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
Joy Division/New Order
Rage Against the Machine
The White Stripes
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:
Joy Division/New Order
Rage Against the Machine
AME WILD CARD
“Big Mama” Thornton
EARLY INFLUENCE WILD CARD
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?