Why It’s Time to Take ‘Rock’ Out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

As this year's Hall of Fame nominees illustrate, maybe it should be called the Rock, Pop, Funk, Soul, Disco, Blues, Punk, Metal, Hip-Hop and Electronic Hall of Fame

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AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Musician Joan Jett performs with her band, the Blackhearts, in Los Angeles

The nominees for the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, and I’m pleased to report that it’s an impressively diverse slate. Besides the artists like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Heart, and Deep Purple with rawk-and-rowll bona fides, we’ve got in Chic and Donna Summer two dominant disco acts and in Kraftwerk an innovator in electronic music — the latter of which would be a first for the hall. And two rap acts, Public Enemy and N.W.A, that made the ballot in their first year of eligibility. Plus artists in a number of other underrepresented genres.

I’d love to see them all get in. And not just because these artists made so many great records. It’s because it’s time for the hall to move beyond its rock bias, even if doing so is contradictory to the name of the institution.

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The secretive committee behind the nominating and selecting processes has long had a rather rockist bent. Beyond its general dismissal of disco and jazz as legitimate art forms, it has also demonstrated an antipop bias. I’ve spoken at length about why the Monkees deserve inclusion in the hall; along with them, commercially and oftentimes critically successful acts like Three Dog Night and Tommy James have been utterly ignored despite their dozens of hits. And Summer couldn’t get a second look before her passing away this year. Yet pop and its dance variants remains influential and omnipresent while rock ’n’ roll has withered to nostalgia. Just look at the fast fade of rock radio stations: the latest casualty is New York City station WRXP, which shifted recently from rock to news. If New York City can’t support rock radio, who can?

The Rock Hall’s reticence to induct too many nonrock acts suggests that rock ’n’ roll holds for them (and, implicitly, for U.S. society) an intrinsically superior position in the popular-music landscape. Privileging rock over hip-hop, dance and other genres is needlessly reductionist — and, some might argue, kinda racist. But try telling that to America’s coterie of neo–John Birchers who will doubtless call the induction of Public Enemy and N.W.A the Rock Hall’s first affirmative-action selections. Mark my words: it’ll happen.

Meantime, if you were brought up on the notion that “rock ’n’ and roll is here to stay,” you may have been sold a bill of goods. I realize that to suggest that rock is dead is tantamount to asking on the cover of a national magazine if God is dead. Well, it may be time to face it. Quick: When’s the last time you heard a guitar solo in the Top 10? What was the last electric-guitar riff to become a cultural touchstone — or even a meme? It’s an unfortunate but undeniable statement of our society that the most prominent place for an electric guitar today is as prop shtick on the walls of a Guy’s American Kitchen restaurant. Rock on with your frosted flake.

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Further, in looking back at the past several hit songs with rock in the title, one cannot help but notice that they’re all outside the rock-’n’-roll genre: “Party Rock Anthem” from LMFAO. Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney’s “Feel like a Rock Star.” Kevin Rudolf’s “Let It Rock.” You might even still remember Shop Boyz’s “Party like a Rock Star.” The only exception to this that comes to mind is Nickelback’s “Rock Star” — which only helps make my point. (Seriously: now that Foo Fighters are on hiatus, only U2, the dinosaurs of Aerosmith and the denizens of E Street Band stand in the way of Nickelback holding last-band-standing status among unhyphenated rock acts. Let that thought simmer for a moment.)

It’s time we take on rockism to reflect the new reality. Here’s where we need to start: the name of the hall. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a very specific signifier. We’re long overdue in expanding that umbrella to include artists whose works in entirely different modes are similarly influential in popular music’s development. This can’t be done by establishing franchise Halls of Fame throughout the world — the Reggae Hall in Jamaica, the Hip-Hop Hall in the Bronx, competing House halls in Detroit and Berlin, Northern Soul halls in every U.K. city with an underground. Inclusiveness is the way to go.

