Grading the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019

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By Kevin Price, Managing Editor, USA Daily Times.

WARNING: Whenever I write or comment about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I am usually steaming from the obvious political nature of the institution and the unconscionable omission of many artists that are certainly more worthy than most that are inducted on any given year.  This often affects my view of every class.  Of course, like the Hall of Fame itself, my views are very subjective.  They are deeply steeped in the era I am from (born in 1961) and the type of music I was surrounded by (as one originally from Detroit, Michigan).  Being from Detroit, I have a huge love for Motown and the eclectic genres that thrived in the Metro area of that great city.  However, I like to think I am committed to what is accurate, when it comes to music.  I find it offensive that artists that are virtually one hit wonders or have shown virtually no influence, some how find themselves in the HOF.  I like that other Hall of Fames have some objective criteria.  Good luck, for example, getting in the Baseball Hall of Fame with fewer than 3,000 hits AND less than 300 hundred home runs.  It generally doesn’t happen, at least before the Veterans Committee considers them.  Such objective criteria doesn’t exist in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a result it often seems to be driven by subjective snobbery (“they know better” than the rest of us) or politics (as they know the right people).

I’m always frustrated when I look at lists that do not include The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce, The Sweet, and a plethora of others.  Of course, if they inducted all of my list at once, they would all get lost in the shuffle, begging the question, “why bother?”  But some of these have been left out for decades.  So when I look at the list, I often compare the new inductees to those I believe should be in it.  I’m just trying to be honest.

So earlier this month the names of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2019 Inductees were released. They are in the Performer category and below is my take on each one:

The Cure.  The Cure is one of my favorite groups from the 1980s (yes, I know they began in the 70s, but I really did not like them until they decided to make songs that could sell).  I love their unique sound and although they did not seem to influence many other artists directly, they challenged conventional wisdom when it came to music.  My favorite song by the band is “Pictures of You,” but this band has a hefty discography. The voice is haunting and the music is beautiful. Although the choice is a little snobby, I would give it a solid B+.

Def Leppard.  Another of my favorite bands and one of the most influential of the 1980s.  It enjoyed enormous sales and success and a couple of their records are among my favorite of all time, including Rocket, Armageddon It, and my personal favorite of Pour Some Sugar on Me.  These three extraordinary songs were on the mega hit album, Hysteria alone. Def Leppard has one of the most impressive discographies in the world of rock over the last half centuries. The Zombies and Def Leppard are my two of my favorite choices of this HOF class.  Def Leppard is one of those groups I look for induction every year. For at least a decade I have been complaining about it being snubbed.  Totally merited, this inductee deserves an A+.

Janet Jackson.  In spite of her family’s pedigree as Motown gods, I have never been impressed by Janet Jackson, except for her incredibly impressive sales.  She has sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide, and is listed as the eleventh best-selling female recording artist in the US, but I wonder how much of this is driven by riding the coattails of her siblings. With the sales and the belief that those should matter, she is worthy for HOF consideration.  However, her style was purely commercial and it would be difficult to quantify or qualify how she influenced music. Check out her discography and come up with your own conclusions. For me, she is a B-. 

Stevie Nicks. Nicks was a major part of one of the most successful bands of the ’70s and ’80s, Fleetwood Mac.  She and the band were already inducted in the HOF in 1998. I believe they deserved it then.  However, there is a very small number — currently only 19 — that are in their twice.  One has to wonder if she deserves to be in such an elite group. In my opinion, her discography (in terms of hits) as a solo artist are a little thin for that honor. But she is unique and her contribution, tangible.  I give her a B for this additional honor. 

Radiohead. Confession.  Creep is one of my all time favorite songs.  When my kids learned that I liked that song, I had a level of music credibility that was really rare in my household.  The group is extremely special and offered an incredibly unique take in its music that transcended generations.  I really appreciate this choice because of the group’s commitment to be unique and to be true artists, while finding substantial commercial success.  The discography is a little modest, but it emphasized quality rather than quality.  I gave the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame an A- for this choice.

Roxy Music.  There was a period in the mid 1970s were Roxy Music dominated the airwaves with its unique sound and vulnerable lyrics.  I am personally a fan of Jealous Guy and More Than This. However, it generally was not really my taste in music.  I always believed they tried too hard and went for sales rather than substance.  I give its discography mixed reviews and find it fairly thin and the number of substantial hits, few.  Based on how long it has waited compared to others, I think it is too soon to even give them consideration, in light of the discography it offered.  I know this band has a cult like following, so I am “looking forward” to the push, but I give the band a C+

The Zombies.  This is one of my favorites of all time and long overdue.  This is one of those bands that I have looked for every year, for years.  It is an amazing band.  A group that started in 1961, it begs the question, “how did this take so long?”  It is like a reckoning for fans like me.  The group had major British and American hits in 1964 with “She’s Not There” (my personal favorite by the band). In the US two singles that came later, “Tell Her No” in 1965 and “Time of the Season” in 1968 were major hits as well. Their 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle was ranked 100 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Greatest Albums of all time.  There greatest hits are more than 50 years old, but they have a currency that would fit on Top 40 formats today.  I give this brilliant choice an A+

The 34th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, March 29, 2019 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Rock Hall unveil its 2019 Inductee exhibit at the Museum in Cleveland, Ohio in conjunction with the celebration.

Ticket on-sale dates will be announced in January. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019 Induction Ceremony will again have its television premiere on HBO, and a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

Three of the Inductees were on the ballot for the first time, including: Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks (as a solo artist) and Roxy Music. Additionally, the top five artists, as selected by the public, comprised a “fans’ ballot” that was tallied along with the other ballots to determine the 2019 Inductees. Four of the top five artists (Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, The Zombies and The Cure) from the fan ballot will be inducted as performers in 2019.  I am usually more likely to agree with the fans more than the HOF selectors, and that was definitely the case with this class.

My overall score for this class is a B+ and is one of the better ones I have seen over the last few years.

I would love your feedback on this list.  The best place to do that is at the page for my radio show on Facebook. 

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist, syndicated radio host, award winning author, and multi-award winning journalist. He has twice received the prestigious George Washington Honor Medal in Communications.  He is host of the Price of Business radio show.

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