This morning, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2023, and it was done rather quietly. The reason I say this is that the induction announcement is usually a big deal on SiriusXM, with a show that interviews the new inductees and generally celebrates the world of rock and roll. This year? Nothing…I was a bit surprised about that.
These are my general, hot of the press takes on the 2023 class. I’ll have some thoughts about some other issues (including John Sykes’ apparent preoccupation with “what the fans think”) at a later date.
1) Overall, a decent class that has taken care of a couple of oversights from the past. In the Performers category, the inductions of Bush and Rage Against the Machine were long overdue and the Voting Committee finally corrected this error (some would also add The Spinners into this category). If there was a guaranteed inductee for the 2023 class (like last year’s Dolly Parton induction), Willie Nelson was going to be going in.
For both Missy Elliott and George Michael to go in with the same class was a bit of a surprise. I figured that one would go in before the other would (and I thought that would be Elliott over Michael), but they both made it through the battle. Sheryl Crow has done it all in her stellar career and the Hall enjoys honoring those who have always been there for them, thus her induction isn’t a surprise.
2) Those who were spurned from the Performers category are…well, let’s just say that the carryover of the “populist” theme from last year is evident. Critical favorites like Joy Division/New Order, Warren Zevon, Soundgarden, The White Stripes, A Tribe Called Quest, and Cyndi Lauper (we’ll get to the other in a minute) were not inducted and they didn’t get a nod from the “non-voting” paths. This isn’t a case of “not enough support” – Zevon and Lauper (along with #3) were WAY up in the Fan Vote and it was believed this would be the year, especially in first-time nominee Zevon’s case. Alas, it was not to be.
3) Not that they were sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, but Iron Maiden is probably never being inducted into the Hall. I’ve heard the explanations regarding the bypassing of hard rock/metal bands, and Iron Maiden in particular, but they’re beginning to ring hollow. How you can have one act but not another – in this case Judas Priest (who FINALLY got in through the “non-voting” method last year) and Iron Maiden – is befuddling. If I am finding it hard to believe, then you can only imagine how the Average Joe is seeing it.
4) The Award for Musical Excellence is OUTSTANDING. They also took care of a few oversights here by inducting both Chaka Khan (but not Rufus, surprisingly) and Bernie Taupin (writing partner of Elton John), who needed to be in the Hall. The inclusion of Al Kooper was a bit of a surprise since there hadn’t been a huge drive for his induction, but it is a welcome addition; Kooper’s legacy of work and influence are worthy of induction.
5) Equally as excellent as the AME were the choices for the Early Influences and the Ahmet Ertegun Award. DJ Kool Herc was the originator of rap, way back in the early Seventies, but it is a bit odd to see him go in and not alongside his longtime performing partner Coke La Rock. Link Wray is another one of those “oversight” corrections that the Hall takes care of through this manner, but it is also a well-deserved induction (and, we must note, if you’re going to have Duane Eddy in the Hall, then why not Wray?).
While I would have liked to have seen the Ertegun go to Rick Rubin, the choice of the creator of Soul Train, Don Cornelius, is a BRILLIANT move. Many people point to American Bandstand and its influence on the culture. Soul Train was just as big, if not more influential, in its impact on R&B, soul, rap, and culture overall. It’s too bad that Cornelius is no longer with us – I am sure that he would have delivered a FIRE induction speech!
Overall, the Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame isn’t bad, but it’s not as great as it could have been. There are a few trends now, three years into the reign of Hall chairman John Sykes, that can be identified, but we’ll save that discussion for another time. For now, we can enjoy and congratulate those that were inducted and commiserate with those that were not.
It is getting closer to a day that all fans of rock and roll genuinely enjoy. Besides the Induction Ceremony and the unveiling of the nominees, the announcement of the vote for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and its latest Induction Class is one for celebration. Since the nominees were announced in February, there has been a great deal of speculation over who will get in as Performers and who might get in through the “non-voting” methods – and at the start of May, we will learn those names who will make up the Class of 2023.
There is a wide-ranging variety of choices this year for the Performers class. One thing that can be counted on from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters is that they will choose between five and seven inductees that will enter as “performers” into the Hall. The other nominees can still get in through the “non-voting” means, which is the way that Judas Priest entered last year, and LL Cool J entered the previous year (both through the Award for Musical Excellence). The Voting Committee, however, are the ones who will choose the “Performer” inductees.
