Want to know about something people care about even less than the Grammy Awards?
How about the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame?
Over the past couple of years, the HOF has been sort of excitement-deficient. Or more accurately, the excitement and attention has been given for the wrong reasons. Most of the attention centers on Jann Wenner’s political pull at the event (rumor has it that Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five did not meet the required votes to properly be inducted last year, but were grandfathered in by Wenner…which is nice from a politically correct standpoint but also turns the HOF into “Wenner’s Faves” rather than an actual listing of rock’s most important figures).
More attention centers on who *isn’t* in the hall of fame, a list that includes Rush, Kiss, Genesis, Hall & Oates, Tina Turner (as a solo artist), Chaka Khan/Rufus and many other artists of deserving stature, and the MOST attention centers on what exactly is “rock & roll” and what kind of artists deserve placement in the somewhat hallowed halls.
Of course, *I* understand that the term “rock & roll” is a fairly loose term, used to describe just about any popular music made over the past fifty years, but there are some folks out there who look at certain artists with the mindset that “rock & roll” means some dude with long hair and tattoos wielding an electric guitar. Of course, folks like that seem to forget about the guys who started rock ‘n roll, like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and guys who wouldn’t be considered “rock” by the mookheads that listen to Linkin Park nowadays (or the snobbish hipsters who are too busy wearing tight tee shirts and listening to Spoon).
At any rate, this year’s class is fairly underwhelming, with acts like The Ventures and the Dave Clark Five (I’ll let you guys argue over whether they are deserving of their honors or not) getting inducted over passed-over artists like The Beastie Boys, Donna Summer and Chic (two of the three are absolutely deserving).
In addition, this year sees the induction of heartland rocker John Mellencamp (who’s work is about even with fellow inductee Tom Petty and way above fellow inductee Bob Seger-who just might be the most overrated popular rock musician in history). Mellencamp’s albums have always been interesting, and the trio of albums that marked his most successful period (“American Fool”, “Uh-Huh” and “Scarecrow”) are all close to (if not) excellent. Not only has his music been steadfastly political, but he’s also championed many young (particularly black) artists over the course of his career, working with Tony Toni Tone’s Raphael Saadiq, india.arie, Meshell Ndegeocello and Junior Vasquez.
Of course, the most boldface name on this year’s list is Madonna. Most folks would say that Madge’s music is not true rock ‘n roll, and it isn’t. Madonna has always been a pop/dance/R&B artist. However, she brings true rock ‘n roll attitude into everything she does, and as the most important and influential female artist of the past 25 years, she absolutely does belong here.
(However, I would say that Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, at least, also belong here)
Another question is who are the gimmes for the future? As we move further into the MTV generation, the list of must-haves grows much thinner. Of course, there’ll be room for Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Radiohead and Soundgarden, Guns ‘n Roses, The White Stripes…The Beasties, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, NWA, Public Enemy, Sonic Youth…but what about Janet Jackson (who is eligible, as her first record was released in 1982)? What about Motley Crue? Bon Jovi? Def Leppard? Biggie and Tupac? Jay-Z? It would seem like there’ll be more artists on the bubble as we move into the future and the selection becomes less immediately iconic…
…The plot thickens…