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And for now, given the reality that not everyone gets in upon nomination, we’re going to have to hold off on the most rockish of this year’s noms. Be still, my Heart. Deep Purple, you gave us wizardry on the guitar and keyboards — not quite as vital a contribution to present-day music as this year’s other noms. And Procol Harum: love ya, but your ruminations on light fandangos, ill-fitting homburgs and repenting Walpurgis will have to wait a bit longer for accolades. First we need to make room for the others. We also need to make room for softies like the Carpenters and sultries like Sade. Even if they didn’t rock, at their best they made us rock, and that must count for something, no?

Rebranding is difficult, I know. The Popular Music Hall of Fame appeals only to copy editors, and the Rock, Pop, Funk, Soul, Disco, Blues, Punk, Metal, Hip-Hop and Electronic Hall of Fame doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I’m open to suggestions. Maybe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is fine if we can agree that the likes of Chic and Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, indeed, rock. But whatever we decide, it’s time for a more inclusive hall. That’s a place I can have fahrn fahrn fahrn in.

56 comments
AntonyEvlogiev
AntonyEvlogiev

Well, your argument is inherently flawed. It's the 'Rock and Roll hall of fame'. Asking them to change that to accommodate new acts is sacrilege. 

sweetpea4ifsu
sweetpea4ifsu

Spoken like a true rock enthusiast that was offered a nice bonus if he wrote something against what he believed. Must of been a lot of money.What's funny, is this article would still be true if it was 2003, 1993 or 1983 and mostly true (change bands and song names) if 1973, 1963, 1953.

MikeFrett
MikeFrett

Hip-Hop and Rap have their own awards. This is just political garbage reaching for Money and Viewers. The best option is not to watch and just send letters to the committee that they are, most decidedly, out of order. All future bands whom play real Rock (you know, with a GUITAR) should decline the awards and express their concerns to the nausea inducing ceremonies.

What is Rock n Roll? It's the simplest thing, really. Robert Johnson, AC/DC as examples. What is not? Madonna and Public Enemy. A Brain damaged Monkey would know the difference.

Stampece
Stampece

This is one of the dumbest articles I've ever read. "Take Rock out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Why not take Jazz out of the Jazz Hall of Fame, etc. etc. etc. This is precisely why so many Rock fans dismiss the whole thing, because so many non-Rock, or barely Rock acts have been inducted (because of recording industry trends, politics, and political correctness) while many great Rock acts have not. Talking about how Rock music is not dominating the Top 10 is utterly irrelevant. A Hall of Fame devoted to Rock and Roll should be just that, not a reflection of the current music market. Having said that, Rock was still the biggest selling genre in 2012, when this idiotic article was written, and in fact its sales increased: According to Nielsen SoundScan, 102,500,000 rock albums sold during the year, an increase of 2% on the previous year. And Alternative is counted separately (!): The Rock figure would be even bigger if it included Alternative. Alternative as a stand alone genre sold 52,200,000, down 4.3%.  R&B in 2012: 49,700,000; Country in 2012: 44,600,000; Metal (again, really Rock): 31,900,000; Rap:24,200,000.

fmondana
fmondana

The reports of Rock's demise are greatly exaggerated...

Gmorbgmibgnikgnok
Gmorbgmibgnikgnok

 The real hall of fame contains anyone Weird Al decided to parody.

The plaza before the front door would be tiled with an image of Prince's face.  The hundreds of thousands of people visiting daily would walk across his face, because he never consented to Weird Al's requests.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Why do we even need a Hall of Fame for Rock, other than as a tourist spot for Cleveland?

yahoo-H7ISFTF3NBIPN2OVNHHUGQWFM4
yahoo-H7ISFTF3NBIPN2OVNHHUGQWFM4

The Ramp;R HOF is a bit of a joke.  But if you're going to pay tribute to an era, how about the 1980s and specifically post-punk/alternative?  Here are a few suggestions:

- Husker Du

- The Pixies

- Sonic Youth

- The Pogues

- Dead Kennedys

- Black Flag

- The Replacements

- Joy Division/New Order

- The Smiths

- The Cure

gte40
gte40

Hall and Oates - the definition of blue eyed soul an the most successful duo ever according to Billboard.

It's acts like these getting ignored that make you wonder more about the committee than the HOF itself.

