I started to write this blog entry yesterday, but the initial writing was nothing but a jumbled mess with a total disregard for organization. In other words, it was a visual and literary example of my ADHD that travels in my head when I just give up control of it and let my brain perform a thought form of diarrhea to occur. It was messy, stinky and just plain went everywhere. Plus, it was crap, plain crap!
So, I got pissed and just deleted the whole mess. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that to some babies’ dirty diapers? Believe me, my kids and grandkids can all lay claim to clearing a room with one of their pieces of art.
I think you get the mental picture. I did a little self-editing at the last minute and called it a day. Now, I am here once again trying to tame my over-zealous neurons from going faster than my cortex can organize them. All I can say is to brace yourself as I dive into the big news in the Rock World – the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s announcement of the nominees for induction as the Class of 2023.
Initially, I noticed that only 14 acts were nominated this year, as opposed to the 16 artists nominated the past few years. The second thing I noticed is that several previously nominated artists were not on the list this year. Those missing this year were DEVO, Dionne Warwick, New York Dolls, MC5 and Fela Kuti. Maybe we will see a couple of them inducted this year for Musical Excellence or whatever title the Hall is using this year. That basically means we got some fresh names on this year’s list.
The 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominee list is as following: Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Iron Maiden, Joy Division/New Order, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes and Warren Zevon. At first glance, I see two huge Eighties MTV artists (Michael and Lauper), arguably metal’s biggest band (Maiden), two rap artists (Elliott and ATCQ), two big Eighties college rock stars (Joy Division/New Order and Bush), three huge acts from the Nineties (Crow, Rage and Soundgarden), a recent rock band (White Stripes), a sweet Seventies soul group (Spinners) and an acerbic singer-songwriter (Zevon). That’s not too bad.
Diversity is always an issue, especially since we started diving into artists from the Seventies and Eighties. However, this year, we have six women nominated, with White Stripes drummer Megan White and New Order keyboardist Gillian Gilbert added to Bush, Crow, Elliott and Lauper. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, we are essentially black or white when it comes to race, once again leaving the Latinx world ignored, especially when Los Lobos and War are available from a very short list from the top of my head. The rock purists are all upset that only Maiden, Rage, Soundgarden and maybe The White Stripes are on the list (One friend doesn’t even count the last three. He’s classic rock all the way!). But, if you are like me and a fan of a wide variety of music and see how it all blends into the inclusive thing called “rock and roll,” then you are pretty pleased with the nominees.
My complaints are that arguably the most important hip hop band of the Nineties and into the new Millennium, OutKast, once again were inexplicably left off this list. I guess ?uestlove is simply attempting to get some chronological order going with hip hop artists, so that’s why he’s still pushing behind the very deserving A Tribe Called Quest. On a personal note, I am sick and tired of the Hall ignoring The Jam. They were HUGE in the UK in the early 80s. They HAVE got to be inducted not only because they are the third of the Big Three of London punk (the Pistols and The Clash are the other two), but they are the bridge that connects The Kinks to the whole Britpop explosion of the Nineties. No Jam, Oasis might have sounded much different.
Blah, blah, blah! Okay, Keller, right now, let’s hear you are going to vote for in the fan voting process? Honestly, I may spend a couple of votes simply spreading the wealth around (you can vote at http://www.vote.rockhall.com, but only for five artists). Still, I do have my favorites, and they are Kate Bush, Warren Zevon, Joy Division/New Order, George Michael and Iron Maiden. Surprisingly, I believe at first glance that these five along with Willie Nelson and The White Stripes will be inducted. Of course, I would love to see Cyndi Lauper inducted as well (Believe it or not, she is currently leading the fan vote, followed by George Michael, Willie Nelson, Soundgarden and Iron Maiden rounding out the Top 5.). The crime is that millions of votes will only count collectively as one whole vote for the top vote-getter. That means that the millions of fans around the world are only equal to the same number of votes as Gene Simmons or the more recent inductee Dolly Parton or former Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis. To me, it doesn’t seem fair. The Hall should have a weighted number of votes for each artist in the Top 5, or something like that. But what do I know?
So, why were these artists nominated in 2023. Allow me to explain a little about each nominee to put their accomplishments in perspective. I know my former athlete and the biggest Aerosmith fan I personally know Curt Martin will disagree with all of this analysis, but that’s exactly why I love this stuff. Mainly, because he and many others are so passionate about there music. Still, he’s probably yelling something about another snub for Ozzy Osbourne right now.
