Yesterday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for induction in 2008. Note that these artists are not sure things, but 5 of these will be inducted next year. The final inductees will be announced in January, appropriately, on the birthday of Elvis Presley, the first and greatest rock and roll star and the most influential human being of the twentieth century. My definitive analysis follows.
The nominees are:
* Madonna - This is a lock, the most important of the nominees by far. Madonna is one of the most important and influential women in rock and roll history, proudly sitting alongside Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Tina Turner. She's also arguably the biggest female rock star of all-time, in terms of pure celebrity. Madonna's been very controversial through the years, so let me say this up front: I'm a fan. Why? Because throughout all of the controversy - all of it silly, much of it stupid - the music stands up. Sure, her earliest hits ("Holiday", "Lucky Star") were inane, but she ended up producing some of the absolute best songs of the past 25 years. "Like A Prayer" is great, one of the best pop songs of the 1980s; "Vogue" is one of the best dance songs ever recorded, as well as one of history's greatest videos; "Ray of Light" is a great technopop record, maybe the best ever (and made at a time when the great U2 were failing miserably in the same genre, with their Pop album). At least two of her albums, Like A Prayer and Bedtime Stories are great. Say what you will about Madonna...the music stands up. She's a lock for induction and deserves to be.
* The Beastie Boys - This hip hop-punk trio ended up transcending their silly debut by becoming the undisputed masters of creative sampling. Their Paul's Boutique album has been called the "Pet Sounds of hip hop"...no small praise, that. They also became one of the most politically-driven artists in rock and roll, and have really put their money where their mouths are in that regard, earning great respect. While I appreciate their work, I'm not a huge fan (though my friend Matt loves them). They will make it into the Hall at some point, maybe this year. Incidentally, they were "discovered" by Madonna, and gained their first national exposure opening for her on tour.
* Afrika Bambaataa - The first great hip hop DJ, in many ways he "invented" what we now call "sampling". He was responsible for many of the earliest hip hop records that were actually worth something. If he makes it in, that's OK, though I'm not a big hip hop guy. You could make the case that without Afrika Bambaata, there would be no Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Public Enemy, or NWA, all of whom deserve to be in the Hall someday, so I guess that means he ought to be inducted sooner rather than later.
* Chic - This disco-funk-jazz band from the 1970s are responsible for the classic dance records "Le Freak" and "Good Times", and went on to produce as a band or as individuals big hits for artists like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, and Sister Sledge. They had excellent musicians, including guitarist Nile Rodgers, bassist Bernard Edwards, and drummer Tony Thompson. Edwards and Thompson, who are both deceased, were among the best ever at their particular instruments. I'd like to see this artist inducted, but I'm not holding my breath.
* Leonard Cohen - He's known as the Canadian Bob Dylan, a comparison I think is unfair (to Cohen). Critically acclaimed but virtually unknown in the United States, I don't know enough of his work to judge its worth. That tells me he can wait.
* The Dave Clark Five - This is a British Invasion band from the 1960s best known for good pop rock hits like "Glad All Over", "Because", and "Over and Over". They really had no shot until last year. They were nominated for induction in 2007 but, rumor has it, the voting was rigged by Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, which prevented this band's induction. That revelation makes them a lock this year.
* Donna Summer - The queen of disco has, shockingly, not been nominated before this year. Disco itself has largely been snubbed by the Hall, for understandable reasons. But, Summer has a string of big hits and has been a key infulence on many contemporary R&B singers. I have to believe she'll make it.
* John Mellencamp - He'll make it at some point, but I'm not sure if now is the time; he's been nominated before. My gut tells me that this is his year. His albums Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee are among the best of the 1980s. I'm a fan of this champion of the American heartland, and would be happy with his induction this year.
* The Ventures - This 1960s surf rock band had big fans in folks like George Harrison, Stephen Stills, Joe Walsh, and Aerosmith. Hard to believe they aren't in yet.
The following artists were eligible for induction this year but failed to be nominated:
* Metallica, Run DMC - These two oversights are unforgivable. Both should be inducted in their first year of eligibility. Shame on the Hall of Fame.
* Little Anthony and the Imperials - "Tears on My Pillow", "Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop", "Goin' Out Of My Head"...what's a guy have to do to get some respect?
* Patsy Cline, Pat Benatar, Heart - More women should be inducted. Patsy Cline, one of the greatest singers who ever lived, is a glaring oversight.
* The Stooges - No love for Iggy?
* Gram Parsons - This country rock pioneer deserves to be considered.
* The Cure, 10,000 Maniacs, Violent Femmes - No love for 1980s alternative music outside of U2 and R.E. M., I guess. The Cure will make it in eventually, so I'm not sure what the Hall is waiting on.
* Culture Club, Duran Duran - No love for 1980s New Romantics. That's understandable. Duran Duran is a longshot, but I think Culture Club deserves more consideration. Say what you will about him, Boy George had one of the best pop-R&B voices of his era, and they put out some solid hits.
* Sting, Men at Work, Wham! - Sting's already in with the Police, so I guess he's covered, though I still think he'll make it in for his solo work eventually. Men at Work are a longshot, but who doesn't love "Who Can It Be Now?", "Down Under", "Overkill", and, my personal favorite, "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive"? As far as Wham!, what do we do about George Michael, one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history? Induct him as a solo? We'll see.
* Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rush - Once again, "art rock" / "progressive rock" has been ignored. That's OK, as I'm not a big fan, but I wish they'd give some love to the boys in Genesis. Hard to imagine a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
* Carol Kaye - As a (very) amateur bass player, my favorite bassists are - in order - Paul McCartney, Chip Douglas, Carol Kaye, Jack Bruce, and Sting. Kaye was a member of Phil Spector's session band called "the Wrecking Crew". She played on such great records as "Good Vibrations" (Beach Boys), Pet Sounds (Beach Boys), "I'm A Believer" (Monkees), "River Deep, Mountain High" (Phil Spector/Tina Turner), "Sixteen Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford), "Someday, We'll Be Together" (Supremes), Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (Simon & Garfunkel), "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (Nancy Sinatra), "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis Presley), "Then He Kissed Me" (Phil Spector/Crystals), "Danke Schoen" (Wayne Newton), "La Bamba" (Ritchie Valens), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (Phil Spector/Righteous Brothers) , "Light My Fire" (Doors), "I Can't Help Myself" (Four Tops), and "I Was Made to Love Her" (Stevie Wonder). Why is she not in the Hall of Fame as one of history's greatest session muiscians?
* The Monkees - Arguably the most successful artist not to be in the Hall. My prayer is that they make it in before they start dying off.
Also, where are ABBA, the B-52s, the Cars, Chubby Checker, Joe Cocker, the Commodores, Dire Straits, the Doobie Brothers, the Go-Gos, Tommy James and the Shondells, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Ben E. King, the Moody Blues, Willie Nelson, the Pointer Sisters, Billy Preston, the Small Faces, Cat Stevens, T. Rex, Three Dog Night, the Tokens, War, Mary Wells, Larry Williams, Weird Al Yankovic...not to mention Bad Company, Badfinger, Chicago, Donovan, Electric Light Orchestra, the Guess Who, Herman's Hermits, Huey Lewis and the News, Judas Priest, REO Speedwagon, Sonny and Cher, Split Enz, Squeeze, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, the Turtles, XTC, and the Zombies?
I also hope that this is the year that Elvis Presley's drummer D.J. Fontana is inducted as a sideman, songwriter Bernie Taupin is inducted as a non-performer (if Leonard Cohen is being considred, surely Bernie, who is Elton John's lyricist, deserves something), and that Beatles manager Brian Epstein gets some respect.