Who Will Be the Nominees for the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Part III: The Forgotten Ones

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honored its Induction Class of 2022 last Saturday, a stirring list of performers that saw one of the most diverse classes in Hall history enshrined. Now, however, it is time to shift our view to the nomination process for the Class of 2023, which will probably be announced in late January or early February. In the final part of our series on the prospective 2023 class, I am going to look at those who might have fallen through the cracks in the Hall’s pursuit of rock and roll’s Parthenon.

Here’s the thing with those who have “fallen through the cracks.” In some cases, they are extremely borderline calls. The Hall has already gone through much of the early history of rock and roll and pulled the crème of the crop from the rosters. Anyone that is left is a tremendously flawed candidate – they may have been great at the moment but, compared to the overall history of rock and roll, they have faded in significance (that’s right…we see you over there in the corner, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, and Badfinger, among MANY others).

Thus, this means that the Fifties are done. There will not be another performer inducted into the Hall from that decade unless they are named through non-voting methods. That goes for the Sixties too – that decade has been thoroughly gleaned and cleaned of viable candidates for the Hall. The Seventies are getting close to that point also.

Think about it for a second – those artists that came out in 1985 have been eligible for the Hall since 2010. In many cases, they haven’t even received consideration for nomination, let alone induction. That’s why the Hall Induction Classes since 2020 have seen artists and groups from the Eighties and Nineties dominate the election process – The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Tupac and Biggie, and many others, including Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo (and let me note here – I was glad to hear that my long-standing contention that Benatar was holding up her induction until they also included her husband Giraldo was true!).

Here in this segment, I’m also going to include those artists that usually send the “RAWK” people into a spasmatic fit. That means country artists, pop princes and princesses, R&B crooners and groups, and rappers. Whether you like it or not, all those genres (and plenty of others) are a part of the rock and roll umbrella. As such, the best from those segments of the tree should be honored as a part of the rock and roll family – anything else would be disingenuous in an examination of “rock and roll.”

With the prerequisites set for Part III, let’s get started!

The Hall is known for putting out some nominations that make the average person say, “what the fuck?” or even question the Nomination Committee’s sanity. In the past, the picks of Fela Kuti and Sister Rosetta Tharpe fell into that category. Now, Tharpe is in the Hall (deservedly) and Kuti should be (and probably will, through the non-voting categories, this year or next). But who is that choice this time around?

I have two potential candidates in that arena that reach back into the foundations of rap. Long credited with the creation of the genre, DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock were the Brooklyn duo who were the first practitioners of “rap” styling. Herc would spin the discs on the turntable to provide the backbeat while La Rock spoke over the bass lines, detailing life in the inner cities and the struggles that were faced by those in dire situations. There was also a great deal of braggadocio, which was a staple of early rap. Any rap artist in the Hall now, and several rock acts also, owe a debt of gratitude to these men for their work.

Continuing in the rap vein, to this point in Hall history there have only been male rap artists that have been inducted. This is the year that the Nomination Committee should take care of that lack of female representation by nominating Queen Latifahm Missy Elliott, or MC Lyte for induction. Both ladies have been the benchmark that female rap artists have been judged against and for good reason – they are the pinnacle of the genre.

With the induction of Dolly Parton in 2022 (and, I’ll be honest here, I think Dolly might have been a WTF nomination that just happened to garner more support than the Hall expected), this opens the door for a plethora of country artists to get their due from the Hall. First on that list would be Willie Nelson, who has penned some of the greatest tunes in the history of music. His “outlaw” persona has always gone against the grain of the staid country establishment, making him more “rock and roll” than some “RAWK” artists and groups that have already been inducted.

The other from the country pool to be duly recognized would be Patsy Cline. Cline set the standard for a female vocalist in the early Sixties, regardless of the genre that you’re speaking of. Her life was cut tragically short, otherwise who knows what greatness would have come out of her. There are plenty of people who have been inducted into the Hall that would vouch wholeheartedly for the inclusion of Cline in the Hall.

If the “RAWK” crowd isn’t howling and hyperventilating by this point, they will after the next couple of passages. Even though she wouldn’t be my first choice for induction into the Hall, Mariah Carey punches all the boxes when it comes to being worthy of being a member of the Hall. A record-breaking performer, with crystal-clear vocals that have been the benchmark of excellence for years, and a legacy of success state that Carey should be considered if not inducted into the Hall.

There are a couple of R&B groups that would also be worthy of consideration. The Spinners are an outside choice for induction, but The Commodores would be an even more logical selection. What might stop The Commodores from receiving their due is the induction in 2022 of their de facto leader, Lionel Richie. Here’s a shocker for you too…The Fifth Dimension is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! That should be rectified tout de suite.