Let’s finish the long-winded post with a little paragraph as to why each of these artists deserve induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Kate Bush – Ms. Bush popped into the consciousness of the UK and its Commonwealth back in the late-Seventies with her dramatic take of art rock filtered through a DYI sensibility. The artists with whom I can best compare her are both solo- and Peter Gabriel-led Genesis, maybe a little Pink Floyd (maybe because of David Gilmour’s influence on her career) or even a little Stevie Nicks in her lyrics. Bush had a huge year in 2022 as her 1985 left field hit “Running Up That Hill” resonated with Gen Y as it was used to perfect effect in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. The song peaked this year at number 3 on the charts, surpassing the solid number 35 back when I was only married for a couple of months. Bush has been gaining cred with the current batch of solo artists who are gaining a foothold on the current charts, so do not be surprised to see her inducted this year. Best Song: “Running Up That Hill”
Sheryl Crow – Everyone’s favorite elementary teacher-turned-Michael Jackson background singer-turned-solo artist-turned-Nineties sex symbol-turned-musical icon and survivor, Ms. Crow has survived breast cancer and a few soured relationships along the way. Yet, she persevered and thrived through all of it. Now, she is held up with all the other female rock icons in history. Although I do not have her on my list to be inducted this year, she may just be this year’s Foo Fighters or Lionel Richie as an act so beloved that they find their ways into being inducted. If she gets in, it might be at Bush’s or Cyndi Lauper’s expense. Best Song: “If It Makes You Happy”
Missy Elliott – Many of you that are my age may be asking yourself who Ms. Elliott is. My older son, who as a Millennial has that generation’s pulse, believes she is the best act to represent his generation. And, there for a decade that ran from the mid-Nineties to the mid-Aughts, Elliott’s presence on the charts made her seem like a Hall shoo-in. The young lady wrote, produced and performed on her solo albums, while also doing some outside production work. She had the sound of that era. Best Song: “Get Ur Freak On”
Iron Maiden – By the late-Seventies, punk was all the rage in the UK, followed quickly in rapid succession by the similar post-punk and new wave sounds. Although Van Halen saved heavy metal from an early demise, it was Iron Maiden who save British-made metal that took Black Sabbath, added a pinch of punk here and a dollop of Van Halen there, shook it up, plugged in, turned things up past 11, created their mascot Eddie and the rest was history. Along with a solo Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden is THE most important metal act not in the Hall. Enough is enough! These guys are warriors, survivors AND innovators all rolled into one helluva band, regardless of their genre. Best Song: “Fear of the Dark”
Joy Division/New Order – Many of you may be asking why these two bands are being nominated together? Joy Division was a fantastically dark band that arose from Manchester, England, to jumpstart a couple of genres known as post-punk and Gothic rock. Unfortunately, after two landmark albums that have only grown in stature over the decades and a couple of singles, Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide on the eve of the band leaving for their debut American tour. But, the story did not end their. From the ashes of that band arose New Order, which initially combined the darkness of Joy Division and filtered it all through synthesizers slowly morphing into a dark-yet-danceable Kraftwerk. Three-quarters of both bands are essentially the same; therefore, we should not induct one without the other, much like Parliament and Funkadelic or The Small Faces and The Faces, essentially two bands from the same DNA. Joy Division’s Best Song: “Love Will Tear Us Apart”; New Order’s Best Song: “Bizarre Love Triangle”
Cyndi Lauper – It might be easy for those of us who came of age with MTV acting as our national radio station to blow off Ms. Lauper as a cartoon character. But, there was a deeper message being conveyed by her that was made palatable by her cartoonish antics. First off, Cyndi gave us the first Eighties’ female empowerment song with “Girls Just Wanna Have Some Fun,” rock’s first obvious female masturbation song in “She Bop,” broke the briefly great band The Hooters AND made professional wrestling must-see TV for the youth of America. And, that was just her first album! Now, she’s throwing her celebrity around to further LGBTQ+ rights, as well as be a public voice against plaque psoriasis. Not a bad resume. Best Song: “Time After Time”
George Michael – By 1987, Prince and Springsteen were both backing away from the stratosphere of superstardom, Madonna was just ascending and Michael Jackson was proving once again to be the self-proclaimed King of Pop. Yet, also that year, the former creative mind behind the success of new wave pop group Wham!, George Michael unleashed his first solo album. That album was Thriller-esque in its immediate impact. Within the blink of an eye, George Michael was vying with Jackson for the title of the King of Pop, a crown that Mr. Michael would quickly back away from. With Faith, George Michael became a musical icon and sex symbol. Then, he spent the rest of his career and life working to gain respect as songwriter who should be mentioned along with Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson as one of the all-time greats. I just knew that when the late-Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins mentioned Mr. Michaels’ name as someone who needed to be inducted, that the late-Michaels would show up on a nominee list. He is just too big not to get in this year. Best Song: “Father Figure”
