Ranking the Nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: It’s a BIG Tent…

After a year like we’ve never seen, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is trying to get back to business…somewhat. The COVID pandemic that wreaked havoc on last year’s system is beginning to subside, which allows the Rock Hall to move forward with its activities. Along with those changes, however, the Rock Hall is showing that they’re spreading a BIG tent to cover their activities.

First, those changes. In 2019, the Class of 2020 was named and they would have been inducted in ceremonies in April of that year. Because of the pandemic, however, their induction was delayed until November, when it became a virtual party held on HBO. The Rock Hall used this delay to finally get all activities for a given year under a “calendar year” setting – nominations in February, name the class in May, induct in November – that should help in the future.

The changes aren’t just in the timing of certain mileposts on the way to naming the Class of 2021, either. This will be the first year that John Sykes, the former founder of MTV and current executive at iHeart Radio, will serve as the chairman of the Rock Hall. The original chairman and founder of the Rock Hall, Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone fame, resigned from the lead of the organization in January of last year. So, it is now Sykes’ ship to sail and, if the list of nominees for 2021 is any indication, he’s already putting his mark on the building.

For 2021, there are 16 nominees under consideration by the 1000-member strong Voting Committee, made up of the living members of the Rock Hall and a contingent of knowledgeable music veterans – musicians, label executives, historians, journalists, DJs, managers and the Fan Vote, who adds in one vote with the Top Five vote getters from their polling. These votes will be tabulated and, in May, the Rock Hall will announce five or six of these artists as the Class of 2021. They will also probably add at least one more inductee from their non-voting wings of the Rock Hall – the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-musical industry influencers, the Award for Musical Excellence (formerly the Sidemen category) and the Early Influencers. The AME hasn’t been awarded since 2017, so it is probably due for an inductee.

Without further ado, I present my ranking of the nominees for this year’s honors, but I do have a caveat. My personal feeling on the artist DOES NOT impact whether they will get in or not. In some cases, they will probably get in despite my personal thoughts!

Let’s begin, from the bottom to the top!

16. Dionne Warwick – For the life of me, I’ve been trying to figure out how and why Warwick merited nomination to the Rock Hall. Yes, she’s had an excellent career that dates to the 60s. Yes, she’s recorded a couple of nice songs. But NONE of what she did was what you might call “groundbreaking” or “innovative.” She has a pleasant but not outstanding voice…hell, she doesn’t even have the best voice in her family (that honor would go to her cousin, Whitney Houston). And her best work was in collaborations and rarely on her own talent. This just reeks of “industry insider” BS, and that is not a reason to put someone in the Rock Hall.

15. Fela Kuti – To be brutally honest, I actually said “Who?” when he was announced, then zipped over to Wikipedia to learn more about him. He is a truly amazing individual who took on human rights and political abuses in Nigeria and created his own style of music – Afrobeat. If he is inducted, he would be the first African inductee into the Rock Hall.

With this said, I don’t see it. He had some influence on Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, among others, but to say he was a seminal part of rock history would be an incredible stretch. Once again, with this said, he is probably going to be inducted. The Roots’ ?uestlove, who is on the Nomination Committee, has long been an advocate for Fela to be honored. Someone with the power of ?uestlove does not use his power to get you nominated unless he is going to use that same power to get you inducted.

14. Mary J. Blige – Definitely one of the preeminent female vocalists in R&B, but I tried to think of one song that she did that just blew me away. I came up with blanks. If they had used this nomination on Queen Latifah, then it would be much higher on the list. Blige seems like a “OK, she got a nomination – that’s enough” selection.

13. Chaka Khan – There have been several attempts to get Khan in with the band she was a part of, Rufus, and those efforts to this point have failed. This is wrong because the band, including Khan, deserves induction. Taken by itself, Khan’s solo career isn’t filled with material that stops you in your tracks.

12. Devo – The Rock Hall has an exceedingly difficult time with several genres. Funk, hard rock/metal and singer/songwriters are a few, but another would be electronic music. To this day, Kraftwerk is still waiting for the call to join in the Rock Hall (outside of Rick Wakeman and maybe Keith Emerson, has anyone used keyboards better?), and I do not expect there to be more love for Devo’s approach. The recently retired Daft Punk is sitting in the shadows watching this one.

