This year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced. Who should go in?
The yearly list of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees is an annual invitation to think about rock 'n' roll history, who mattered, what mattered, and what halls of fame are all about. For the last few years, I've dealt with the depressing reality that no matter how genres cross today (as they always have, really), Chic has been on the outside looking in. They once again are nominated for induction, along with The Meters, Nirvana, Chic, KISS, Hall and Oates, The Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, N.W.A., The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes and The Zombies. I expect we'll see Nirvana, KISS, Hall and Oates, Linda Ronstadt, and Yes inducted this year. Maybe N.W.A.
In general, voters have followed the critical habit of valorizing album artists over singles artists - part of Chic, The Meters, and first generation hip-hop artists' problem - and popular bands over important ones. There's also a faction that prioritizes the "rock" in the hall's title despite the number of R&B soul artists inducted. That tends to result in a residual "Disco Sucks"-like antipathy toward disco artists and their near-contemporaries, first generation hip-hop artists. It also often seems like a popularity contest - a component that has grown since fans can now vote for their favorites. That helped push the critically-unloved, short-coattailed Rush into the Hall last year.
I wouldn't have predicted that Ronstadt will be inducted had she not recently announced that she won't be able to perform anymore since she's living with Parkinson's disease, but the induction of disco singles artist Donna Summer in 2013 after she died in 2012 made me believe in the voters' sentimental streak - one that can overcome many of the usual prejudices.
Many of the competing beliefs and priorities about who and what should be in the Hall show up in a Facebook conversation started by writer Steve Hochman (a long-time friend that I worked with at OffBeat). Thankfully, it's a civilized conversation despite some pretty clear differences of opinion. I subscribe to Hochman's principle: "If there's the slightest doubt, leave 'em out!" The Baseball Hall of Fame doesn't need a bunch of lifetime .275 hitters with warning track power; it needs excellence or people who changed the game. It's not the Hall of Really Good. The same holds true for rock 'n' roll, so I'd induct Chic, The Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A. and maybe The Replacements. They affected the course of music history more profoundly than the other nominees, certainly KISS and Hall and Oates.
Am I right? Who or what am I missing?