18235
18235

joan jett...?  well, she is a lesbian, so i guess thats important.

SomeoneHasToSayIt
SomeoneHasToSayIt

Face it, rock exploded, and most of what we're now calling by other names is a branch of that explosion.  Take the rock out of today's pop and dance music, or out of funk or punk or metal, and what's left?

"Quick: When’s the last time you heard a guitar solo in the Top 10?"

Um, that's a problem with the Top 10, not guitars.  Frankly, the Top 10 - the top 100 - has largely sucked since the corporations overtook the art sometime in the 70's.  Focusing on the teen market and controllable artists does not produce greatness, even if it does produce sales.

And you think there's no rock these days other than the dinosaurs?  I don't see how you can call White Stripes, Black Keys, North Mississippi All-Stars anything but world-class rock-n-roll with riffs as memorable as any ever created.  And there's plenty of other excellent rock going on, even if you are narrow-minded about what belongs in the rock genre.  Just not in the Top 10.  

Yacko
Yacko

The whole premise is flawed. Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? Paraphrasing Groucho, any true rocker would be embarrassed by such a place which would have them as a member. Thank you, Sex Pistols.

Sapphire Thomas
Sapphire Thomas

No, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame should stay rockist, but maybe it can expand its

horizons to other countries. There's some great rock and metal coming

from Scandinavia and plenty of European countries. Rock may have left

mainstream America, but not in other countries. Give the smaller bands a

chance to be heard and honored- they can really rock.

PSFan2nite
PSFan2nite

Message to the RNRHOF nominating board: The Grammy's lost me back in '79 when "Taste Of Honey" (remember "Boogie Oogie Oogie"?) beat out Elvis Costello for Best New Artist... haven't watched a Grammy's broadcast since.  I went to the HOF in the early 90's and enjoyed it, but in '97, when the Board went non-rock (Bee-Gees, Jackson 5 amp; Parliament/Funkadelic), that was it for me, I would never set foot in the place again, it's forever polluted to me.  Jon Lord has to die before Deep Purple gets nominated after Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC are inducted?  Like the "Smoke On The Water" riff isn't in all our DNA?  That's an absolute travesty.  Chic, NWA, Public Enemy and Donna Summer: REALLY? It's time to take "Rock And Roll" off the front of the place: How about "Music Smörgåsbord HOF"? They could tie it into HOF cafe by adding a Fried Chicken amp; Watermelon Surprise to the menu. Obviously, the board is trying to prop up Hall admissions by "broadening the base", so to speak, so why not go all the way?

Bill Thomas
Bill Thomas

It should be and always be the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and only Rock Acts should be allowed.  If you look at this years nominees the only ones who should be allowed should be Heart, Deep Purple and Rush and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts but that is truly it.   These are groups that epitomized the Rock n Roll environment and lifestyle.  The remaining acts should be considered pioneers or good entertainers but not Rock n Roll Hall of Fame products.

pc1397
pc1397

At their peak Deep Purple did more than just give us "wizardry on the guitar and keyboards"- they were astoundingly talented, but more important, the whole was greater than the the sum of the parts.  Their music retains every bit of its power decades later, and very very few bands can hope to achieve anything close.  That their music is not considered "as vital a contribution to present-day music" speaks to the sorry state of present-day music, and in no way reflects on them.

Jangocat
Jangocat

The Rock and Roll hall of fame has been a complete joke for years. It never has lived up to it's name it's just a cheap tourist attraction. The Country Music Hall of Fame has integrity and actually honors the music it claims to represent. The Rock and Roll hall on fame in contrast just adds any act they think will get them headlines and tourists. It's a shame because the most influential music of the last 6 decades deserves a REAL Hall of Fame.

This author is completely clueless. He thinks guitar is dead because you don't hear it in top ten POP charts? This guy doesn't even know the difference between pop and rock. Tell Metallica guitar is dead. I'm sure they will get a big laugh out of that as they sell out another stadium.

John McKenzie
John McKenzie

The Monkees? Really? You should have killer this story right there. Perhaps next year the Partridge Family will get the nod.

