At Least The Hall Of Fame Got A Couple Picks Right



joanbaezWith so much negativity in the world and especially online, it has always been my philosophy here to focus on the good things I see in the wide world of Rock music, and try to avoid dumping on the things that aren’t so good. With that in mind, let me praise the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for inducting the Electric Light Orchestra and Joan Baez this year. These two artists have been eligible for induction for many years, and I think it is wonderful that they have finally been added to the Hall.

ELO has been eligible since 1996, and I can’t quite understand why it has taken so long for them to be inducted. I would include Jeff Lynne among the list of Rock geniuses, not so much for his performing or songwriting skills but for his musical vision in the studio. Lynne revolutionized record-making with his dense, layered, highly-compressed production style that has been emulated ever since he first laid it down in the early 1970s. Among other things he taught the Rock world that strings could be used for so much more than the sweet, syrupy accompaniment that they traditionally provided. If entry to the Hall of Fame was based only upon influencing others in the world of Rock music, ELO should have been inducted 20 years ago.

Joan Baez has been eligible for induction even longer than ELO, since 1985, and I have to say it’s a small miracle that she finally got the nod. Baez was among the vanguard of the Folk Revolution of the early 1960s, and every single female singer-songwriter since then owes her a debt of gratitude for leading the way for women’s voices in the Rock Revolution that was to come. When Bob Dylan left the protest movement behind to focus more on personal truths, Joan Baez stayed the course and remained devoted to fighting injustice all over the world her entire career. She is a Rock pioneer with courage and integrity, and that’s certainly not something we can say about every Rock pioneer.

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As for the other 2017 inductees, well, I wouldn’t have voted for them but I won’t cry and moan about their inclusion just because I’m not a big fan. Rock should be a big tent that includes more than it excludes, and there’s no way any Rock fan can like everything. There is no question that Yes and Tupac brought something new and original to the table and are deserving of the recognition. Pearl Jam was an important part of the Rock Revival of the early 1990s and the only surprise to me was that they got inducted in their first year of eligibility.

To be completely honest the inclusion of Journey is a real head-scratcher to me. I honestly don’t believe that their body of work comes anywhere close to that of any of the other luminaries in the hall. Then again, the song “Don’t Stop Believin’” has proven to have universal value, either for its genuine feeling or for its ironic cultural appeal, and for that reason alone I will give Journey a pass. Journey received more fan votes for this Hall of Fame induction class than any other artist on the list, and there’s no arguing with that fact either.

I remain bewildered how Kraftwerk still can’t make it into the Hall. The Seventies-era electronic pioneers were perhaps more influential than any of the nominees on the list, yet they keep getting snubbed year after year. The fact they never had a lot of fans in North America doesn’t help, and there is no real nostalgia for their work despite their massive influence. Sooner or later The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has got to look beyond the fan voting and the popularity issues and take a stand in recognition of their significant contributions to Rock. I guess there’s always next year.

Photo by Scherman, Rowland, U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) (NARA – ARC Identifier: 542017) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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