I know — most every year I blog about the nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So you “young folks” can say “Okay, Boomer” and move on.
Usually, those posts’ theme is just who the geniuses at that Cleveland, Ohio, theme park-cum-museum-cum swag store, think are worthy for memorializing. And often they’re redundant, because the RRHF staff and selection committee keep putting the same people out there every year. (Occasionally, that’s a good thing; it took three or four years for Todd Rundgren — a true modern musical genius — to get voted in.)
This year is no exception. I look at the list of nominees, and right off the top I see two names that make me ask, “To be in a Hall of Fame, should you have some, well, fame?” The name Missy Elliott rang about as many bells as the groups she has belonged to, but those and her solo work are mostly in rap, and that is something in which I have no interest.
A Tribe Called Quest? Apparently, critically -acclaimed, Uncle Wiki says, and pioneers of alternative hip hop. But I’ve got a other alternatives to hip hop, thank you.
The White Stripes might have come in under my radar; I’d heard the name, but couldn’t name a song they had done — even though one features a riff that has become omnipresent. But then I read an opinion piece that opined that their “Seven Nation Army” — home of said riff — was the song of this millennium. And here I thought it was Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall” …
Nominees Joy Division and New Order, essentially the same band less their original frontman and lyricist, were said to be pioneers of the post-Punk movement. Which is good — that there was a post-punk, anyway, because I like punk about as well as I like rap. Said frontman (and lead guitarist/vocalist), Ian Curtis, committed suicide early in the Joy Division version; he read T.S. Eliot (my favorite poet) and J.G. Ballard (one of my fave science fiction writers), so maybe I would have found his lyrics interesting.
Rage Against the Machine is one of those overtly-political outfits that wears on me quickly. Their lead guitarist, the insufferably smug Tom Morello, has shows on Sirius XM that are for me unlistenable. They are self-proclaimed revolutionary socialists, and I’m sure they’ve turned over the proceeds from the 16 million records they’ve sold worldwide to the less fortunate.
They are also repeat offenders, having been nominated for the Hall four times previously. Hopefully, they’ll get “one for the thumb” this year.
Speaking of repeat offenders, Iron Maiden, Kate Bush and Soundgarden have been run up the flagpole before, with no salute so far. Iron Maiden sold a pile of albums, but heavy metal is another rock genre that doesn’t do much for me. Bush was, in my opinion, a minor MTV-era figure who hasn’t done much since then. Soundgarden was influential in grunge rock, if you consider that to be a good thing.
Now we’re getting into the acts and artists that might get my vote — if I even were to bother before the deadline, which is this Friday — in ascending order. George Michael was also MTV-era, and I never thought of him as being Hall of Fame-caliber. But he is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, with upwards of 125 million records sold worldwide — and he left the planet seven years ago.
Another ’80s artist up for consideration is Cyndi Lauper, who demonstrated that girls just want to have fun — and rummage-sale couture, and outre hair styles and colors. She seems to be best known now as poster girl for a psoriasis medicine, but she did some pretty good music 40 years ago.
Willie Nelson mostly has been a country guy, but he’s influenced pop and rock musicians, and recorded what is considered a seminal work of Outlaw Country. I think Red Headed Stranger is a bit overrated — for one thing, it’s kind of padded out with public-domain songs and a reprise — but it is certainly noteworthy. And heck, Dolly Parton got voted into the Hall.
Sheryl Crow has mined a bunch of American musical genres to sell 50 million records or so, written and performed some memorable songs, and won nine Grammy Awards. She’s still out there, having recorded an album as recently as 2019.
Warren Zevon didn’t sell anywhere near as many records as some of the aforementioned artists, had only a handful of charting singles, and only three albums that made it to the Billboard Top 40. But he wrote songs that were hits for other artists; — Linda Ronstadt made a No. 31 out of “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” and covered other Zevon songs as well.
Many of his songs are as unforgettable as that gem. The lyrics in “Excitable Boy,” “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,” “Lawyers Guns and Money,” “Werewolves of London,” “Even a Dog Can Shake Hands” and “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” pushed the envelope of American songwriting.
The Spinners were a Motown act with roots in the very early rock and roll years, mid-’50s. They recorded 19 Top 40 hits, including a No. 1 (“Then Came You,” with Dionne Warwick”) and two No. 2s. Many will remember them best for hits like “One of a Kind (Love Affair)” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love.”
There are not many of such significant acts from the great Motown years that are not in the Hall, and I think it’s time they get their due. That’s what I would call fame.