This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of inductees rock hard, blow cool and, truth be told, are the institution's attempt to right past wrongs.
This week, the Hall of Fame announced that British metal pioneer Black Sabbath, punk architects the Sex Pistols, New Wave act Blondie, Southern boogie boys Lynyrd Skynyrd and jazz great Miles Davis would be this year's inductees. For most of these acts, it's an honor too long in coming.
Every year, a ballot of potential inductees is prepared. The criteria are simple. Each act must have left an indelible mark on popular music and acts can't be inducted until 25 years after their first release.
Most of the acts have been perennials on that ballot, perpetual bridesmaids that wait in the wings while other acts get the spotlight. I love the Love Train, but can the argument really be made that the O'Jays are a significant enough act to keep Sabbath, a touchstone for every hard rock act, off the list?
I understand that with only five inductees every year, there will be a wait for some deserving artists, but this year's inductees have had between three (the Sex Pistols) and 31 (Miles Davis) years of eligibility. The argument might be made that the Sex Pistols weren't that great a band, but they all but invented the punk aesthetic that remains today. Similarly, purists might pout that jazz master Davis being feted by an institution dedicated to rock. The trumpet great's excursions and experiments in the fields of funk and soul, however, have left a mark on nearly every genre of music.
Blondie had the first rap hit, a female up front when rock was primarily a man's game, and a distinctive sound that has been co-opted by scores of guitar bands. Lynyrd Skynyrd, beyond being one of rock's great tragedies, rank only with the Allman Brothers - inducted in 1995 - as a Southern rock band that transcended regionalism and brought its brand of Dixie blues to a global audience.
Of course, these acts have not been alone in being over looked. While questionable selections such as Jackson Browne, Traffic and Bob Seger have been honored, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick and The Commodores have yet to feel the love.
The truth of the matter is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is, conceptually speaking, pretty silly. How can the pleasure of a power chord be quantified? How can one artist's take on the love song be deemed more significant than another?
Rock 'n' roll should defy such institutional judging. When it doesn't, it becomes something less than it should be, and that does not rock.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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