Those “non-voting” methods have come under fire of late. Because they go through a committee selection process, rather than the 1100-member Voting Committee, it is thought that these selections are “lesser” than the Performers. The Rock Hall disavows this statement, indicating that the AME, the Ahmet Ertegun Award (for non-musician contributions to rock and roll, like managers, producers, and industry personnel), and the Early Influences Award (for contributions to rock and roll BEFORE it was rock and roll) are equals of those who were voted in. The stigma still exists, however, no matter how undeserved it is.
Before we go on, we should look at the nominees for 2023. That list (in alphabetical order) looks like this:
A Tribe Called Quest Kate Bush Sheryl Crow Missy Elliott Iron Maiden Joy Division/New Order Cyndi Lauper George Michael Willie Nelson Rage Against the Machine Soundgarden The Spinners The White Stripes Warren Zevon
With this information, we are now going to look at those who are going to be voted into the Rock Hall as Performers. We will also take an educated guess as to those who might be chosen through the non-voting methods; in the past, usually only one inductee was chosen for one of the three processes. Since the ascension of John Sykes to the Chairman’s seat of the Rock Hall, however, he has utilized the non-voting methods to “clear the decks” of artists and groups that were not getting the support from the Voting Committee. I would like to see each of the three put ONE entry in, but we are going to play from the previous indicators that have been set for the past couple of years.
So, here you go…these are this writer’s choices for induction with the Class of 2023 of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!
Willie Nelson – Much like Dolly Parton last year, if there is one bona fide lock for this year’s induction class, it would be the “Red-Headed Stranger” himself. With over 70 years in the business, having written classic tracks that range from Patsy Cline (another act that should be inducted into the Rock Hall, but I digress) to Snoop Dogg (“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” is a Willie classic), Nelson and his “outlaw” attitude are more than deserving of enshrinement in Cleveland. As of 2022, there are fifteen country artists and groups that have earned their induction into the Rock Hall – Nelson should make it sixteen.
Warren Zevon – When the nominees’ list was first announced, I was extremely thrilled to see Zevon on the list. I also thought that he would be inducted with ease, and the Fan Vote currently has him in the Top Five. Then why do I have a nagging feeling that Zevon will be bypassed by the Hall for induction? Zevon’s credentials should have gotten him inducted a long time ago, but the Rock Hall is not known for making the “right” decisions.
Sheryl Crow – A first-time nominee for the Rock Hall (despite being eligible since 2018), Crow is the epitome of the Nineties rock star. It was an era when women were REALLY beginning to flex their muscles (courtesy of such luminaries as Madonna and Crow’s fellow 2023 nominee Lauper), and Crow has gone on to work with the legends of the business. For the voters to pass her over would be surprising.
Joy Division/New Order – Another first-time nominee, the dual entry of these bands would be the first time that a combo entry has been inducted since The Faces/The Small Faces back in 2012. Joy Division was one of the early progenitors of what would eventually become the “New Wave” movement. After the suicide of singer Ian Curtis, the remaining members of the band felt they could no longer go on as “Joy Division” and instead rechristened themselves as “New Order.” Regardless of the name, the band continued to be a groundbreaking force in the Eighties rock scene and should be honored with induction.
Missy Elliott – Of the eight elected inductees from the rap and hip-hop world (nine if you count LL Cool J’s Artistic Excellence induction), none of them have been female. This should be corrected this year as Elliott earns a seat in the Rock Hall (I would have rather seen Queen Latifah get in, but…). Elliott has been a force in the rap community and, through her music and her philanthropy, has brought attention to women’s issues and the plight of the inner city. An excellent choice.
Iron Maiden – This one could go either way. Long dismissive of the Rock Hall, Iron Maiden deserves induction themselves, alongside their contemporary Judas Priest (the AME again). There is that old issue with hard rock/metal acts being inducted, however, which may keep one of the formative acts of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) out of the Hall.
This is where we start to get into some speculation!
The three non-voting methods have, in the past, been sparingly used. Under Sykes, however, each of the three methods has inducted two or three members (2021 and 2022) each year. We can debate the logic of this (circumvention of the Voting Committee, or rectifying oversights by the Voting Committee), but that is for another time. For this year, let us figure that one each in the three categories will be a “Wild Card” entry – someone that isn’t even on the radar – and come up with two potential inductees for each category.
Award for Musical Excellence – This is where two of the 2023 nominees are going to go in through. Bush and Rage Against the Machine have been nominated on multiple occasions and, whether it is because of the competition in the years they have been nominated or (possibly) the Voting Committee does not feel they are “worthy,” both acts have yet to be inducted. This is the year that Bush SHOULD be voted in but, if she is not, then the Hall will put her in through this manner alongside Rage Against the Machine (which guitarist Tom Morello has fought against but will accept after several fruitless nominations).