11. Carole King – I personally think this is a more sentimental choice by the Rock Hall than a quality one. King’s masterful work, Tapestry, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 and King is therefore getting more attention. But what did King do outside of Tapestry that made her a monumental figure in the history of rock? She’s already in the Rock Hall, a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, some would say that should be the extent of her recognition. Alas, don’t be surprised if she is voted in as a performer come May.

10. Tina Turner – If Turner wasn’t already in the Rock Hall with Ike, then I would be wholeheartedly behind this and it would be ranked much higher. But the tumultuous relationship between Ike and Tina is one that she would probably like to forget, and the Rock Hall would not be at all upset to get away from. Her 80s stylings were a complete departure from her previous heyday, so perhaps a second induction is appropriate for Turner.

9. LL Cool J – Someone who should have been in a lot sooner than this. The man known as James Smith has got another issue that he is going to have to deal with, however. There’s another rapper on the list who is all but a shoo-in to be inducted (more on that in a moment). But LL Cool J is being considered before a whole host of influential rappers that arguably should have been chosen first, including Eric B. & Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock. That’s going to hurt his chances too.

8. Todd Rundgren – There’s a reason that Rundgren is this low on the totem pole. In recent interviews, the multimedia wizard has basically given The Bird to the Rock Hall, stating that it meant nothing to him to be inducted. The Rock Hall has absolutely no problem in abiding by the wishes of those that it is looking to honor – several years ago, Chubby Checker put a full-page ad in many trade magazines, talking about how the Rock Hall “wouldn’t define him.” They’ve never nominated the originator of “The Twist” (although the song was one of the first included in the Singles category at the Rock Hall) and Rundgren faces the same fate if this is truly his sentiment.

7. Iron Maiden – Much like LL Cool J, Iron Maiden is getting the nom over a litany of people who should have already been inducted – Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, and Motorhead, among others. They have also been quite loud in their distaste for the Rock Hall, so this may be a “one and done” nomination either way – either they’ll get in or they will be cast to the scrapheap because of their protestations. It’s too bad because they are more than deserving to be inducted.

6. Kate Bush – If the Rock Hall were in London, this would have been a no-brainer induction probably 15 years ago. Bush is arguably the most creative force in music from the 70s and 80s and has contributed heavily to the musical culture. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Jewel owe her a debt of gratitude for blazing the trail.

5. The Go-Go’s – Flat out, this is the easiest bio to argue of these nominees. The Go-Go’s were the first female band to write their music, play their instruments and go to #1 on the charts with their first album, Beauty and the Beat. They also served as a link between the punk rock of the late 70s to the more “pop” version that was found in The Bangles. A more solid inductee would be hard to find.

4. New York Dolls – Along with 2020 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Marc Bolan and T. Rex, the New York Dolls carried the banner for glam rock in the early 70s. They have been cited as influential in U. S. punk rock and its hard rock/metal movement. Guns N’ Roses owes a huge debt to the groundbreaking that the Dolls did on the scene.

3. Rage Against the Machine – Merging the worlds of rap, hard rock and political activism together, Rage Against the Machine did more in four albums than most bands do in a lifetime of work. They took the lead from bands like Mr. Bungle and Faith No More and put their political edge to work, bringing a great deal of attention to several causes. Their influence can also be seen in bands in the 21st century, including Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, and Fever 333.

2. Jay-Z – If there is a reason that LL Cool J will not get inducted in 2021, it would be Mr. Shawn Carter. Jay-Z had an astronomical amount of success and influence in the rap world (my personal favorites are “99 Problems” and “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys), but that wasn’t enough. He became a billionaire through his business acumen. Either one of those would be enough to get him inducted but, when you add in the factor of him performing at the Rock Hall Induction Ceremonies with special guest Beyonce (his wife), the Rock Hall is salivating at the possibilities.

1. Foo Fighters – If there has been any rock band that has carried the genre over the past 25 years, it would be Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl and Company have compiled a resume that hasn’t been equaled, although you can sometimes say that they play it way too safe. Grohl himself could have packed it in after Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s induction into the Rock Hall, but he chose to blaze his own path further into rock history. If he is inducted with Foos, Grohl would become the 24th person to earn double inductions (to this date, only Eric Clapton has been inducted three times, for his work with The Yardbirds, Cream and his solo career).