Milton DeGeorge Jr.
Milton DeGeorge Jr.

How could you leave out Rush? And if the band doesnt play rock n roll why the hell are they being considered at all?

Michael Schein
Michael Schein

I'm going to write an article that says, "The Baseball Hall of Fame's reticence to induct too many basketball teams suggests that baseball holds for them (and, implicitly, for U.S. society) an intrinsically superior position in the sports landscape."

Will that get me published in Time?

This is a new low.

Dale Crandall
Dale Crandall

re:  "re:  "What was the last electric-guitar riff to become a cultural touchstone — or even a meme?"That would be Seven Nation Army  --  Watch some football or baseball games dude.Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/...

CissyRenee
CissyRenee

The HOF of fame has gone the way of Rolling Stone, the old grey mare aint what she used to be. IRRELEVANT is thier motto.

Dale Crandall
Dale Crandall

re:  "What was the last electric-guitar riff to become a cultural touchstone — or even a meme?"That would Seven Nation Army -- watch some football or baseball games dude.

John Macera
John Macera

If Foo Fighters (I love them, but there's a lot else out there) and Nickelback are what you know of current rock amp; roll then  you're just not getting out much.  You must not have been at the packed, loud and awesome Black Keys, My Morning Jacket amp; Pearl Jam concerts I've seen this year.  You must not have heard the new Cloud Nothings, Beach House and Japandroids albums.

Rock radio stations have grown stale playing the same couple hundred songs over amp; over again and actual rock music fans have abandoned them, and that's why they're disappearing.  It's not because there isn't good rock music to play; they just don't play it, choosing to play Nickelback instead.What is the "Top 10" anyway?  Are you Casey Casum or something?

Yes it is the "ROCK AND ROLL" Hall of Fame and it should be about Rock and Roll.

Vince Byrne
Vince Byrne

Rock Hall = Rock Hall, not All Music Hall or Pop Hall or Top 40 Hall

I have no problem with NWA or PE, or for that matter Tommy James for their influence on Rock. My problem with the Rock Hall is omitting undeniable rock acts with huge influence like KISS.

\m/(><)\m/

reek60
reek60

The HOF made the mistake of having an induction every year for a genre that has a limited amount  of acts truly deserving to be considered all time greats. Have inductions every four years or so and limit the number of inductees to two or three. This would eliminate the entrance of border line acts and make it that much more special for those that got in. It would truly become the exclusive club that it is supposed to be. 

SteveK77536
SteveK77536

Bumper sticker for KACC, the "Gulf Coast Rocker" run by Alvin  (TX) Community College:

Less Music By Angry Baldheaded Guys

John Luma
John Luma

I was inclined not to agree when I saw the headline, but you convinced me. But this pov needs to be aimed at "the secret committee," who ever they are. Who nominates these groups? I would explore that and reveal who those folks are. If guitar solos and older rock music forms are a pre-existing condition, let's work on the individual gatekeepers and see what they have to say in their own defense.

democrats
democrats

ABSOLUTELY AGREE "ROCK" IS NOT WHAT THE ROCK N ROLL HALL OF FAME IS ABOUT. THE POINT MADE HERE IS 110% ON THE MONEY!!! AS A ROCK MUSICIAN, GUITAR PLAYER MY WHOLE LIFE I THINK I MIGHT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE MYSELF. JUST BEING A LONG TIME FAN OF ACTUAL ROCK MUSIC YOU WOULD KNOW A GOOD NUMBER OF THE ACTS INDUCTED IN THIS SHAM MUSEUM ARE -NOT- ROCK OR EVEN ROCK N ROLL ACTS, AT ALL.

UStodd
UStodd

Why would rap be included? Shouldn't someone actually have to play an instrument or be able to sing? That is why I no longer get rolling stone. Their focus on no talent ghetto trash rappers and people like Britney and Madonna who can't sing (and don't live) who's claim to fame is cloths.

