2009 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Rock and roll artists Metallica, Run-D.M.C., Wanda Jackson, and Jeff Beck
Criteria: 2009 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)

Last Updated: 2008-12-22
2009 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
If the 2009 class for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame can be summed up in one word it is "respect". That does not necessarily mean most deserving, or most sensible, as this year's inductions continues the Hall's recent history of questionable decisions regarding their election process itself, but rather a nod towards artists whose recognition within music circles is very high, even if their achievements are somewhat lacking in some cases.

The two headliners of this year's class did not face that particular quandary as they were near automatic selections. Run-D.M.C., the most vital rap artists of all-time, and Metallica, the premiere heavy metal act, defined their styles as well as any artists in any rock subgenre over its sixty year history. Each were eligible for the first time this year and neither had to wait for recognition, something that would've severely hurt the Hall Of Fame's already shaky credibility had either one been passed over. The rest of the ballot contained no other clear-cut selections among its seven remaining candidates and none could've even been said to have had a better than even chance of securing election going in. Of the three others who made it as Main Performers Bobby Womack was a welcome sight as his mainstream recognition has been somewhat lacking, or sporadic, but whose versatility as a songwriter for others, session guitarist and solo artist whose work in the 70's and 80's was highly regarded. Little Anthony & The Imperials boasted the peerless voice of lead singer Anthony Gourdine, who was dubbed "Little Anthony" by none other than Alan Freed, and their work was frequently cited as among the pinnacles of both doo wop and uptown soul over the years. The group was as distinguished as any vocal harmony acts over two decades of hits and lauded for their consistently high level of stage shows. Rounding out the inductees is Jeff Beck, who never really took the spotlight, even within his own self-named group, but whose reputation as a guitarist placed him in rarified air. All three artists were more esteemed by those in the industry than they were familiar to the casual fan throughout their careers and that widespread respect for their talents allowed each to overcome credentials that were not quite on par with the upper echelon of inductees.

The most curious case of this year's selections is that of Wanda Jackson. Nominated as a Main Performer Jackson is getting in as an Early Influence, an unprecedented switch in categories after the voting took place with no plausible explanation offered by the Hall. The last minute change would seem to indicate she did not have the votes to make the cut in the Top Five and somehow the Hall Of Fame altered its rules, which already are seen as lacking credibility by many, and granted Jackson entry in a totally separate category which does not require garnering votes. In effect trumping the decision of their own voting body, this move only further calls into question the integrity of the Hall. Whatever the reason for this inexplicable decision, some have suggested it is to have a female represented or done out of respect for Jackson's poor health, the strange maneuver unfairly impacts the remaining failed nominees - Chic, The Stooges and War - all of whom have greater qualifications but appear to be lacking in respect for their individual styles (disco and funk in the case of Chic and War) or image (The Stooges), and were similarly lacking in voting support but weren't granted any artificial loophole to make it this year themselves.

One positive sign is the Hall Of Fame returning to the recently neglected Sideman Category with the naming of three additional musicians. The Hall will have the enduring presence of Elvis Presley looming over it again this year, not only with his one-time sweetheart Jackson's induction, but also his 50's rhythm section of bassist Bill Black and drummer DJ Fontana, who will join the third member of Presley's vaunted backing group, Scotty Moore, who was among the first sidemen inducted when that category was introduced in 2000. Also getting in after much delay is another multi-dimensional figure, much like Womack, in Spooner Oldham, who's keyboard work was a defining sound of 60's soul and who contributed many of the style's signature songs as a writer as well.