Early Influences – This is a bit tougher to come up with because there are still so many from the “early days” of rock and roll that are deserving of being honored. Topping that list would be “Big Mama” Thornton, who was the prototype for the rock and roll “belter” from the vocal sphere. A second choice? How about MC5, who has gone through the nomination wringer way too many times (six, to be exact)? As the originators of the “garage rock” sound (they could also be viewed as punk rock forefathers), MC5’s exclusion from the Rock Hall should be rectified this year.
Ahmet Ertegun Award – If there were one of these categories that should only have one inductee, it would be this one. It is not because non-musical people aren’t important to rock and roll, it is because you must have done something OUTSTANDING to be considered for the honor. A look at those who have been previously honored (including Bruce Springsteen manager/producer Jon Landau, label exec Irving Azoff, and the legendary Quincy Jones) indicates the gravity of this category.
My first choice for this induction would be producer Rick Rubin. From the creation of his own label (Def Jam Records) to his production work with artists across the board (Run-DMC to Johnny Cash), Rubin has been one of the most impactful “behind-the-scenes” performers in the history of rock and roll. Not having him as a part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an oversight in definite need of correction.
For my second choice, I am going to go with two because I cannot decide between them! First up is Malcolm McLaren, who was responsible for the “punk rock” attitude of the Seventies and whom without we would have never heard of The Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, Bow Wow Wow, or Adam and the Ants. Second on my list would be Bill Aucoin, the legendary manager of KISS. Without Aucoin, would KISS have been as monstrous as they were?
There you have it! Your Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is:
Willie Nelson Warren Zevon Sheryl Crow Joy Division/New Order Missy Elliott Iron Maiden Kate Bush Rage Against the Machine AME WILD CARD “Big Mama” Thornton MC5 EARLY INFLUENCE WILD CARD Rick Rubin Malcolm McLaren OR Bill Aucoin AHMET ERTEGUN WILD CARD
That’s a pretty solid fourteen-member class, wouldn’t you say?
Now we will have the other fun part about the inductions into the Rock Hall – the debate over who gets in or not! What are your thoughts for 2023?
Over this past weekend, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies for the Class of 2021 aired on HBO. It was a fine program, with just a few flaws (the Tina Turner tribute fell flat and Drew Barrymore’s drooling over the induction of The Go-Go’s was a bit much), and it seemed that the sellout crowd in attendance at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland had a damn good time. Even before the ceremonies had closed, however, speculation had already begun as to who will be nominated for the Class of 2022.
Considering the fact that this class will not be chosen until late January at the earliest, the speculation seems to be a bit premature. It is human nature, however, to always be looking towards the future. It is also human nature to try to “right wrongs,” as in those that had been nominated in 2021 but failed to get in. The problem with this theory is that those that have been nominated and failed to get in have a much more challenging time as their nominations (and subsequent rejections for induction) mount up – ask eleven-time nominees Chic or Rufus and Chaka Khan about multiple nominations and how that went.
But let us entertain the thought. Here are some of those that were nominated in 2021 and an honest look at their chances to come back to the ballot in 2022.
First off, we can immediately discount four of the 2021 nominees and they are all women, unfortunately. Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick will not be back on the ballot in 2022 for a variety of reasons. For Blige, you only have to look at LL Cool J. “Ladies Love Cool James” had to be inducted by receiving the Award for Musical Excellence and he has had a career that was VASTLY superior to Blige. If there were someone who might have a chance to use the AME like that, it would be Khan, who has been nominated several times as both a solo artist and with the band Rufus. But neither of these ladies will be on the ballot come 2022.
For Bush, it is simply a matter that her incredible talents are more respected in Europe and, in particular, the United Kingdom than they are in the States. If the Rock Hall were in London, she would have been a first year eligible (FYE) induction. Alas, the Rock Hall is on the shores of Lake Erie, thus she will probably never get another chance. Warwick must have been some sort of cosmic joke to be nominated for the Rock Hall…she is not getting another chance.
Noting the longstanding prejudice of the Rock Hall against hard rock and metal, this is arguably the last time you will see Iron Maiden or Rage Against the Machine on the ballot (as you will see, though…that does not stop me from putting some harder edged bands on my choices for 2022). It seems that neither of the bands were able to garner much support for induction, so they might end up like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Thin Lizzy, eternally on the “outside looking in” at Rock Hall membership, even though ALL of them deserve it.