With all these artists and groups mentioned, there are still viable rock artists and groups that bear mentioning for induction. There’s a whole list of singer/songwriters from the Seventies – Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Nilsson, Dan Fogelberg, Warren Zevon, Jimmy Buffett – that would be worthy considerations. There are bands such as WAR and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, that have been overlooked. And hard rock/metal’s list of talent might overshine everyone on this list – Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer…I could go on, but I would just be making our metalhead friends angry!

The thing is, in a year when there isn’t a wealth of FYE (first-year eligible) contenders that will be automatic choices for induction (like Eminem in 2022, or Foo Fighters in 2021), that is the time to try to clear some of the backlogs from your rolls. 2023 is one of those years that the Hall gets a chance to reexamine some of those from the past that might be worthy of consideration and give them their shot for induction. The more time that goes by, the chances grow smaller for these artists and groups to be recognized.

So, let’s choose some of those “forgotten ones” to include here in 2023. How about:

Willie Nelson
DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock
Queen Latifah
Motorhead
Warren Zevon
Mariah Carey
The Commodores
The Fifth Dimension
Patsy Cline

And these are our prior selections from Part I and Part II for the Nomination Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Rage Against the Machine
New York Dolls
Kate Bush
Dave Matthews Band
John Prine
Jane’s Addiction
Fiona Apple
Jewel
Sheryl Crow
Korn
Liz Phair

Not too shabby a list, huh? But I am sure that there are some selections that I might have missed, and I am always open to hearing other suggestions! It’s also a 20-person nomination class; in the past, the Nomination Committee has usually kept the number between 15-18, so I am probably going to be disappointed in a couple of areas – at least!

We’ve got a few months to debate this issue, however. The Nomination Committee usually discusses potential nominees over the course of the year, but its pace picks up after the Induction Ceremonies. Usually, by the end of January/beginning of February (in 2022, the nominees were announced on February 2), the Hall will announce who is under consideration for induction. Then the game begins again as to who will be a part of the Induction Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Who SHOULD Be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2022? And Who WILL Be?

There’s approximately two weeks to go in the Fan Vote for the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Currently leading the way is first time nominee Duran Duran, who is dominating the standings with almost 850,000 votes. In a distant second is Eminem, who has gotten an impressive 650,000-plus votes, while Pat Benatar hangs in third with slightly more than 559,000. Rounding out the Top Five are Eurythmics and Dolly Parton (who, despite her protestations, might have to live with the title “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member”).

The reason this Top Five is important is that those finishers will each earn one more vote onto their total from the overall Voting Membership towards induction into the Rock Hall. That single vote is unimportant – the 1200-member Voting Membership’s decisions will not come down to one vote, to be honest. It is important, however, in setting the tone for what “the fans” want as far as the Rock Hall goes.

But who is going to be elected to the Rock Hall? We are going to look at that here, but first we must set a couple of criteria.

There is absolutely no clue as to how many people will eventually earn induction into the Rock Hall. It should hold true that six new Performer inductees will be named – that is what has consistently happened since the Hall was created. What will be the “wild card” is will the non-voting committees – the Ahmet Ertegun Award, the Award for Musical Excellence, and the Early Influencers – receive the same credence that they got in 2021.

Last year, those non-voting inductions accounted for more than half of the new inductees into the Rock Hall. Previously, the non-voting inductions were rotated between years, so as to give respect to those inductions. But 2021 blew that out of the water…it was a way for John Sykes (the new Chairman of the Rock Hall) to “clean the slate” (so to speak) by getting in several contentious and problematic induction issues. A band like Kraftwerk or an artist like LL Cool J, who had multiple previous nominations without induction, were able to bypass the vagaries of the Voting Membership and were inducted.

But will that hold true for 2022? I could see it going either way. For our purposes here, though (and to be able to get in as many people as possible), we are going to assume that the Hall will have the “mega-class” once again for 2022. That means we will go with six Performers inductees, three Early Influencers, three AME inductions, and a solo Ertegun honoree.

So, who is going to go in as members of the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I have always had two lists for these types of issues – a list of who SHOULD be inducted and a list of who WILL be inducted. These two lists are extremely different, so it might be said that the “should be” list is my personal preferences, while the “will be” list is the one the Rock Hall’s Voting Membership will go towards.

