not all can make it. Disco remains shamefully underrepresented in the Hall and so one of the two acts from that realm, Chic or Donna Summer, should be inducted to help correct that oversight, but it is possible they could cancel one another out in voter's minds. Donovan and Joe Tex represent the 60's, which has long been the Hall's favorite decade, yet both have been eligible for years without being deemed worthy. The hard rock contingent would seem to make Alice Cooper a favorite, yet he too has been neglected until this point. Dr. John's stature would appear to give him a leg up, but will his reputation overcome his lack of familiar hits? Bon Jovi has the hits that he lacks, but their reputation, and that of their style of rock itself, still face derision in some quarters. Chuck Willis was frequently nominated back in the 80's when the Hall Of Fame was just starting up, but he failed to get in at the time when his familiarity was likely to be much more widely known than it is today, as his career is the most distant in rock's rearview mirror.

The ballot can essentially be broken down into three distinct categories and together they comprise the key match ups that will go a long way into determining the inductees. The most intriguing of these is the three way competition between singer/songwriters Laura Nyro, Tom Waits and Chuck Willis. The first two have the more prominent critical acclaim, particularly among the voting body demographics of white post-60's intellectuals, with Waits having the biggest name recognition among the bloggers and armchair critics who will weigh in with their opinions to influence voters. Yet when looking at purely objective standards, Willis beats both easily. He was the only one who was commercially successful as an artist, and quite impressively so, including having great influence over a widespread style of rock that emerged in his wake. Maybe somewhat surprisingly to many, he was also the one who was the most successful as a songwriter for others. Since those three represent the same basic type of artist, by far the most deserving is Chuck Willis.

There are nine artists on the ballot whose main credentials stem largely from their popularity, Bon Jovi, The Beastie Boys, Chic, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Donovan, LL Cool J., Donna Summer and Joe Tex. Diamond, Summer and Bon Jovi are easily the most successful, yet Diamond's, as noted, comes more in the adult contemporary field with only cursory attention paid to rock. Both Summer and Bon Jovi are performing in styles that many in the rock critic community find distasteful and excessive. LL Cool J. is the next most popular artist and he too faces uncertain voter support due to the style he represents, despite its mainstream dominance and critical acclaim from those outside of the voting body. Therefore it is entirely possible that none of the four most successful acts on the ballot get in. The three artists here who boast substantial bonus points for their careers, the influence of the Beastie Boys on sampling and their impact in breaking rap through to a wider audience, the writing and production skills of Chic that made them the most widely recognized triple threat in their era, and the writing and performing influence of Tex, might in fact make those three more apt to get in than those who had slightly greater popularity.

Finally there's the question of reputation which always seems to play a huge factor in determining who gets considered by the widest array of voters, particularly among those whose achievements might be lacking in some area. In other words, who are the coolest ones to mark a check beside their names? Voting for Dr. John would not make anyone uncomfortable and he just seems the type of artist the Hall likes to promote. The J. Geils Band has supporters from anyone who's ever been hugged on stage by Peter Wolf, so in their case it's a question of how many of those have both a ballot and his number on speed dial. Waits is seen as hands down the hippest name on the roster. Love is beloved. Nyro is canonized in some minds. LL Cool J. is the one with the most modern credibility. Cooper is still widely known and visible and would still garner plenty of headlines.

All in all, it is a crapshoot. The chances the Hall makes all of the right choices is probably slim, as always, but with the number of qualified candidates on the ballot the odds they make nothing but poor choices is also less than it has been in recent years. There's no overwhelming figure to dominate the proceedings and so, as has been the case for far too long, the demographics of the voting body itself will go a long way in determining the class of 2011. The diversity of the nominees this year is encouraging, but is there enough diversity in the voters to measure up?

Music artists Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Waites, Alice Cooper

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