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?
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.