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Music pioneers overlooked in Hall of Fame nominees

Being left out in the cold, Photo: Brook Ward, CC

Last month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named this year’s potential inductees, honouring 15 influential artists including Joan Jett, Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed, NWA, and… er… Green Day.

Greeting the Hall of Fame nominations with skepticism has become something of an annual tradition for me and many other music fans. This year, I winced at the snub of British rock group Jethro Tull, undoubtedly everyone’s favourite flute-playing folk-prog act.

It’s somewhat inevitable—“rock and roll” is such a vast genre that the Hall cannot possibly accommodate everyone’s specific tastes and preferences. Even though their inductees are almost always talented and deserving, persistent egregious omissions of seminal artists have definitely hurt the Hall of Fame’s reputation.

The nomination procedures are simple enough. Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first album. Nominees are chosen based on their “influence and significance” and are voted on by hundreds of music industry professionals and fans. But despite this extensive process, genre pioneers are consistently over-looked while more derivative acts are inducted sooner.

For example, iconic shock rocker Alice Cooper, who has been bestowing us with brilliant albums every few years since 1969, was not deemed worthy until 2011.

Rush, despite their substantial commercial success, technical virtuosity, wide influence, and rabid fan base, were not inducted until last year.

The Pixies have been overlooked altogether, while Nirvana, who openly imitated their style, were inducted in their first year of eligibility.

The Sex Pistols were inducted against their will (frontman John Lydon fam- ously wrote an incensed letter and refused to attend the ceremony), while their primary influence Richard Hell remains excluded. But don’t worry punk purists—Green Day may be there soon.

Legendary heavy metal bands Judas Priest and Iron Maiden also haven’t been inducted, despite being eligible since 1999 and 2005, respectively. Meanwhile, Metallica, who was heavily influenced by Priest and Maiden, was inducted in 2009.

Interestingly, while many deserving acts languish in obscurity, musicians such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney have been inducted twice, both as members of bands and as solo artists. That seems a bit excessive—why not save some Hall of Fame real estate for other greats?

Current members of the Hall of Fame certainly deserve this honour, but too many other inspirational artists have been ignored for far too long. For an institution that’s devoted to rock music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t seem to reflect the views of the fans and musicians it purports to represent.

But as much as I may disapprove of their decisions, they are ultimately a private organization and are entitled to induct (and exclude) anyone they want.

But I still hold out hope for Jethro Tull.