On the whole the class of 2009 is top heavy, with two of the most deserving inductees to share a stage in a decade, and it does showcase artists from a wide span of styles and eras, but the baffling and secretive decision making process regarding Jackson which seems to sidestep the acceptable boundaries of nominating and induction procedures casts an unnecessary shadow over the entire affair.
Jeff Beck
Though better suited to be inducted as a sideman, as his career under his own name produced little in the way of hits and he was never even the featured performer in his own group, Beck's status as one of rock's guitar gods was enough to get him in over three more qualified candidates in the Main Performer category. Nonetheless, Beck's work on guitar, whether with the Yardbirds (with whom he's already been inducted) or backing everyone from Donovan to Rod Stewart, who once fronted the Jeff Beck Group, is as highly regarded as any in rock's long history. Now more devoted to racing the rocking Beck is one of the finest musicians rock 'n' roll has ever produced even if his qualifications in the category he'll be inducted under are fairly questionable.
Little Anthony & The Imperials
The Imperials hit-making career spanned multiple eras in various styles, from the straight ahead doo-wop of the late 50's to the uptown soul sound of the mid-60's. Their ability to change with the times, at a period in which the turnover in rock trends was rapid and constant, and yet retain a singular identity thanks to Little Anthony's unique voice gave them appeal to multiple generations of rock audiences. Of all the vocal harmony groups that came out of the mid-to-late-50's the Imperials were one of the few groups that managed to equal their early success after that era had passed and in doing so overcame the more impressive credentials of three acts who failed to get in.
Only the originators of heavy metal itself, Black Sabbath, can challenge Metallica as the style's most acclaimed artist over the years. More than any other group they brought speed metal into the forefront throughout the 80's taking the style from a smaller niche core audience to the mainstream without sacrificing its edge and in the process even raising the bar on its musicality. By the 90's they were one of the top selling and respected artists in rock regardless of subgenre, having fully crossed over like no other metal act before or since. Their enduring popularity, influence and impact had to make them a near automatic choice for voters in their first year of eligibility.
The most important hip-hop artists in rock history and among the most influential in any style of rock 'n' roll since its inception. In the mid-80's the trio provided the form with the musical and cultural breakthroughs it needed to become entrenched as the dominant music of its era, scoring unprecedented mainstream success at a time when the style was systematically denied exposure on radio and television. Their rapping style, heavy on the beats, with metal guitar and with less of a party flavor than had been prominent prior to their arrival utterly defined rap's first decade in the spotlight. Their influence extended far beyond just the music as their look fueled the entire marriage of fashion and hip-hop which continues to this day. A mandatory selection as one of the most legendary groups in history.
Bobby Womack
One of the more multi-talented artists in rock who could conceivably have made the Hall Of Fame separately as a writer, sideman and main performer, the latter being where he is clearly most deserving and where he will be enshrined. Womack began with his brothers in a gospel group discovered by Sam Cooke, then turned to secular recordings with them as The Valentinos, scoring a hit with his original version of "It's All Over Now", which the Rolling Stones made even more famous. He made a name for himself upon leaving the group by writing hits for others, notably Wilson Pickett, and playing guitar on various sessions including Aretha Franklin and Sly & The Family Stone. Finally by the 70's Womack emerged as a star in his own right and scored a string of hits that lasted well into the 80's and beyond as a favorite source of sampling for the hip-hop generation.
Wanda Jackson
The machinations of her election aside, Jackson's a sentimental choice for many as she was the first white female to make a mark in rock 'n' roll and her early rockabilly sides are considered excellent, though both those records and Jackson herself were hardly known in mainstream circles during her heyday. However her supposed groundbreaking credentials, and thus her entire qualifications as an Early Influence specifically, are tempered by the fact there were dozens of non-caucasian female performers in rock before her and their success was far greater than Jackson's, who had just one minor hit with a rock 'n' roll song before turning her full attention to country music. Though beloved, she is not suited as an Early Influence and her failure to make the grade in multiple nominations as a Main Performer, including this year, make her one of the more questionable figures in the Hall to date.
Bill Black
Rockabilly, the first white style of rock to appear on the scene, was often as not defined by the acoustic slap bass and none were more known for it than Bill Black, who's work with Elvis Presley starting at Sun and continuing through Presley's Army induction in 1958 is among the most influential music of all-time. Black was never the most skilled bassist but his style was so definitive and the records he played on so popular that his impact transcended his musicianship. Unlike most others who got renown for their work backing more prominent artists, Black made the jump to the spotlight himself when he went on to front The Bill Black Combo, scoring almost twenty instrumental hits on their own from 1959 to his death in 1965.
DJ Fontana
When teenager Johnny Bernero, who recorded a few sessions with Elvis Presley at Sun, turned down the chance to become his full-time drummer upon the move to RCA the chore fell to DJ Fontana, who had been backing a wide array of artists as the house drummer for the Louisiana Hayride where Presley first broke onto the national scene. Fontana immediately put his stamp on the emerging sound with sledgehammer beats and tasteful fills. His explosive work on "Jailhouse Rock" and "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" in the studio and his stop-time striptease rhythm on the scandalous version of "Hound Dog" performed on the Milton Berle Show set the tone for the more aggressive style of rock drumming around the corner.
Spooner Oldham
The organ was one of southern soul's most indelible sounds and few were more prominent on the instrument than Spooner Oldham who cut countless hits at Muscle Shoals and in Memphis behind artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to Wilson Pickett to Percy Sledge and in later years working with Neil Young and Bob Dylan among many others. His writing career, usually in tandem with Dan Penn, was equally prolific with a catalog of major hits to his credit that defined the era and style like few others had.

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