15 Musical Artists Who Should Be Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Rock & Roll Hall of Controversy
Every time the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announces new inductees and has a new ceremony it always opens up new debates.
One of biggest causes of debate is the names that have gotten snubbed. The reality is, even if the Hall goes through radical reforms concerning their process these questions are always going to remain. To begin with, the list of deserving artist who have NOT been inducted is so considerable there is no way you are going to get around to include everyone. The other aspect is that the process is just so subjective. What makes one musical artist more worthy of inclusion than another? But it is those debates that make the process so much fun.
So I decided to throw my hat into the debate. When I was going through the list of names that are eligible but have never been inducted, I ended up with a long list of 75 artists that I felt deserved serious consideration for induction. So after much scrutiny I narrowed it down to 15. I tried being objective as possible. So I included artists that I am generally not into, while I excluded artists that are personal favorites of mine.
What were the main criteria? Some feel that it should be commercial success. I personally disagree with that contention. Even though that can be taken into consideration, overall musical influence should be the primarily determining factor. To me, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should be a museum that outlines the evolution and historical developments of rock music. In order to tell the whole story, all genres that have affected the landscape of modern rock music (yes that includes Rap/Hip Hop) need to be represented. If commercial success were the only determining factor there would be some huge gaps in the evolutionary chain.
So here is my list of 15 artists who deserve to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Please feel free to let me know whom you feel has been unjustly excluded from the Hall (and my list) in the comments.
#15: Big Star
Years Snubbed: 21 Years Nominated: 0
Big Star never sold well commercially, but they are widely considered to be the most influential cult band other than The Velvet Underground (who were inducted in 1996). Their extent of influence on power pop and "indie rock" is immeasurable. Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements (who recorded the song "Alex Chilton" as a tribute), The Lemonheads, Wilco, The Afghan Whig among many others have cited the band as an influence. Also R.E.M.'s (inducted in 2007) Peter Buck made the following statement concerning Big Star's influence on them: "We've sort of flirted with greatness, but we've yet to make a record as good as Revolver or Highway 61 Revisited or Exile on Main Street or Big Star's Third."
All three of their studio albums made the Rolling Stone list for the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Their song "September Gurls" is inducted in Hall as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll".
Thirteen - Big Star
Pixies Performing In 2004
Years Snubbed: 7 Years Nominated: o
Even though they haven't been eligible as long as other bands on this list, their influence is undeniable. They helped create the loud soft dynamic which became the trademark of the grunge sound. They were one of the bands which helped paved the way for the alt rock explosion of the early 90s.
Also when Kurt Cobain wrote "Smells Like Teen Spirit" he acknowledged that he was trying to write a Pixies song. For that legacy alone the band deserves considerable consideration. It would of also been really cool if they were inducted in the 2014 class along with Nirvana. As much as Nirvana deserves to be inducted in their first year of eligibility, there is some definite evolutionary gaps in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Inducting bands such as the Pixies will provide context on the historical development of Nirvana and alternative rock.
The Pixies sold relatively modest in North America during their initial run (1987-93), but they sold well in the UK and parts of Europe. Their profile also increased overtime and when they reunited in 2004 they embarked on a sold out tour and became a popular festival draw.
Also even though they failed to make my list of 15, it is a positive sign that The Replacements where nominated for the 2014 class. This is a sign that the Rock & Roll Hall Fame is closer to recognizing some of the underground bands that helped influence the development of alternative rock.
Pixies - Where Is My Mind
Years Snubbed: 27 Years Nominated: 2003, 2017, 2018, 2019
With their rebellious spirit, musical attack, and left wing radical political ideology they are one of the bands that served as an important precursor to the development of the punk scene. The bands' 1969 trademark song, "Kick Out The Jams" was considered controversial for dropping the f-bomb (which was still considered shocking back then). The fact that the song even cracked the Hot 100 charts (#82) is pretty phenomenal. It is also a major snub that "Kick Out The Jams" is not listed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the songs "That Shaped Rock & Roll."
Two of the band's albums where included on the Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", Kick Out The Jams (#294) and Back In The USA (#451). They were considered to be an influence on The Stooges (inducted in 2010) who where contemporaries of the same scene. MC5 is considered an influence not only on number of punk acts, but on number of politically charged rock acts such as Rage Against The Machine (who covered their Kick Out The Jams, which has become an oft covered modern rock standard). The band also established a reputation for their high energy live shows which are considered truly legendary.