That leaves three nominees from 2021 that all have a chance to be inducted – Devo, New York Dolls, and Fela Kuti.
These three are going to go in at some point in the mix. Kuti will be inducted, it is simply a question of whether he is elected as a performer or he takes the Early Influence or AME route. Devo is a selection that the Rock Hall Nominating Committee will hold in their hip pocket for an induction ceremony back in Cleveland. Inducting a band created in Akron, OH, would excite the local fans and draw a great deal of media coverage. That also goes for the Dolls, whose induction during a New York ceremony would be massive, not to mention that the Rock Hall may need another 70s relic to induct on some occasion – New York Dolls would cover both bases.
Now that we have covered the 2021 nominees and their chances at getting back on the ballot in 2022, we can move on. Here are the bands that I believe, in this way-too-early selection list, will be the nominations for the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The ONLY guarantee for 2022 is Eminem, and he is also a shoo-in as an FYE induction. The former Marshall Mathers is recognized as one of the greatest rappers in the history of the genre and has expanded the scope of the genre into pop and rock effortlessly. The Rock Hall has recognized nine rap acts for induction, and Eminem will be the tenth to take a chair in rock’s Parthenon.
Duran Duran was oneof the seminal 80s acts, and they have surprisingly NEVER been nominated for induction into the Rock Hall. That should change this year, especially with John Sykes, the new Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, now firmly in charge. Sykes made an impact with his first Rock Hall class in 2021 and now, with his history as one of the founders of MTV, will push hard for the inclusion of more of those 80s acts that have been overlooked for far too long. You could also slip Eurythmics or Joy Division/New Order into this slot.
Even though I said it would not happen, I would love to see the Rock Hall give both Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy one final shot. The Rock Hall has made some missteps over the years and, for at least the selection of Judas Priest, they could rectify it with their induction. Motorhead or Iron Maiden might be other selections if you want to have two hard rock/metal acts to choose from (but which in the past may have served as a detriment in dividing the hard rock/metal vote).
There are two acts from the 1970s that are worthy of consideration – War and the J. Geils Band. Both were outstanding acts in the 70s that garnered huge followings, and both had an impact on the development of rock in the decade. I used to be against both bands being inducted, but I took an honest look and spent some expanded time examining their resumes and…guess what? You can change your mind on some occasions!
If we are going full bore on the 80s – and start considering acts that should have been inducted over a decade ago – the place to start is with Pat Benatar. Nominated in 2019 and somehow passed over for induction, the Rock Hall is trying to make up for the lack of female inductees in the building (note the inductions of Tina Turner, Carole King, and The Go-Go’s in 2021). Personally, I think that Benatar should have been there years ago, but I think she might be the one standing in the way of an induction by insisting on being inducted with her husband, Neil Giraldo. If that is the case, that is unfortunate.
There are two men who merit consideration for induction into the Rock Hall. Sting’s solo career was so vastly different from his time with The Police that he deserves consideration for his work apart from the band. Additionally, it is time that Robert Palmer gets some kudos from the Rock Hall. He could croon a ballad with the best of them, could rock it up when he wanted to (“Bad Case of Loving You” and his work with The Power Station) and look oh, so suave as he did it (I am waiting for those fans of Phil Collinsto quit their wails of disbelief).
Now, if you want to get controversial, our final four choices would do it. Separate out the idiocy of their front man over the past decade or so and only look at the work of The Smiths. You will realize that Morrissey and Company were key to the development of alternative rock through the 80s and into the 90s. If you are going to have The Cure and Depeche Mode in the Rock Hall, then The Smiths deserve to be there, too. Additionally, Jane’s Addiction and, yes, Rage Against the Machine deserve to receive their kudos for their intricate and politically powerful work in the 90s.
Finally, if there is one rock band that is newly eligible in 2022 for induction into the Rock Hall, it would be Slipknot. The band fronted by Corey Taylor has many similarities to 2021 inductee Foo Fighters – carrying the rock and roll banner unapologetically for 25 years, sticking to their sound over the years, providing a linchpin between today’s rockers and past greats, and having an enigmatic focal point in Taylor (Dave Grohl did that for the Foos). I will say right now I do not expect them to be inducted even IF they are nominated, but who knows?
That is a total of 13 selections – but the Nomination Class is normally 15 or 16 artists and groups. I am leaving a few slots open for those “wild cards” that the Rock Hall seems to produce out of the blue (see Kuti, Fela and Warwick, Dionne from 2021). Right now, however, the only thing that is guaranteed is that Eminem will be inducted in 2022 – after that, it is a free-for-all.