Please welcome back Lorfimus Prime as he gives his take on the current state of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Let me say right off the bat, this is not about my personal preferences in music. With all due respect to Tupac Shakur — whom I am sure is quite worthy of hall of fame status in his chosen genre, having sold over 75 million rap records worldwide — what he has etched his name in music history with is not rock & roll. Nothing personal Tupac, there are a lot of members of the Cleveland, Ohio based shrine who didn’t exactly rock their way into the hall. Would one ever expect to find the aforementioned rapper on a twin bill with fellow 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of fame inductees Journey, ELO, Yes, or Pearl Jam? At least additional new member Joan Baez was a pioneer in the folk rock explosion, along with 1997 inductee Joni Mitchell.
I have always preferred the members of any hall of fame to be the “no-brainers”. Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays all deserved to be enshrined in Cooperstown without discussion. I am a life-long Yankee fan but don’t campaign for Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly, and Bernie Williams to be honored with plaques in the baseball hall of fame. They were all exceptional players and wore the pinstripes with pride, but fall short of hall of fame level. At least, though, they played the game for which players make the hall. The same cannot always be said of those in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Whenever someone asks me, “Should (fill in the blank) get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?” my immediate answer is, “Well, ABBA is in.” Once again, I offer respect where respect is due. The Swedish quartet comprised of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni had a long string of slickly produced pop records and sold hundreds of thousands of them worldwide. I unashamedly admit to loving “Waterloo” and “Fernando” and have seen and enjoyed both the Broadway and motion picture versions of Mama Mia. Once again, genre comes into play. Create a pop music hall of fame, or even a disco hall of fame, and ABBA is right there, but “Dancing Queen” is not a rock and roll record.
It’s fine, almost required, to debate over drinks who should be in a hall of fame or on a list of the greatest movies, books, or television shows ever. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame selection committee seems to go to great lengths to make those arguments ubiquitous whenever the annual list of inductees is announced. It took Chicago until 2016 to be inducted in spite of a string of undeniably classic rock songs like “25 or 6 to 4”, “Beginnings”, and “Make Me Smile”. At least they ultimately got in. Blood, Sweat, and Tears, a band that similarly fused rock and jazz still has to buy tickets to get into the hall.
Can anyone explain why Deep Purple, The Steve Miller Band, and The Hollies are members of the hall in good standing but The Moody Blues, whose 1967 album Days of Future Past is an all-time classic straight out of the birth of album rock radio, still await the call? If we are to subscribe to whatever criteria is used for selection why are John Denver and Barry Manilow not in, but Neil Diamond is? And what of the inclusion of Floyd Cramer? Sure he played piano for Elvis Presley but does that make him a hall of famer as a solo artist?
It would be possible to argue against the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame worthiness of such legends as Billie Holiday and Nat “King” Cole, but to speak ill in any way of music royalty would be blasphemy. Instead of sorting through who does and doesn’t fit the genre, why not just rename the building? Welcome to Cleveland. Be sure to visit The Popular Music Hall of Fame.
(The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 7, 2017.)
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