Ramblin' Rose - MC5
1986 Photo of Kate Bush
#12: Kate Bush
Years Snubbed: 15 Years Nominated: 2018
Kate Bush did not have a huge commercial presence in the States where she only had one top 40 hit, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)" (but she did manage 5 hits on the US Modern Rock chart). But she was hugely successful in her native UK (she also sold well in my native country Canada) where she had 7 platinum albums and 25 Top 40 hits. But her influence extends well beyond commercial success.
Since the 80s the media would inevitably compare any unique female singer-songwriter to Kate Bush. Tori Amos, Björk (cited Kate's 1982 album, The Dreaming as one of her favorites), PJ Harvey, Florence Welch (of Florence and The Machine) have all cited her as an influence. Influential Trip-Hop pioneer Tricky made the following statement concerning her influence: "I don't believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible". John Lydon (Rotten) of the Sex Pistols (inducted in 2006) described her music as "beauty beyond belief" and called her "a true original". Also Chris Martin of Coldplay acknowledged that when they wrote "Speed of Sound" they where patterning it after "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)". Along with her music, Kate is also considered influential for her artistic and cinematic music videos.
Cloudbusting - Kate Bush
#11: Gram Parsons
Years Snubbed: 26 Years Nominated: 2002, 2004, 2005
Gram Parsons got his start in 1968 with the International Submarine Band. He had a stint with The Byrds (but was not included as part of the band when they were inducted in the Hall back in 1991), where he was a major contributor to their 1968 album, Sweethearts of The Rodeo. That album was considered a commercial disappointment at the time, but the album is now considered to be highly influential in the development of "country rock", and was listed as #117 on Rolling Stone's magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The song "Hickory Wind" (which Parsons's co-wrote) is in the Hall as one of the songs "That Shaped Rock & Roll". From there he recorded two highly influential albums with the The Flying Burrito Brothers (who you could also make a compelling case for induction). The Burrito's 1969 album, The Gilded Palace of Sin is listed as #192 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Their song "Sin City" (which Parsons co-wrote) is included in the Hall as one of the songs "That Shaped Rock & Roll". As a solo artist he released two studio albums, which may not have fared well commercially, but are considered highly influential. His 1974 posthumous album Grievous Angel is listed as #429 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
Gram Parsons helped introduced Emmylou Harris (who continues to champion his work). Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones (inducted in 1989) said the following concerning Parsons' influence on him: "He was one of the few people who helped me sing country music. Before that, Keith and I would just copy off records." He is also extremely influential in the modern day development of what is known as "alt country" influencing bands such as Cowboy Junkies, The Jayhawks & Wilco.
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
#10: Son House
Years Snubbed: 33 Years Nominated:0
Because Son House's first recordings predate the formation of Rock & Roll he would most likely be considered an early influence (which goes through a different voting process). Son House's influence on the Blues (which of course is an important part of rock's DNA) is simply phenomenal. Son House is widely considered as the individual who helped Robert Johnson (who was inducted as an early influence back in 1986) and he was considered a major influence on Muddy Waters (who was inducted in 1987). Those factors alone made him worthy of consideration during the infancy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (which was inaugurated back in 1986).
It is also good to note that Son House continues to exert an indelible inprint on modern rock. A prime example is the influence that Son House had on Jack White. The White Stripes dedicated their 1999 self titled debut album to the memory of Son House. They have recorded Son House's "Death Letter" and have also incorporated elements from John The Revelator (which is a traditional tune, but the band cited House's version as the influence) into their song "Cannon". Also during the documentary "It Might Get Loud" Jack White cited Son House's "Grinnin' in Your Face" as his favorite song and a major influence on him.
House is just one example of an influential blues & roots music artists that have been neglected entry into the Hall. I could easily compile a list of 15 early influences (the hard part would be to narrow it down to 15) that deserve induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It would be nice if every year they would induct 2-3 early influences (it would be good to use it as more than just a back door category for nominated performers who don't get in). This will help to fill the many gaps in the Hall.
Son House's "Grinnin' in Your Face" is Jack White's Favorite Song
Years Snubbed: 16 Years Nominated: 0
Motörhead's hybrid of punk & metal was an important precursor to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and they were extremely influential in the development of "speed metal" and "thrash metal". Even though I don't argue with Metallica's inclusion (inducted 2009) it is shame that a pioneering band that helped influenced them and their genre was neglected. Also former Guns N' Roses (inducted 2012) guitarist Slash got his start in a Motörhead cover band while in his teens.
