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:
DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock
The Fifth Dimension
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
Dave Matthews Band
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.