Who Is Going to Be Inducted?

The Rock Hall is looking to diversify their membership. That was something that Sykes stated when he took over the chairmanship of the Rock Hall last year. It isn’t an indictment of the Rock Hall’s previous work, but it is time that more women and more minorities were recognized for their contributions to rock history. That is going to be reflected by who is inducted this year.

If you listened to my show at Greater Manchester Rock Radio, I already laid out the list of who I believe will be inducted (and not my rankings above). Jay-Z and Foo Fighters are guaranteed inductees and, if there were two near-locks on the list, I would say that Carole King and Tina Turner will be joining the Rock Hall again. That leaves two more to consider (we will go with six inductees). The Go-Go’s will probably earn one of those two slots. Their history in the industry is just too influential to overlook – but that never stopped the Rock Hall from doing that! For the final slot, and just because I’d love to see what the band would do, I think that Iron Maiden will earn induction. But I wouldn’t at all be shocked if Fela Kuti wound up in somehow for the reasons I presented above.

Who will get in? If it is those artists who have trashed the Rock Hall previously, will they show up? Would it be another farce, such as Steve Miller’s induction in 2016? It would provide a spark to what is the 25th anniversary (the first induction ceremony was 1986) of inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021!

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For January 14

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Sitting around wondering whatever happened to Suzi Quatro while pondering…

So I Guess ANYONE Can Be a Hero Now – When someone is injured in the course of defending the country in a time of warfare, they are granted the right to wear the Purple Heart due to their injuries (if you’re my silly little brother, you refuse the reward after nearly losing an eye in the First Gulf War, but that’s another story for another time). If you perform feats of heroism above and beyond what are expected of mere mortals (or perhaps because you’re scared shitless), you earn more prestigious medals such as the Bronze or Silver Star or the ultimate expression of heroism, the Medal of Valor. Whenever you normally see these awards, you can be assured that the person wearing the award has performed a very special feat…or can you?

A federal court in California ruled earlier this week that a former Marine can wear certain service medals he did not earn, somehow determining that this was a “form of free speech.” Apparently Elven Joe Swisher, who served in the USMC after the Korean War and was discharged honorably in 1957, has taken to wearing the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. The problem? He was never awarded either military honor.

In 2001, Swisher filed paperwork for disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military, in particular “secret combat missions in North Korea.” He was granted the payments and, in 2004, wore the Purple Heart when testifying at the trial of a man being tried for solicitation of murder in an attempt to make him look more reliable as a witness. When this came out – after the passage of the Stolen Valor Act – Swisher was charged under the Act and his payments stopped.

In 2012, however, the Stolen Valor Act was challenged in the Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled that it was “free speech” to just WEAR the medals, as long as you didn’t CLAIM you earned them. In 2013, the Congress changed the Stolen Valor Act to remove the illegality of wearing a medal from its verbiage. The decision by the federal court on Monday set aside Swisher’s 2007 conviction for violating the Stolen Valor Act but did not overturn his conviction.

We constantly hear about “respecting the military” from those who have never served. Add this to the list of the continued disrespect that the military receives.

It Was a Tragedy, But You’re Pushing It Here – Once again out of California – who seems to want to challenge Florida for the title of “stupidest state in the U. S.” – the widow of one of the victims of December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino has decided to file a lawsuit against the county. In her claim, Renee Wetzel, the widow of Michael Wetzel, says that the county and 25 unidentified individuals and the respondents to the shooting were “negligent and careless” in their actions and that her husband’s death was preventable. If this weren’t outrageous enough – no other family member of a victim from the shooting, which was an act of terrorism by two radicalized Muslims (one an American citizen), has filed any court actions – the price tag on the lawsuit will make you choke.

Wetzel is asking for a grand total of $58 MILLION in damages in the case:  $3 million for lost wages from her husband’s death, $25 million in general damages and $10 million in general damages for each of the couple’s three children. The county attorneys haven’t responded as of yet out of respect to those who were victims of what was a horrific crime; even one of the woman’s attorney, Andrew J. Nissen, wouldn’t indicate where the alleged negligence came from that the county supposedly committed.

Look, it is tragic what occurred in San Bernardino, but this doesn’t give you the right to make a mint off the situation. It just goes to demonstrate that there is serious need for tort reform – and a method to punish frivolous lawsuits – in the United States.