The band has managed to sell over 30 million worldwide, and 15 million albums in the US, which is pretty good for a non-commercial band that never received a whole lot of radio play. I also feel it was a slight not to include "Ace of Spades" in the Hall of Fame as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll."
That being said if they ever were inducted, it would have been interesting whether or not they would of shown up to the ceremony or pull a Sex Pistols. Lemmy when asked about the many fan driven petition campaigns to get Motörhead inducted into the Hall of Fame and whether or not he cares about being inducted he made the following statement: "Not at all. Have you been there? What a monumental waste of space. The biggest room there is the freaking gift shop. Do you know what I mean? It's all politics that place. All a load of f---king politics."
Unfortunately, with the death of of Phil (Philthy Animal) Taylor (November 21 September 1954 – 11 November 2015) and Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister (24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015) that question of them showing up becomes mute.
Years Snubbed: 22 Years Nominated: 2003, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Kraftwerk was one of the pioneering bands of the influential German Krautrock scene. They became one of the primary innovators of electronic music contributing to the formation of a number of different genres and sub genres. They also became highly influential in the development of Rap/Hip Hop. They were also frequently sampled (best highlighted on Afrika Bambaataa's seminal Hip Hop hit "Planet Rock").
Their influence could be heard throughout the synthpop of the 80s and a diverse group of artists have cited them as an influence including Brian Eno, David Bowie (inducted in 1996), Joy Division/New Order, Depeche Mode and Franz Ferdinand. Bono of U2 (inducted in 2005) is known to be a huge fan and the band is known to have play snippets of Kraftwerk's songs during live shows.
Also their groundbreaking song "Autobahn" is included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll". Up to this point the Hall has overlooked Krautrock and has failed to acknowledge groundbreaking electronic acts. Kraftwerk as arguably the most influential of these would help fill a void. They would provide an important link in Rock & Roll's evolutionary chain.
#7: Lonnie Donegan
Years Snubbed: 32 Years Nominated: 0
Because his early recordings came out around the same time as the beginnings of rock & roll, and because he wasn't necessary considered to be rock & roll himself, he may fall under the early influence category. Regardless, his influence deserves to be acknowledged.
In the UK he was referred to as the King of Skiffle. Even though he didn't invent Skiffle, he was responsible for importing this form of American Folk music into the UK. Prior to The Beatles he was the UK's most successful and influential recording artist. He scored 24 consecutive UK Top 40 hits.
His true impact was that Skiffle was in many ways the start of British rock music. For example John Lennon (inducted in 1994) was inspired to form a Skiffle group The Quarrymen that then lead to the formation of The Beatles (inducted in 1988). Paul McCartney (inducted in 1999) made the following statement about Donegan's impact: "He was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No. 1 in the charts, and we studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man."
The list of famous artists that were inspired by Donegan to form or join Skiffle groups is pretty mind boggling. The lists include Van Morrison (inducted in 1993, and he would later record a couple of albums with Donegan), Jimmy Page (The Yardbirds inducted in 1992, Led Zeppelin inducted in 1995) & Roger Daltrey (The Who inducted in 1990). Also Daltrey made the following statement concerning Donegan's considerable influence: "I wanted to be Elvis Presley when I grew up, I knew that. But the man who really made me feel like I could actually go out and do it was a chap by the name of Lonnie Donegan."
Also Donegan's version of "Rock Island Line" is in the Rock & Roll Hall Fame as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll". Jack White summed it up best at a Brit Awards (UK Grammys) acceptance speech: "Remember, Lonnie Donegan started it for you."
Rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan
#6: Dick Dale
Years Snubbed: 32 Years Nominated: 0
Dick Dale is commonly referred to as the "King of the Surf Guitar" and he did help develop a new genre of music. His 1961 recording "Let's Go Trippin'" (which is in the Hall as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll") is widely considered the first recorded surf rock instrumental. Shortly after that, bands influenced by Dale, like The Beach Boys (inducted in 1988), would add vocals to the surf rock sound. Along with helping to pioneer the "surf" sound, he came up with a number of other innovations that made him one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock.
His rapid fire single note staccato picking technique was considered revolutionary and it influenced Heavy Metal and Hard Rock guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen inducted in 2007). Also Jimi Hendrix (inducted in 1992) considered his flashy showmanship to be a major influence on him.
One of his biggest impacts on music was that he helped Leo Fender develop amplifiers that could handle increased volumes. The speaker blowing loudness and breakneck speed of his playing lead him to be declared by Guitar Player magazine as "The Father of Heavy Metal".
