The nominees for the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction were announced on Tuesday (September 28). The nominees are (in alphabetical order):
J. Geils Band
LL Cool J
The winners will be announced in December 2010 and formally inducted in March 2011.
Now for the commentary...
ARE THEY NUTS????
I can guarantee you right now that Tom Waits, who has never had a chart record (and only one song of any popularity thanks to the Eagles covering it, "Ol' 55"), will be inducted. Why? He's a "critic's darling." There's nothing wrong with Tom Waits. He's an acquired taste, granted, but he was, and remains, one of the most original performers in rock history. But a "hall of fame" career?
However, there's a slight problem here, and it's the word fame. It's not just a great David Bowie song, it's a central element. On that basis, the inductees should include Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, and the J. Geils Band. There's also the little problem with the term rock and roll. That should eliminate a few people from this list immediately: Chic, LL Cool J, and Donna Summer.
More importantly, it brings to mind a long list of people who qualify for both rock and roll AND fame who are not on this list, and have NEVER been: Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, the Moody Blues, Rush, and another Neil -- Sedaka.
Let's examine things here. I will be the first to admit that Steve Miller's music can be ridiculously boring, to the point where that hideous "Abracadabra" song and Circle of Love album made me positively embarrassed to admit that I once had every one of his albums. However, he has sold over 30 million records, and his Greatest Hits 1974-1978 has sold 14 million copies (or two million more than the Beatles' Abbey Road!). That's a padded resume right there, without throwing in the massive success of Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams and the fact that, after 44 years in the business, he is still a hot concert draw. When LL Cool J can match that they can nominate him in Miller's place, but NOT BEFORE.
Linda Ronstadt? She goes back to the late 60s and was the reason, more or less, the Eagles came to be (they met as her backing band). She's been successful in rock, country, opera, Broadway, and Hispanic music, winning ten Grammy awards and an Emmy in the process. She was also once called "the highest-paid woman in rock," earning more than the two women on the nominee list combined. You would probably have to jog someone's memory about Laura Nyro (she wrote "Stony End," "And When I Die," and "Eli's Coming"), but Linda Ronstadt's career requires no such mnemonic devices.
I will admit right up front that I am not a fan of Rush (Limbaugh, yes; the Canadian band, no way). Geddy Lee's voice goes through me like a cat using a chalkboard for a scratching post. However, anyone who can look at the success their career has enjoyed and then say they do not belong in the Hall of Fame is not qualified to have a vote. Ditto the Moody Blues.
Then there's Neil Sedaka, the man who enjoyed three careers: 1960s singer, 1970s singer, and nearly five decades as a songwriter. Some people may not like his voice; others may dismiss his string of 60s hits as "light." The issue is not quality (I personally find nothing wrong with the happy feel of Sedaka's songs that permeated even his heartbreak songs like "King of Clowns") but fame, and Sedaka had it -- and still does. Sadly, if he ever does get in, it will most likely be the same way his high school friend Carole King (the subject of Sedaka's hit "Oh, Carol!") has been inducted -- as a songwriter, not as a performer.
There have been voices of complaints for years about the Hall of Fame; notably, the murmurs that Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner uses his power as co-founder and vice-chairman of the Hall of Fame to nominate "critic's darlings" (e.g., Waits) and omitting people who were commercially successful but snubbed by critics (the above-named acts, Chicago, the Monkees, ELO). Peter Tork said as much in 2007 in the New York Post.
Many halls of fame have credibility problems (e.g., the Baseball Hall of Fame where writers send in blank ballots claiming "nobody deserves unanimous induction" or saying they WOULD vote for admitted steroid user Alex Rodriguez but not admitted steroid used Mark McGwire; the Country Music Hall of Fame, which last year lowered the "standard" of admission from 25 years in country music to just twenty [if Garth Brooks is inducted next year, you can just refer to this as "the Garth Brooks rule"]), but none stink as badly as what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is enduring at the present time.
Perhaps a boycott is in order. Money speaks very loudly, and maybe that will be the definitive signature on the petitions that have circulated for years to get the popular (just not critically acclaimed) acts a nomination for the Hall of Fame.