And On the Other End of the Spectrum – The family of a 12-year old girl in Pennsylvania who was shot to death by an elected constable isn’t blaming the man for the death of their family member but rather her father, who escalated the situation.

According to reports, Constable Clark Steele (in Pennsylvania, a constable is an elected position that can serve warrants, transport prisoners and perform what would be administrative law enforcement powers) went to a home in Duncannon, PA, on Monday to serve eviction papers on the residents, Donald and Sherry Meyer. When he knocked on the door of the address, Steele was met by the business end of a shotgun being aimed at him by Donald Meyer and Steele fired one shot in self-defense. That shot traversed the length of Meyer’s arm, shattering the bone, and exited at the elbow. It then hit Meyer’s daughter, Ciara, in the chest as she stood behind him, killing her on the scene.

Family members, in a refreshing change of pace, didn’t immediately castigate the officer, however. “None of us in our family have any hard feelings toward him,” one family member commented. The family knew about the history of the male Meyer and asked a reporter, “Did anyone let him (the constable) know that he was going to be walking into a rat’s hole?” Meyer, who was due in court later this month for a case on a DUI and resisting arrest (the eviction was a separate case) now is in jail for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and other counts.

The family may very well receive some settlement from the police over the unfortunate death of their family member, but at least they realize there wasn’t any malicious intent in the constable’s actions.

Sometimes, There Are No Other Words That Can Be Said – In Virginia, Delegate Mark Cole decided that 2016 was the year that the state government had to make sure that restrooms in public schools were being used properly. On Tuesday, the representative for the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates filed a bill that would require students that use the restroom at school to use the “designated restroom for a specific gender” or be fined.

The law defines gender as “anatomical sex, mean[ing] the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” To most, that would mean that a physical examination of the person – in this case, a child – would be necessary to determine if the person was going to the right potty house instead of trying to “sneak a peek.” For his part, Cole has said that it is simply a bill that will only be used if there is a “complaint.” He also says that it wouldn’t require a “genital check,” but a simple look at someone’s student registration or birth certificate.

You would think there were other things in Virginia to be concerned with…

Now the answer to the question…whatever happened to Suzi Quatro?

Many might remember Quatro for her quick – and I do mean quick, as in fleeting – appearances on the television series Happy Days in the late 1970s as Leather Tuscadero, the little sister to Fonzie’s girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero (herself a fleeting memory), who fronted a powerful rock and roll band that “broke the norms” in the 1950s. As it turns out, to those who thought that Quatro was “just an actress,” there was a whole lot more in the package than they expected!

Happy Days wasn’t Quatro’s debut in show business. In fact, Quatro had actually been around much longer than that, especially making a huge impact in the music business. In the 1960s at the tender age of 14, she joined with her sister Patti in a band called The Pleasure Seekers, finding some success in the Detroit music community. After turning 18, Quatro then would move to England and became successful in West Germany as a hard rock act. From 1973 to 1980, Quatro would win some form of the West German magazine Bravo’s Bravo Award (73-74 the Gold, 1975, 1978 and 1979 the Bronze and 1980 the Silver) for Best Female Singer. The U. S., however, preferred their Suzi to be a little softer, with her only success in the States a tune called “Stumblin’ In” that peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.

Quatro has served as the inspiration for many of the women who have gone on to have success in the world of hard rock/metal in the music business. It is arguable that, without Suzi Quatro, there wouldn’t have been The Runaways and, as a result of that, no Joan Jett, who is now enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Others who have given Quatro credit for inspiring them to get into music include the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth (who was encouraged by her then boyfriend and now husband, fellow Heads’ member Chris Frantz, to listen to Quatro albums to learn how to play the bass) and singer/songwriter KT Tunstall.

Quatro calls England home nowadays and it appears that she’s beginning to slow down a bit. She last appeared in the United States in 2013, when she was given the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Detroit Music Awards (her birthplace) and, in 2014, Quatro performed what has been called her “final” Australian tour. At 65, Quatro has a handful of shows scheduled in Europe for 2016, where she will continue to rock the fans who come to see her. But don’t expect her to just quit; on her website, Quatro states, “I will retire when I go onstage, shake my ass and there is silence.”

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