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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Begging for Irrelevance

hey kids, rock on


















“America…just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen,” Hunter S. Thompson.


“You gotta have a con in this land of milk and honey,” Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.


“There ain’t no rock’n roll no more, just the sickly sound of greed,” Ian Hunter.


I’ve never had the misfortune of taking the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously – when pop culture art meets commerce the cash register wins every time.  The endless swan dive into mediocrity continues with the 2014 inductees:  Nirvana, KISS, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, and Linda Ronstadt.  The MC5, the Replacements, Cheap Trick, the New York Dolls, and the Monkees, among others, remain on the sidelines.  The attentive reader will note that all of this year’s selections are whiter than a Fox News Santa Claus  – thanks for your contributions to popular music Janet Jackson, the Chi-Lites, the Fifth Dimension, Ashford & Simpson, Gil Scott-Heron, the Neville Brothers, and the Meters.  Can you serve hors d’oeuvres at our party?


OK, Nirvana was an easy one – the last gasp of true rock and roll spirit meeting the commercial mainstream.  With the fans vote, a large arena band will get in annually – last year RUSH, this year KISS.  Jon Bon Jovi must be absolutely salivating for a shot on the ballot and, what he would consider, critical validation.  I’m looking forward to the day when the Hall elevates the Goo Goo Dolls to the same level of cultural prominence as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.


Hall and Oates were a good singles act, nothing more.  If you support their inclusion, you are arguing that “above average” is the new “excellent.”  Similarly, if your child isn’t a straight A student in 2013, it’s not because he or she is too lazy or stupid to learn about the Taft-Hartley Act or binomial probabilities.  The problem is that your child’s instructor has standards that are too high.  Cat Stevens belongs in the McHall because of his songwriting that was empathetic, insightful, and conveyed both the everyday pain and hope in the human experience.  Wait…wait a second…whoa, whoa, whoa…I got Cat Stevens confused with John Prine for a second.  Consider the fact that Cat got the nod instead of Joan Jett.  It’s still scarier in America to be a lesbian, vegetarian tough rocker chick than to be a wimpy singer/songwriter that joked or was misinterpreted about killing in the name of Islam.


Linda Ronstadt has been eligible for almost two decades.  Does she deserve to be in the McHall?  Probably.  Will it make good television and an emotional induction now that she has Parkinson’s disease?  Sure.  I’m so ambivalent about Peter Gabriel that I can’t get excited about whether he belongs or not.  I mean, it doesn’t help that Genesis got better in the late ‘70s after he left the band.  It may help that in the ‘80s, Genesis got much worse.


As the RRHOF becomes more desperate for repeated visitors to their Cleveland pyramid and their online gift shop, the lowest common denominator will continue to define cultural excellence.  At the 2023 induction ceremony, P. Diddy will strut across the stage and proclaim repeatedly with great bravado that, “It’s all about the Benjamins!”


And, I will smile.

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