Some of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees this year include Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, The Faces, Freddie King and several others. While each band and musician certainly has their own musical merits, the largest complaint of the Hall of Fame is never who got in, but who got left out.
Since its inception, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been criticized for the artists it has spurned. The Hall of Fame was formed in 1983 and quickly inducted many influential artists. Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley were all inducted in 1986.
Since, the Rock and Roll Hall of fame has expanded to honor artists of all genres who have significantly contributed to the music world. The name can be a bit of a misnomer, as the Hall of Fame originally included rock artists but changed to induct all types of artists.
Everyone has their own grievances and complaints about the Hall of Fame, and it’s quite difficult to judge music. There are no real concrete statistics to judge artists. With any institution or award given, there will always be bias and behind-the-scenes lobbying coupled with disgruntled fans.
And here-in lies the most basic underlying problem: the nomination process for the Hall of Fame is controlled by a small committee of people who are not musicians themselves.
Why is a Madonna or Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Deep Purple (the progenitor of the mainstream use of power chord progression a la “Smoke On the Water”) has not been inducted? Or for that matter why has Joy Division, Rush, Heart, Iron Maiden, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Cure, The Monkees, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Warren Zevon, Eric B. & Rakim, Thin Lizzy, The Cars, Randy Newman, Link Wray, Judas Priest or even Motorhead not been inducted? The list of snubs goes on and on.
All have been viscously snubbed for years. And while fans will always argue that their favorite band, no matter how obscure, is most deserving, the majority of the big name artists left out of the Hall of Fame justly deserve to be inducted, or at the very least given a nomination.
The nomination criteria is determined by who is a “name” artist, who will panhandle to the institution the most and who can sell the most tickets and attract the most general attention. Is the media going to draw more attention to The Moody Blues being inducted or the Red Hot Chili Peppers? The Hall of Fame is a commercial process that panders to the mainstream aesthetic rather than recognizing the pioneers in music who made their modern contemporaries remotely possible.
Admittedly, it is difficult to discern if a musician should be nominated based upon intangibles, such as influence or inspiration or any other non-measurable feats. It would be far easier to look at the number records sold. Which, let’s be honest, the general public’s taste in anything musical anymore is pretty questionable (i.e. Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, DeadMau5) let alone the fact that most people aren’t willing to go out and buy any sort of music nowadays.
For instance, lets look at a band like KISS who fully epitomizes rock and roll. By no means is KISS the most talented band or the most worthy in the long line of snubbed artists, but the fact that they sold over 100 million records or the gigantic community of the self-proclaimed KISS Army that surrounds the band is unparalleled should be merit enough for them to simply be nominated more than once since becoming eligible 12 years ago.
Is it too much to ask that the institution should better represent the diverse field that is rock? Realistically it’s impossible to please everyone. Sure, other genres of music should be recognized, but rock doesn’t need to be forgotten in the process. It is the “Rock and Roll” Hall of Fame after all.