Yes, I know I’ve written the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice in recent months. But I promise this will be the last time — until the next round of nominations, anyway.
The RRHF announced the 2018 inductees a couple weeks ago, and I will give some credit to the powers that be in Cleveland, and wherever else those who have the final say hang out. The 900 non-fan voters — music writers, industry professionals, Hall of Fame members, etc. — corrected some glaring, if not smack-your-forehead, mistakes cast by the hoi polloi. They also introduced one head-scratcher, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
To refresh your memory, the Hall nominated the following 18 acts and artists for consideration for induction in 2018: Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies.
For the first time, I took the RRHF’s bait and participated in the fan voting. Fans get to vote once a day for five picks, and my choices were Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, Tharpe, Wray and the Zombies — once. I’d planned to vote more often, but spaced it out.
The results of the fan vote, announced in early December, had Bon Jovi in first, followed by the Moody Blues, Dire Straits, the Cars and Judas Priest. (Judas Priest! As my father would say — that was the closest he could get to swearing.)
The “professionals” who cast the non-fan votes took four of the popular-vote winners, the exception being Judas Priest. (The two categories of votes are somehow combined; I couldn’t find the process page agin on the RRHF site.) But they also voted in Simone and Tharpe, who were well down in the fan vote, when I checked in late November.
I don’t see Bon Jovi as being influential in the development of rock and roll, or their contributions to the genre being all that notable, unless you define rock and roll as “1980s and ’90s FM radio.” But their inclusion isn’t that surprising — one website noted that, since the Hall started soliciting fans’ input, the winner of the fan vote has been inducted every year.
As I previously blogged, the Moody Blues were unique and distinctive in album rock. Dire Straits and the Cars were influential in the ’80s and ’90s, and in the music video phenomenon; the latter were one of the acts that I considered voting for.
Simone’s selection, I don’t get. Her nickname was “The High Priestess of Soul,” but the Hall’s nominee bio said she’s most often considered to be a jazz singer, and that she thought of herself as a folk singer.
Some rock vocalists claim to have been influenced by Simone. But I wonder it there weren’t two other factors that influenced the pros to vote her in: her politics, and the fact that she was a black woman who performed back in the early ’60s. No African-American acts or artists finished in the top five of the fan vote this year, and the only black acts on the ballot were LL Cool J, the Meters, Rufus/Chaka Khan, Simone and Tharpe.
Tharpe got in as an Award for Early Influence. She certainly was influential on the artists who impacted early rock and roll — Elvis, Johnny Cash, the rockabilly musicians. But the same could be said of Wray, described variously as the Father of Heavy Metal or the Father of the Power Chord.
But the fact Sister Rosetta will be inducted in a special category points up the popularity-contest problem with the Hall’s nomination and induction process. That, and the omission of the Zombies, may prompt me to vote more often next year. And probably write about it, too. Sorry.