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Blog: The Rock & Roll Hall of Shame

In the spring of 1983, a non-profit organization called The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was formed by the Publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine Jann Wenner, a handful of record company executives and some attorney friends of Wenner's. They held their first ever Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1986, even though the Hall of Fame was only virtual at that time and had no home. After getting a sweetheart deal from the city of Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum finally opened in 1995.

The Foundation seeks to educate the public on the "history and continuing significance of rock and roll music."

Nobody has truly expressed any doubts about the importance of Rock music in modern culture or the need to have a Hall of Fame that celebrates it. However, some of the inductees and more than that, the method in which nominees are selected has continually come under fire. The criticism of the handful of people who are in charge of selecting just which artists do get enshrined into the prestigious Hall of Fame is a just one and the complaints are growing ever louder -- with good reason.

Rock and Roll music began in the early to mid-50's, combining blues, r&b, country and gospel, while adding in a faster, more prominent backbeat and amplified instruments. Arguably, it was pioneered by Chuck Berry, with his driving guitar riffs and Little Richard with his piano-based fury. It achieved mainstream attention with the charismatic performances of Elvis Presley, and was then advanced to the point of being actually able to change modern culture by The Beatles. It has branched off into numerous different sub-genres, some much harder rocking, some softer, some more electronic, some more organic, but the underlying influence is always Rock and Roll.

Most of the early Rock and Roll pioneers where quickly inducted and deservedly so. Unfortunately, since then, Jann Wenner and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation have instead chosen to honor primarily those artists who Wenner personally likes, while ignoring and snubbing so many other deserving artists.

Dozens of performers, who could not be considered Rock and Roll artists by any stretch of the genre, have been inducted or have been nominated by Wenner's committee in an attempt to get them inducted. Last year's big winner, ABBA has never been considered a rock act, yet they were inducted. ABBA's Benny Andersson was even shocked and has said that he didn't understand it "because we were a pop band, not a rock band." The year before that, a soul singer who has never had a rock hit or recorded a rock song, Bobby Womack, was inducted. The year prior to that, international pop/dance princess Madonna was inducted.

Here is just a small sampling of the non-rock acts, and rock acts that have little or no impact on rock music or modern culture, yet have all already been inducted as "Performers" into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

LaVern Baker
Bobby "Blue" Bland
Charles Brown
Ruth Brown
The Dells
The Flamingos
The Four Tops
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Al Green
Isaac Hayes
Billie Holiday
The Impressions
The Ink Spots
The Jackson Five
Mahalia Jackson
Etta James
Gladys Knight & the Pips
Brenda Lee
Little Anthony and the Imperials
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers
Martha and the Vandellas
Curtis Mayfield
Clyde McPhatter
The Moonglows
Ricky Nelson
The O'Jays
The Orioles
The Platters
The Righteous Brothers
Smokey Robinson
The Shirelles
Percy Sledge
Dusty Springfield
The Staple Singers
The Supremes
The Temptations
Jackie Wilson
Bobby Womack

Look at the list above. There is some incredible talent there. Many of them deserve to be enshrined in a Soul Hall of Fame, a Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, a Gospel Hall of Fame, a Doo-Wop Hall of Fame, a Vocalist Hall of Fame, a Vocal Group Hall of Fame, a New York Music Hall of Fame, a Rap/Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, a Jazz Hall of Fame, or an American Music Hall of Fame.

However, when thinking about top Rock and Roll acts, how many of the above names pop into your mind? Any at all? Of course not. They are not rock acts -- never have been.

Michael Jordan is not inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame, even though he did play a sport with a ball and excelled in it. Why? Because what Jordan did, as great as it was, was not Football. Ernie Banks is not inducted into the International Cricket Hall of Fame, even though Banks excelled at a sport where a ball is struck by a wooden stick. Why? Because Banks, as great as he was, did not play Cricket. Having Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or Mahalia Jackson in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be like inducting athletes from one sport into a Hall of Fame from another sport. Insanity.

Now here is a list of acts that are NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite being eligible, despite years of success within rock music, despite years of making a difference in modern culture, and/or despite their years of being a deep influence on other rock and music acts:

Bad Company
Pat Benetar
Big Star
Bon Jovi
Jimmy Buffett
The Cars
Cheap Trick
Joe Cocker
Alice Cooper
Dick Dale
Neil Diamond
Deep Purple
Def Leppard
The Doobie Brothers
Electric Light Orchestra
Emerson Lake & Palmer
Brian Eno
Peter Frampton
The Funk Brothers
J. Geils Band
Grand Funk Railroad
The Grass Roots
The Guess Who
Sammy Hagar (solo)
Hall and Oates
Iron Maiden
Jan and Dean
Jethro Tull
Joan Jett
Judas Priest
King Crimson
Little Feat
Steve Miller
The Monkees
The Moody Blues
Motley Crue
New York Dolls
Ozzy Osbourne (solo)
Red Hot Chili Peppers
REO Speedwagon
The Replacements
Linda Ronstadt
Roxy Music
Todd Rundgren
Leon Russell
Ringo Starr (solo)
Cat Stevens
Bernie Taupin
Thin Lizzy
Three Dog Night
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Tom Waits
Joe Walsh (solo)
Link Wray
Warren Zevon