Donald Brown
Donald Brown

Well consider where it is located....I mean Clevland, OH....really. It lost all credibility when it wasn't placed in Memphis, TN. The birthplace of Rock N' Roll

HisBoyElroy
HisBoyElroy

As Billy Joel sang-"Its still Rock n Roll to me"....

hselrahc
hselrahc

It's NOT time to take "Rock" out of the "rock and Roll Hall of Fame".  Stay true!

TomRRR
TomRRR

Actually, what needs to happen is that the voting/induction process needs to be taken away from Wenner and all his "hipper-than-thou" cronies and put in the hands of the fans. It's criminal that artists like Rush, Deep Purple,the Moody Blues,Kiss and yes, even the Carpenters are passed over in favor of Afrika Bambatta, Madonna and NWA. I remember when FM rock stations played Kraftwerk and Stevie Wonder, so I've always wondered about the obviously exclusionary induction criteria. It looks like you have know someone to get inducted.It's reached a point where most of the artists on this year's roster don't actually care whether they get in or not. Look at the statements issued by Rush and Heart. I think that's pretty telling, don't you?

LA_Triathlete
LA_Triathlete

Let the rock and roll dinosaurs keep their hall of fame.  The rest of us are living in the present and looking forward to the future.

LeoK711
LeoK711

Who is this guy? Somebody send him a copy of the Offsprings' 'Days Go By' if he thinks guitars are dead. And the frikkin Carpenters in the Ramp;R Hall of Fame - PUKE!! This article is a joke.

Leroy Cantu
Leroy Cantu

"The Rock Hall’s reticence to induct too many nonrock acts...."

Wow!!  Really???  Have you been paying attention to who they let in to the "Rock-n-Roll"  hall of fame??  That place is a running joke for the sheer number of rock acts that have been kept out in favor of pop/disco/other acts.  I mean Madonna gets is before Rush, Deep Purple, Kiss, King Crimson and on and on and on.

Shinzakura
Shinzakura

So, I guess since you're all about equality in the music halls you're going to start petitioning the Grand Ole Opry to start taking in other genres next?

Lotus Ginkgo
Lotus Ginkgo

To me, virtually ALL of these genres fall under the biggest and most diverse musical umbrella ever, which we call "Rock and Roll." It's widely inclusive, has sustained for decades, and has grown immensely since Bill Haley and the Comets started it all. No need to change the name of the venue in Cleveland. It's perfect!

18235
18235

if kenyan born obama can be president, than anybody can be in rock hall of fame. 

18235
18235

jan wenner and his cronnies dont even count as hip, with rolling stone magazine being mostly for old geezers who like dinosaur bands for cover stories.

gay jan wenner probably did have something to do with lesbian joan jett being nominated. 

John McMahon
John McMahon

Not only are the Carpenters worthy, but they produced a hit song, that is one of the greatest ABOUT rock and roll; "Superstar" written by Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett.  Some Carpenters' songs , even without considering Karen Carpenter's rock and roll demise, sound amazingly melancholy compared to the pop crap being pushed now. Are modern musicians even capable of that?

18235
18235

karen carpenter was banging on drums before any women punk rockers were.

i remember my male  music teacher in the 1970s being offended by karen carpenter playing drums!

CissyRenee
CissyRenee

The Grand Old Oprey has gone pop already so why not?

fatman54
fatman54

bill haley and the comets started what ? have you ever heard of big joe turner ?  

Shinzakura
Shinzakura

 "Fusion" genres (e.g. Jazz-Rock or in the Opry's case, Pop Country) are not the same thing as the outright parent genre.  The author is expecting for the parent genre (Rock) to go away from the Rock HOF, but he holds no same standard for the Opry (country) or the Classical HOF (which could accept avant garde or new age music). 

Granted, this isn't exactly on the same level as, say, civil rights, but it's important enough to some people to write an article about it, so they should be willing to back it up with articles on the other ones as well.

Shinzakura
Shinzakura

 Not to mention that Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" is considered the first rock song, not Haley's "Rock Around the Clock".

18235
18235

your FIVE WORD REPLY is equally wrong on many levels.

Yacko
Yacko

Though to be fair the blistering guitar solo by Danny Cedrone is a ROCKabilly blast.