Today, the 2013 inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced, and I’ve got to say that this is one of the most exciting, diverse groups in recent history! Heart, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush, and Donna Summer are welcomed in as performers, Albert King as an early influence, and Lou Adler and Quincy Jones (long overdue!) are receiving the Ahmet Ertegun Award (non-performers.) The performers were chosen from a pool of 14 that also included The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Kraftwerk, the Marvelettes, the Meters, N.W.A., and Procol Harum.
If you ask me, I would have had a hard time choosing out of this list on who to induct. Both Deep Purple and Procol Harum (both on their first nomination) have been overlooked for far too long, Kraftwerk should have been inducted a decade ago, Chic should have pre-dated the hip-hop inductions, and N.W.A shouldn’t have been too far behind them. Even the Marvelettes, Motown’s answer to the “Girl Group,” were significant enough to argue their spot in the Hall of Fame. With competition this tight, though, they really made the right decisions. In recent years, it seems that they’ve finally accepted the fact that rock and roll is far broader than they originally wanted to admit, and this year’s inductees cover quite a range of genres, sounds, ideas, messages, methods, times, and places. It almost seems that diversity was at the forefront of the decision-making process. You can classify each of the nominated acts any way you want, but it seems that there was a great deal of “this” OR “that” … Public Enemy OR N.W.A. (hip-hop,) Heart OR Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (female-led rock groups,) Donna Summer OR Chic (disco/soul,) etc. etc. etc. None of the inductees really represent the same of… anything. It’s also worth noting that none of the acts really date back all that far into rock history, Randy Newman being the earliest with his first album released in 1968, but was predominately a 70s act. I almost have to question if some of the more formative acts (a term used to avoid the term “older”) have simply missed the boat! Sure the Marvelettes deserve to be included, but a proper Motown act hasn’t been inducted since ’97 when the Jackson 5 was welcomed in (Technically Michael Jackson was induced as a solo artist in 2001 based on eligibly from his first solo albums, which were on Motown, but let’s be honest, it was his adult career that earned his inclusion… and I’m also not counting the Miracles which were supplementally added last year after only Smokey Robinson was originally inducted in 1987.) In order to be eligible, 25 years must have elapsed since an act’s first album, which generally concerns me for some older acts because 25 years since the 1990s is rapidly (and frighteningly) approaching, when an entire new set of artists (Nirvana, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, etc.) will undoubtably be moved to the forefront.
But let’s just focus on this year’s inductees for the time being!
HEART: Now this one’s totally a given. The Wilson sisters have been cranking out an incredible caliber of rock music since the mid-70s with tracks such as “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” “Barracuda,” and managed to find even more success in the 80s with hits such as “Alone” and “These Dreams.” With Ann Wilson’s powerful voice, and Nancy’s ripping guitar, not to mention the boys in the back, Heart just exudes talent and rock and roll, and they have really made an impact worthy of inclusion here. I think they should have been inducted years ago (especially over some of their peers,) but I’m happy that they’re finally in now.
RANDY NEWMAN: Randy Newman is the token singer-songwriter in this year’s Hall of Fame class, but with a bit of a twist. I’m not totally convinced acts such as Kraftwerk and Procol Harum should have been passed up in favor of him, but it’s impossible to argue his induction. With his catchy piano-led pop tunes juxtaposing brilliantly with his satirical lyrics and recognizable voice, he’s really one of the most under-championed songwriters and performers of his generation. Randy Newman is living proof that music can really be imagination-driven. I’m happy he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.
PUBLIC ENEMY: Hip-hop finally was welcomed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 when Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five were inducted, and since only two others (Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys) have been. Public Enemy is certainly a fitting fourth addition to the elite membership. Focussing heavy on social issues (“Fight The Power,” “911 Is A Joke,) the group had a very particular viewpoint and didn’t shy away from expressing it. At the same time, their songs were masterfully crafted. Hip hop completely changed when P.E. came around, and the genre, as a whole, completely deserves this induction.
RUSH: F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. Music critics have generally considered them worthless. Music enthusiasts have generally considered them geniuses. For whatever reason, the Hall has joined the haters in writing off prog rock, but finally they’ve pulled the collective stick out of their asses! Genesis (inducted in 2010) may have broken down that door, but they turned into a pop group and that certainly aided their induction. Rush has been true to themselves since the beginning. The trio’s ingenious mastery of music, lyrics, and performance easily make them one of the most talented acts ever. I never thought this day would come, but I’m thrilled it finally has.
DONNA SUMMER: No one, and I repeat, no one deserves to be welcomed in the Hall of Fame this year more than Donna Summer, and not just because she recently passed away. The Queen of Disco made dance music cool. Tracks like “Love To Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love” are still legendary, but when she fused proper rock and roll into the mix (“Hot Stuff,”) she altered the genre forever. Donna was an incredible vocalist, songwriter, performer, and mastermind. You can hate on disco all you want, but if you can listen to her music and can’t totally appreciate her contribution to rock and roll, I would strongly encourage a history lesson.
So congrats to all of the inductees this years! You all genuinely deserve it!