Yes, that is a mighty long list of highly deserving rock acts that have been snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Obviously some acts (Rush, Kiss, Heart, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, The Monkees) deserve to be in there before others, but these all deserve the recognition for their past work WAY more than non-rock acts like Madonna, ABBA, Gladys Knight or Frankie Lymon. The absence of many of these snubbed artists and the inclusion of numerous non-rock acts makes this Hall of Fame incomplete at best, and a poor joke at worst.

A few of the names above are on the list of nominees for next year's induction. The nominees are: Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits, and Chuck Willis.

Once again, the RRHOF Foundation spits in the face of Rock and Roll with trying to push through a pair of Disco acts (Chic and Donna Summer), a pair of rap acts (LL Cool J and Beastie Boys) and a pair of 60's soul singers (Darlene Love and Joe Tex). At least two of those acts will probably get pushed through for induction, too. Out of that entire nominee list, only J. Geils Band (one of the greatest live rock bands ever), Alice Cooper (one of the most influential rock artists of the 70's) and Tom Waits (one of the greatest rock writers ever) truly deserve to be in there already. Arguments can easily be made for Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Bon Jovi, and maybe Beastie Boys.

Even though Bon Jovi is deserving, can anybody say they should be in the Hall of Fame BEFORE Kiss, Rush, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, Ozzy Osbourne, New York Dolls, and other acts that heavily influenced Bon Jovi and shaped their career path? Due to Bon Jovi's star power and ability to sell tickets to the induction ceremony, most feel the band is a shoo-in to win induction on this, their first year of eligibility.

The main problem seems to be Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner. He is the main person who chooses the few nominees each year. Attorney Suzan Evans and writer Dave Marsh also contribute. Evans, who has limited rock knowledge, has tended to try and nominate artists that will sell tickets to the high-priced New York induction celebration (she wanted Madonna nominated), while Marsh's musical tastes are almost as stubborn and narrow as Wenner's.

Wenner has gone on record as saying he will block any attempt at nominating The Monkees (a band he has supposedly had an unnatural hatred for since childhood), any 70's progressive rock band (Yes, King Crimson, ELP), or any 70's/80's arena rock band (Boston, Styx, Journey). Speaking of Boston, Wenner has been accused of snubbing acts from the city of Boston (J. Geils, Boston, The Cars), even though superstar rock act Aerosmith made the cut in 2001. He has a love for 50's New York Doo-Wop and has already inducted as many of them as he could. He also is a fan of 60's soul, and even though it is not a Soul Hall of Fame, Wenner has pushed those acts through. He enjoys Motown, old school hip-hop/rap and 50's female vocalists who were around before rock and roll even started, so those acts have made it in. Former Chicago vocalist/bassist Peter Cetera once made a disparaging remark about Rolling Stone Magazine in the 70's. Since then, Wenner has been angry at the entire band, and blocked any attempt at allowing them into the Hall of Fame, even though they are the #4 act on Billboards Top 200. (All of the other acts at the top of the Top 200 list are in the RRHOF.)

Fox News did an investigation that found out petitions containing thousands of signatures for top acts were being ignored by Wenner and his Foundation. They also found that certain acts that were associated with Ahmet Ertegun, who co-founded the RRHOF Foundation with Wenner, were pushed through immediately. It has also been found out that despite votes cast, some acts will get dropped or replaced with others in order to have bigger names elected or to better please Wenner's tastes. In 2007, The Dave Clark Five had more votes than Grandmaster Flash (neither of which should have been nominated in the first place...) , but Wenner made up a technicality to allow Grandmaster Flash to get into the hall that year, because he always loved that non-rock act. He claimed that even though The DC5 received more votes, some of the votes came in too late and were discarded, while Grandmaster Flash's votes were all on time. The Dave Clark Five were then admitted the following year instead.

As long as Jann Wenner is the man in control of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it will never be a true representation of Rock and Roll excellence. It will forever be a Rock and Roll embarrassment.

I called it the "Rock and Roll Hall of Shame" in the headline, since it is shameful that so many great rock acts are not part of it and may never be part of it. The word "Shame" works since it rhymes with and easily replaces the word "Fame," but in truth, it is more of a sham than a shame. The entire process of nominating and inducting Rock and Rollers is all just a sham perpetrated by Jann Wenner.

The artists and the fans of the genre deserve better. Rock and Roll deserves better.

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