Thus, without further ado, here is the list of who SHOULD BE inducted as the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Performers

Judas Priest
Pat Benatar
Kate Bush
Rage Against the Machine
Eminem
New York Dolls

Early Influences

MC5
“Big Mama” Thornton
Dick Dale

Award for Musical Excellence

Warren Zevon
Thin Lizzy
Jimmy Buffett

Ahmet Ertegun Award

Rick Rubin, producer/label executive

The Rock Hall has been under consistent attack over the past few years for their “non-rock” inductees. Thus, I think this year they will try to lean towards the more “rock” oriented members of the nomination class. Even though Eminem will get in (he is on both the “should be” and the “will be” lists), the Voting Membership will push for more rock artists and bands like Judas Priest, Benatar, Rage, and the Dolls to get in (right now, Judas Priest is lurking behind Parton in the Fan Vote).

Taking MC5 in as an early influence for “garage rock” seems like a logical step because otherwise the band is not getting voted in. There just aren’t enough fans of that style of rock to get MC5 voted in as performers. Thornton has been overlooked for far too long for her influences on rock and roll. Finally, if you are going to have Duane Eddy in the Rock Hall, you also must have his cohort in the development of the “surf sound,” Dale, in there beside him.

Taking the trio of performers in with the Musical Excellence award – Buffett, Zevon, and Thin Lizzy – bypasses the issues that they have had in earning induction as performers. Both Buffett and Zevon have legacies and contributions far too numerous to mention here (it is arguable that, without Zevon, you do not have the “California sound” of Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, and others, while Buffett created a music genre of his own in tropical, or “trop,” rock). Thin Lizzy might be the weakest entry here, but if they are going to go in, it is going to be through a non-voting mechanism.

Rubin as an Ertegun inductee is something that would take the Rock Hall a bit of pushing to do. Rubin, as the creator and leader of Def Jam Records and the producer behind a slew of top rap acts, would not be the first choice of many in the music world. But the world of music would be lesser without his work and his influence on the industry, thus he is deserving of induction.

That gives us a list of thirteen artists, groups, and other miscellaneous entries for the SHOULD BE Class of 2022. But it is not likely to happen…not this year at least!

Now, the moment for which you’ve been waiting! Here are the people who WILL BE inducted in May as the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Performers

Eminem
Dolly Parton
Eurythmics
Pat Benatar
Judas Priest
Beck

Early Influencers

MC5
New York Dolls
**WILD CARD**

Musical Excellence

A Tribe Called Quest
Thin Lizzy
**WILD CARD**

Ahmet Ertegun

Sylvia Robertson, founder of Sugar Hill Records

Eminem is a lock for induction in 2022, whether people like it or not. He has been one of the iconic figures of rap in the past 25 years, has brought attention and acclaim to his work, and has been a groundbreaker in many ways. Beck is in a comparable situation – he has been a formative figure in alternative rock, someone followed by many in that genre, and he has been an innovator in his field.

Judas Priest SHOULD already be in, but this could just as easily go to Rage Against the Machine. I am giving Priest the edge for their longevity and their body of work. And the Rock Hall still has the ringing in their ears for not inducting Benatar back in 2020; they will fix that this time around.

Much has been made about Parton’s nomination and potential induction into the Rock Hall. Whether she (or those who want to deny her history) realizes it or not, Parton has been a figurative force in the world of music, breaking ground for women in a male-dominated field (the same could be said of Benatar). If she does not go in through this manner, she could very well be one of the “wild cards” in either the Early Influencers or the Musical Excellence fields.

A Tribe Called Quest is a rap act that would probably never earn their induction through the Performers vote. Thus, it is time to nip this one quick and put them in with the Musical Excellence category. In fact, you could do this with several deserving rap acts, such as DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock, Eric B. and Rakim, and Kurtis Blow, to recognize their influences.

Robinson is a woman who took rap from the streets to the record stores in the 1970s and 1980s. Her creation of Sugarhill Records brought about The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Funky Four Plus One, icons in the world of rap (and, in the case of Grandmaster Flash, a Rock Hall inductee). The label was integral to the development of rap in the United States and Robinson should be recognized for what she did.

Finally, the reason that there are two WILD CARD choices there is for the simple fact that the Rock Hall can sometimes simply pull a rabbit out of the hat on the fans, especially with the non-voting inductees. Last year, for example, Randy Rhoads, Billy Preston, and Kraftwerk going in through the “side door” completely ambushed the fans. It is highly likely that we see something like that happen again with artists that weren’t even on the radar for this year’s inductions.

We will find out in May who will make up the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Then the debate will start on who is deserving of the honor, how the Rock Hall is a “sellout,” how the Rock Hall isn’t “rock”…you know, the regular ad nauseum criticisms that the Rock Hall receives. One thing is true, however – whoever is announced as the Class of 2022 will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this fall and take their rightful place beside the legends of rock and roll, regardless of what the critics or especially the fans think of the vote.