Dick Dale & The Del Tones - Misirlou
#5: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Years Snubbed: 14 Years Nominated: 0
It is tough to gauge Yankovic's influence in musical terms, because it not like there as been numerous rock parodist inspired by "Weird Al" to go on and transform the music industry. But "Weird Al" deserves consideration because he occupies a unique position in the Rock & Roll landscape. He is also a pop culture phenom.
When "Weird Al" started his musical career three decades ago no one anticipated that he would be more than a novelty artist with a short lifespan. He defied all odds by carving out a profitable musical niche for himself. His longevity and commercial success even exceeds a number of the artists that he has parodied. Part of the reason he continues to be relevant is because of his ability to adapt to changing genres.
Also he is generally well respected within the music community and many music artists view it as a badge of honor to be parodied by "Weird Al". For example David Grohl when he was drumming for Nirvana said that the band felt like they had "made it" when "Weird Al" parodied "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Kurt Cobain described him as "a musical genius".
"Weird Al" is not only the foremost Rock & Roll parodist, but he adds some much needed humor to a music scene that often takes it self too seriously. During a 2009 Rolling Stone Reader Poll, Weird Al finished 1st on a list of who should be inducted to the Rock & Roll Roll Hall of Fame (followed by Rush (who was finally inducted into the 2013 class), Moody Blues & The Smiths).
Homer Simpson summed it up best: "He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life."
Amish Paradise - "Weird Al" Yankovic
#4: Link Wray
Years Snubbed: 33 Years Nominated: 2014, 2018
Just like Dick Dale, Link Wray is one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock & roll. Also like Dale he has been erroneously overlooked for inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Wray has been eligible for induction since the Hall's inception in 1986. He should have been seriously considered way back then.
He is credited as inventing the power chord. His sound could be considered the blueprint for heavy metal and he served as a important precursor to punk. In connection with this, Rolling Stone magazine named him #67 as the greatest guitarist of all time. In the documentary "It Might Get Loud", Jimmy Page talked about how Link Wray's "Rumble" (which is in the Hall as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll" and in 2009 was listed by The Library of Congress as part of the National Recording Registry honoring culturally significant recordings) was a major influence on him.
Here are some quotes concerning Link Wray's influence:
"If I could go back in time and see one concert it would be Link Wray and His Raymen" - Neil Young (inducted in 1995)
"He is the King; if it hadn't been for Rumble, I would have never picked up a guitar." -- Pete Townsend (The Who inducted in 1990)
He is inducted in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, so hopefully the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will follow suit. As a positive sign he was finally nominated in 2014 and again in 2018. Also in 2018, "Rumble" was inducted into the Hall in the newly instituted Singles category. All six of the singles were from artists not currently inducted.
Jimmy Page Listening To Rumble
#3: The Smiths
Years Snubbed: 11 Years Nominated: 2015, 2016
With the exception of the Pixies, The Smiths haven't been waiting as long as the other artists on this list. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame also has a long history of ignoring UK artists that didn't sell well (or as well) in the States. That being said, it is a positive sign that the band was nominated for both the 2015 and 2016 class.
The Smiths are quite simply one of the most important indie and alternative bands ever (the band coming up next on this list may arguably exceed them). Right off the bat, just about every UK alternative band (commonly refer to as brit-pop) cites The Smiths as an influence, along with a number of US indie and alternative artists. This would include bands such as James, The Stone Roses, Suede, Blur, The Libertines, Beck, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie. Noel Gallagher of Oasis made the following statement about The Smiths considerable influence: "When The Jam split, The Smiths started, and I totally went for them." Since the Gallagher brothers don't like anyone that is an impressive statement.
Morrissey's real life (and sometimes dark) narrative blended with Johnny Marr's jangly guitar didn't sound like anything else that came from the 80s (even though they spawned a number of UK sound a likes). It is good to note that they achieved their UK success on an indie label, on their own terms.
As the years go by the band continues to increase in status. For example, Morrissey reported that in 2006 the band was offered 5 million dollars to reunite to perform at the Coachella Music Festival. Their albums also sold better in the States as back cataloged than what they did when they were together (two of their studio albums and one of their compilations went Gold in the States after their breakup).
The band had 4 albums make the Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and their song "How Soon Is Now" is inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll".
