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Rock Hall nominees have some shoe-ins, some head-scratchers

September 27, 2011 - Keith Frederick
Question: Should we respect the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What if we just gave in and called it the Music Hall of Fame?

The Hall was never really "rock" to begin with, after all. It's very first class of inductees, in 1986, included Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and James Brown — all of whom were soul legends who occasionally threw out a rock chord. And in the 25 years since, the I.M. Pei-designed museum has embraced every musical genre — with the notable exception of country.

But in broadening its horizons the rock hall has opened itself up to endless criticism. Some people don't like the recent inclusion of rap pioneers. Some don't like the seeming bias against popular music that didn't strike a chord with music critics. (Rush and Kiss have been noticeably absent the from nomination lists since they became eligible.) Others (read: Me) hate the fact that disco is even acknowledged, let alone disco artists inducted. (ABBA is in a freaking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?!)

This morning, the Hall announced the 2012 nominations. I'll go through them each and give my opinion on their Hall worthiness. A vote for "worthy" doesn't necessarily mean they should go in this year, however:

  • The Beastie Boys - The Beasties were hugely influential - and not just to white rappers. They weren't a novelty act like the Fat Boys or Kid N Play or any other funny rap act that came out in the '80s. They were funny and they were solid rappers. And, though I hate to bring up race again, having a group of white kids bring rap into the mainstream helped the genre build. But are they worthy? Absolutely.
  • The Cure - Personally, I never liked The Cure. Not my style. But even I can realize that without Robert Smith and company, goth and emo look very different today, if they exist at all. That still doesn't excuse "Friday I'm in Love," though. But are they worthy? Yes.
  • Donovan - Donovan, so they say, was a psychedelic rock pioneer. "Psychedelic rock" was basically what they called it when a bunch of folk singers got too stoned to play their instruments the way they usually did. Folk music ? rock. No one associated with the song "Mellow Yellow" should be anywhere near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But is he worthy? No. No no no no no.
  • Eric B & Rakim - I admit that I'm not a huge fan of rap's early days. But I recognize those early pioneers - like Run DMC, like LL, like the Furious Five - for paving the way to the artists I love. And Eric B & Raikim are as influential as anyone. Without them, Jay-Z - the greatest ever, in my mind - probably doesn't exist. But are they worthy? If the Hall is serious about inducting rap's pioneers, then definitely.
  • Guns 'N' Roses - "Appetite for Destruction" was one of the best rock album of the 1980s. The "Use Your Illusion" albums were two of the best rock albums of the 1990s. Despite the break-up, and what Axl eventually became, GNR is perhaps THE rock band of the 1980s. But are they worthy? If any non-metal band of the 1980s is worthy, this is it.
  • Heart - I'm a bit torn on Heart, really. The Wilson sisters of the 1970s were awesome - "Magic Man," "Crazy on You," "Barracuda." Epic songs. But in the 1980s and 90s, Heart became a big-haired, power ballad-playing mess. 10-year-old me might have loved "All I Wanna Do is Make Love To You," but I recognize now that it kind of, well, sucked. But are they worthy? Eventually, for showing us that girls could ROCK.
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - When I was a kid, Joan Jett seemed like an untouchable badass chick that I was in awe of. Now that I'm older ... I realize that's exactly who she was. And still is. "I Love Rock and Roll" is as perfect a reflection of the music's power as any song ever written. But is she worthy? From a musical standpoint, I'd say no, as the band didn't have a huge output. But from an influence standpoint? Hell yes.
  • Freddie King - I'll admit it: I had no idea who Freddie King is. I had to look him up. As a musician, he was apparently hugely influential to a variety of artists. But as a singer he had basically no commercial success. But is he worthy? I honestly have no idea.
  • Laura Nyo - Another nominee I'd never heard of. Looking her up, it appears that she was a pop singer/songwriter who is adored by musicians as diverse as Elton John and Alice Cooper. But is she worthy? No. She's here as a cause celebré for the Hall's famous voters.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm biased on this one. RHCP are maybe my favorite band of all-time. But I believe their deeply personal lyrics, driving blues funk style and fantastic albums make them one of the best rock bands of the best 30 years.But are they worthy? YES!!
  • Rufus with Chaka Khan - Chaka Khan had a band? Did anyone know that? To Wikipedia!!!! ... Ok, so they sang "Tell Me Something Good" and "Ain't Nobody." I know that modern R&B divas love Khan, but I just don't get it. But are they worthy? In my opinion? No.
  • The Small Faces/The Faces - Maybe I'm biased because these bands never made any sort of impact in the U.S., but it seems as though this nomination exists simply because Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood were in the band. But are they worthy? Not even a little bit.
  • The Spinners - I love doo wop. I truly do. But I think it might be time to admit that any doo wop group worth inducting has already been inducted. Yes, the Spinners had a long string of hits in the 1970s. But the only one that has had any kind of lasting appeal is "Working My Way Back to You." But are they worthy? Sadly, no.
  • Donna Summer - Ugh. I hate disco. So, so much. But if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame insists on acknowledging its existence, then "The Queen of Disco" should be its representative. But is she worthy? Don't make me say it.
  • War - Honestly, just reading the name "War" makes me smile. Easily one of my favorite R&B bands ever, War is the band that launched a thousand rap songs. Their great beats made songs like "Why Can't We Be Friends" and "Low Rider" hits and made their music a popular subject for rappers to sample. But are they worthy? I think so. But it'll probably take them quite a while to get voted in.
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    Put these men in the Hall of Fame!