Willie Nelson – Willie belongs right with Dolly Parton as one of music’s most beloved artists, who also transcends their art. Mr. Nelson has been one of the most consistent country songwriters throughout his career, and his influence extends well beyond the country radio to which he has been long tied. You can scan the names of all the artists who claim Willie as an influence as it runs from Waylon Jennings to Kid Rock and all places in between. Plus, no one’s career has been more stereotypical rock and roll than Willie Nelson, from his stripped down, back-to-the-basics sound of his Outlaw Country genre he unwittingly founded to his blatant pro-recreational marijuana stance. Nelson is a huge towering figure to all things music and rock and roll. He has been overlooked for far too long. Willie Nelson is a lock this year. Best Song: “Whiskey River”
Rage Against the Machine – When you think of powerful artists with equally powerful lyrics and music, the shortlist includes Bob Dylan, MC5, Dead Kennedys, N.W.A, Sex Pistols, The Clash and Public Enemy, most of which are in the Hall (except, criminally, MC5 and Dead Kennedys). The next name on the list would be Rage Against the Machine, who artfully and soulfully combined angry political lyrics with a metal and hip hop soundscape that only enhanced the urgency of their statement. They were the truthful voice of the Nineties, and their music and message continues to resonate. We need more earnest artists like RATM today. Best Song: “Killing in the Name”
Soundgarden – Back during the pre-grunge era of the late-Eighties, a few Seattle bands were beginning to make some headway on college rock radio. I distinctly remember hearing Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Screaming Trees, Nirvana and Soundgarden being played. And at the time, Soundgarden had the most developed sound of a talented punk band who combined the dark heaviness of Sabbath with the aural dexterity of Zeppelin. Subsequently, Soundgarden joined Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam to form the Big Four of Grunge, spreading the Seattle sound throughout the world. Best Song: “Black Hole Sun”
The Spinners – The Spinners were one of Philadelphia’s and soul’s sweetest sounding vocal groups whose power peaked in the Seventies. Initially, the group was part of the vaunted Motown family. But, much like Gladys Knight and the Pips, once they left the Detroit label, The Spinners flourished back in their natural environment of their hometown. The band had the flashiest moves this side of the Temptations and Four Tops. But, for me, their finest moments may have been their series of duets with Dionne Warwick. The Spinners are LONG overdue for a Hall induction. Best Songs: “Rubberband Man”
A Tribe Called Quest – Prior to the arrival of ATCQ, rap was still dominated by the pop rap sounds of Tone Lōc, Young MC, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. The underground voices of gangsta rap of Public Enemy and N.W.A were gaining sales. In that environment strolls two rap groups, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Both crews eschewed the bombast for a more laidback sound. While DLS mined yacht rock for the def jams, A Tribe strolled into the jazz library. The rap/jazz fusion was a natural yet untouched goldmine for stretching the aural vocabulary of hip hop. ATCQ became one of the most beloved rap group, so much so that when the remnants of the band reunited after the death of original member Phife Dawg they were invited to perform on SNL when Dave Chapelle hosted right after the 2016 election. Their performance of their first new material in nearly 30 years was transcendent and solidified their credentials for Hall honor. Best Song: “Check the Rhime”
The White Stripes – The minimalist Detroit garage band duo of guitarist/singer/resident genius Jack White and drummer/former wife-turned-sister (?) Meg White created a blues-based punky garage band sound that paid homage to their D-Town punk elders (The Stooges, MC5) yet pushing the sound further. Once the power duo decided to split as a musical force after splitting as a couple, Jack White went on to become the savior of vinyl albums and expand upon the sound of The Stripes. Unfortunately, Meg allegedly had a sextape released. Regardless, I wish Meg would pick up the drumsticks again and start a new band. Best Song: “Seven Nation Army”
Warren Zevon – Twenty years, when Warren Zevon announced on Letterman that he was dying from mesothelioma. Instead of sitting and awaiting the arrival of the Grim Reaper, Zevon instead gathered many of his industry friends like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne to create one last album that was entitled The Wind. And with that brilliant LP with obvious ruminations on death and other dark topics (What?!?! Zevon produced ANOTHER dark album covering death and the like?), Zevon was finally getting some due. Yet, surprisingly, he was NOT nominated for the Hall until this week. Most everyone knows Warren’s one Top 40 hit “Werewolves of London.” But, Zevon was a songwriter’s songwriter. Most significantly, he was the songwriter behind several of Linda Ronstadt’s hits. To me, we need acerbic, off-beat rockers like Zevon or Randy Newman. This year might be Zevon’s best year for induction, as reportedly Billy Joel is throwing around his influence behind Zevon. Best Song: “Keep Me in Your Heart”
It will be interesting to see how many artists from this list are actually inducted, and exactly who those artists are. My older son and I are kicking around the idea of getting tickets for this coming Induction Ceremony since no matter how the vote goes, the Class of 2023 will be pretty strong.