The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has released its list of candidates for the class of 2017. As usual, this list causes arguing and controversy, so I’d better throw in my two cents.
It’s an impressive list, and you can only vote for five. It also highlights what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become – a hall of fame for rock and other genres. Country is, for the most part, left out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and definitely in this voting class), but hip hop, R&B, soul, rap, and electro now make the cut (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Picking five from this class is difficult, but some are easy to weed out. Let’s go through the list, shall we?
Joan Baez: She gets the first “Why isn’t she already in there?” nod. I don’t own any of her records and would be hard-pressed to name or sing any of her songs, but I do know her impact on the 1960’s folk / Americana movement was massive and second only to Nobel Prize Winner Bob Dylan’s.
Bad Brains: These punk legends broke ground for a lot of bands to come and influenced a lot of punk kids to cross racial boundaries and embrace one another (and help each other protest wrongs done to all sides).
The Cars: These (at the start of their career) oddballs showed that post-punk could be danceable and appeal to weirdos and the popular kids at the same time. They were one of the first post-punk bands to get significant airplay and bring keyboards and synths into the mainstream.
Chic: They’ve been nominated eleven times now. Why? Because they were one of the greatest disco bands of all time and pretty much laid the groundwork for hip hop. Their grooves have been sampled more times than anyone can count, and leader Nile Rogers is one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
Depeche Mode: One of the greatest electro acts of the 1980’s and 1990’s. They have filled stadiums and inspired more people to buy a keyboard and a drum machine than many other bands of their ilk.
Electric Light Orchestra: The second “They’re not already in there?” nod goes to them. Their albums are lush, somewhat psychedelic masterpieces, and their live shows were legendary. Plus, Jeff Lynne is an amazing songwriter.
Janet Jackson: I’m not much into her newer material, but you can’t deny her early records produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are funky classics.
Jane’s Addiction: They deserve a nomination for being ballsy enough to make their first album a live record – and it’s still my favorite album of theirs. Plus, you have to give Perry Ferrell some credit for keeping the music festival culture alive through the lean years and helping create the large landscape of festivals today.
The J. Geils Band: They were nuts live, had impressive chops and blues swagger, and quit just as they had begun to rule the world.
Journey: I was never much into these guys, but I know a lot of people who were and still are. I can remember how a release by them was an event. Everyone I knew who was into them during their heyday went nuts with anticipation in the days before their new album hit the stores. Plus, “Don’t Stop Believin'” has become a theme for seemingly everyone on the planet by now.
Chaka Khan: I didn’t follow her much either, but her cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You” is, without question, one of my favorite songs of all time and introduced me to sampling and beat mixing when I was in middle school. I will always love her for that.
Kraftwerk: Simply put, you wouldn’t have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bands without them, not to mention EDM.
MC5: One of Detroit’s greatest exports and one of the greatest rock bands ever, MC5 flattened audiences that were coming out of the hippie daze and ready to get raw.
Pearl Jam: You heard Ten all over the place if you were anywhere near a college campus in the early 1990’s. They’ve hung around longer than almost every other grunge band (Mudhoney might have them beat) and still pack stadiums today.
Tupac Shakur: Admittedly, I was never into Tupac Shakur or gangsta rap much, but I do acknowledge his impact on the genre, pop culture, and Hollywood, and his mic skills were off the charts.
Steppenwolf: Look at those guys. Those guys would fit in at any Levitation festival today. “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Born to Be Wild” are iconic rock classics, and so are they.
Joe Tex: A soul and disco legend. I love it when the Hall gives a nod to funky performers like Joe Tex, and especially when they give a nod to disco. Look up some of his Soul Train performances if you want to see how cool he was.
Yes: The third “Wait…What? They’re not in the Hall?” nod goes to one of the greatest prog-rock bands of all time. Their cosmic grooves still amaze today. Just listen to “Roundabout” and try to imagine writing and playing that.
The Zombies: The fourth and final “Shouldn’t they already be in there?” nod goes to these psych-rockers who have influenced everyone from Dave Grohl to the Black Angels. “Time of the Season” is one of the greatest psych-rock tracks of all time.
So, who gets my vote? Here are my choices (once again in alphabetical order):
- Chic. Again, Nile Rogers has crafted so many hits that you and I can’t keep track of them. “Le Freak” is probably their biggest hit and was secretly a slam on the band getting shut out of Studio 54 one night. The original chorus was “Aaaah…fuck off!” No joke. It laid the foundation for hip hop. Just listen to the rhythm section and you’ll hear samples from dozens of rap hits.
2. Electric Light Orchestra: My wife would probably strangle me if I didn’t vote for them because they’re one of her favorite bands, but she has no reason to worry. Jeff Lynne deserves to be in the Hall for crafting lush rockers like this.
3. Kraftwerk: You wouldn’t have another nominee, Depeche Mode, without Kraftwerk. DM would, in their right minds, walk out of the building if they were inducted before Kraftwerk. You wouldn’t have Daft Punk, Panda Bear, Caribou, and most EDM without these guys.
4. MC5: My reason for voting for the MC5 can be summed up in one question, “Have you ever heard them live?” They’re one of the first bands I’d see if I could build a time machine.
5. The Zombies: I love psych-rock, so it’s so surprise that I voted for them. I saw them at Levitation Austin in 2014 and they still sounded incredible and the whole crowd loved them.
Go cast your votes, folks.
Keep your mind open.
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