How Soon is Now? - The Smiths
Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth
#2: Sonic Youth
Years Snubbed: 12 Years Nominated: 0
With the exception of The Smiths and Pixies, they haven't been waiting as long as other bands on this list. But they are arguably the most important indie and underground rock band ever. With Nirvana being inducted in 2014 (their first year of eligibility), it is a shame that a band like Sonic Youth that directly influenced them are not inducted first. It would of also of been cool if they were inducted at the same time of Nirvana.
As an independent band, Sonic Youth released three albums: EVOL, Sister and Daydream Nation that were considered important blueprints for the development of indie and alternative rock (including sub genres such as grunge). Concerning Daydream Nation, in 2006 that album was listed in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry acknowledging musical recordings of cultural importance. The song "Teenage Riot" from that album is included in the Hall as one of the songs that "Shaped Rock & Roll".
One of the bands most significant developments was when they signed to Geffen Records. Despite being signed to a major label the band had a contract that allowed them to maintain complete creative control. This was one of the main factors of Nirvana deciding to sign to Geffen (Sonic Youth were one of Kurt Cobain's idols). From there the flood gates opened and this lead to the alternative rock explosion of the 90s.
The band continued to maintained a large cult following and bassist Kim Gordon proved to be an influential component of the Riot Grrrl movement inspiring bands such as L7, Hole, Bikini Girls & Sleater-Kinney. Sonic Youth also proved to have an impact on more established acts as well. When they opened for Neil Young (inducted in 1995) back in 1990, Thurston Moore encouraged Neil Young to experiment with feedback and distortion. Young's experimentation was just bordering on the commercial breakthrough of "grunge" and helped secure his legacy as the "Godfather of Grunge". Lee Renaldo & Thurston Moore was also listed as 33rd & 34th on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarist for their experimental guitar techniques.
Continuing to establish themselves as one of the pioneering fathers of alternative rock (or in the case of Gordon, mothers) they headlined the first incarnation of Lollapalooza (1991-97) back in 1995 which lead to them appearing on a 1996 The Simpson's episode "Homerpalooza" and they performed their noise rock version of the theme during the show's ending credits. Such mainstream pop culture recognition is pretty good for an underground, avant-garde noise rock band.
#1: The Monkees
Years Snubbed: 27 Years Nominated: 0
The Monkees became a huge pop culture phenomenon, which periodically has gone through countless "retro" revivals where they have been introduced to a new generation of fans. But critically they were dismissed as a second rate The Beatles. Also their authenticity as a real band has been questioned, due to the fact that they didn't play on their first couple of albums (they would add the vocals after the fact), they didn't write most of their own tunes, and initially they had very little control over their own image or music (even though you could say the same thing concerning The Beatles first couple of albums, and many other bands of their time period). In many ways they were dismissed as simply a mass produced product.
Later on the band did gain respect within the music industry because of their well published battles for creative control. Eventually the band won those battles and they were able to play their own instruments and had creative control over the music they recorded. They also played their own instruments when they played live, and they did build a reputation for putting on an entertaining live show.
It is also good to note that they had the respect of The Beatles (inducted in 1988). John Lennon (inducted in 1994) being a fan, made the following statement to Micheal Nesmith about the band: "I think you're the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I've never missed one of your programs." George Harrison (inducted in 2004) also made the following statement concerning the bands efforts to gain creative control of their music: "It's obvious what's happening, there's talent there. They're doing a TV show, it's a difficult chore and I wouldn't be in their shoes for the world. When they get it all sorted out, they might turn out to be the best."
The Monkees also ended up being an unexpected influence on punk and alternative rock. The Sex Pistols (inducted in 2006) & Minor Threat (along with numerous other garage & punk bands) covered: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone". Paul Westerberg of The Replacements considered The Monkees to be a big influence as well. Also Run-D.M.C. (inducted in 2009) covered The Monkees "Mary Mary".
Two of The Monkees songs: "I'm a Believer" & "Last Train To Clarksville" are included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as "Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll." It is about time The Monkees joined the Hall as well.
Daydream Believer - The Monkees
Questions & Answers
Why isn't Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados) on your list? Also, I'd make the argument that Tampa Red had a broader influence that a wider range of performers covered son House -- particularly since he recorded more, sold more records and his songs. I definitely agree with you about Link Wray and Dick Dale.
I agree that you can make strong arguments for both Doug Sahm and Tampa Red, and they are both worthy of consideration for induction into the Hall. As far as my list goes, it is almost impossible to narrow a list like this down to 15. Even though I try hard to be objective, personal taste and personal familiarity will come into play.
© 2012 CJ Baker