Sweet Sensation: Thoughts on the 2021 Rock Hall Ballot

If you weren’t keeping track (and why not?), this past Wednesday, Feb. 10 was Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ballot Reveal Day (Not yet part of the Monday Holiday Bill but we’re hoping). This one had a supercharged air of expectation, coming a full 13 months after the last one.

At 8 a.m. the page loaded in all its glory and from the very first name I saw — Kate Bush — I knew things were different. Very different. It was a perfect clue to what followed: Out of 16 names, a full seven were female artists/bands, and seven of that 16 were Black artists. Ten of them are first-time nominees. We had hopes, but I’m not sure any of us who had campaigned for the Hall to #InductMoreWomen expected this.

But it’s more than just adding some female names. The Hall chose many women that those who’ve pressed them to #InductMoreWomen have championed, including Carole King as a performer, the Go-Go’s, Dionne Warwick, and maybe the most begged-for among them, Tina Turner. Mary J. Blige is a wonderful surprise, and they’re not leaving Chaka Khan behind, nominating her solo this time around. I honestly expected that Chaka and Pat would be back on the list, and maybe two more names, with Sheryl Crow being one, although I didn’t officially predict her. This is a thoughtful list, reaching across genres and decades to really give voters a snapshot of women in popular music over the past 50 years. Every one is more than deserving.

(And I can’t help but imagine that one of the people happiest about this is CEO Greg Harris, who didn’t have to face the press this year and talk about an “historic” three names).

The rest of this year’s ballot is made up of: Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, LL Cool J, Fela Kuti, Devo, Iron Maiden, Todd Rundgren, and the New York Dolls. I have to say my predictions mostly a miss this year (I had Jay-Z, Tina, the Go-Go’s, Chaka with Rufus, and Devo, so 4 1/2). And I’m thrilled.

There’s something for almost everyone on this list, although if you’re hoping for straight classic rock, you’ll have to cast your lot with Rundgren and arguably the Dolls and Iron Maiden. The domination of hip hop is making itself felt ever so subtly in that there are two hip hops names, although we’ve still yet to nominate a woman in that genre.

I feared that John Sykes’ background at MTV and iHeart Media would result in a strictly commercial video-ready crop, but in going with Fela Kuti and the Dolls they’ve chosen to highlight influence and the wider scope of popular music history. Again, happy to say I was wrong.

A few other random thoughts:

  • Surprise appearances: Todd Rundgren. It’s his third straight time, so he must be bubbling under in official voting. I’m a fan, I totally believe he deserves it and although the Musical Excellence tag fits, that he deserves it as a performer. (Even though I’m hella salty about this stupid geo-fenced virtual “tour” – don’t get me started). He’s being exceptionally curmudgeonly about it though, and it’ not a good look. People make a lot of artists’ attitudes hurting their chances and the stats don’t bear that out. But damn dude, no need to be such a…jerk.
  • Surprise absences: Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band. People were so shocked, Benatar’s name immediately trended on Twitter on Wednesday. The Hall seems to want to make it absolutely clear that the fan vote guarantees nothing, although we should all vote every day from now until April 30. I don’t see Klipsch’s name on it though, so they’re not promoting value to a sponsor.

Another surprise omission is that of Kraftwerk, especially in the wake of Florian Schneider’s passing last year. We’ll have to see if they’re holding them in reserve for next year (although a Cleveland year makes more sense), or if a Musical Excellence is in the cards

  • Not to slight Chaka Khan or LL Cool J, both deserve induction, but this strong ballot puts them at a disadvantage.
  • Is the British presence we’ve seen the past couple of years at an end? Only two British names and one Nigerian punctuate an overwhelmingly American list.
  • Foo Fighters aren’t a unanimous favorite to go in, but if they do, you can imagine them as headliners. If not, could that spot go to Jay Z? Personally, I’d like to Tina Turner get that honor, even though it will almost certainly be in absentia. She’s earned it. There’ll be no shortage of high-powered female artists lining up to pay tribute, assuming we have performances. Beyoncé just might be there, for starters.
  • With this ballot, only taking five names would be a crime, and six isn’t much better. Much could depend on whether or not there is a live ceremony this year; the Hall will need to get out in front on that decision. That could let them do eight names comfortably, with some combination of standard inductees and Musical Excellence names. Good problem to have, but the Hall needs to handle this right.

A couple of things about the process:

  • It’s kind of a tradition now that the site crashes in the first minutes of voting, but this year it blowed up real good. Hopefully that means everyone was so excited about voting for women that they couldn’t vote fast enough.
  • I’m not a social media manager, but I don’t think the tweet announcing the reveal date was pinned. Seems an odd choice.
  • Randomizing the ballot each visit to eliminate pattern bias is a good move.
  • Putting a link to artist bios on the page would be a good move too.

So who gets in? Right now I’m thinking Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Tina Turner, Carole King, and Dionne Warwick. If there are six, the Go-Go’s, and if seven, Todd Rundgren with a push from the classic rock bloc.

What do you think?

Not Seeing What We’re Not Seeing: Thoughts on the Upcoming Rock Hall Nomination Season (with predictions)

Christmas is not long behind us, and with it that beloved “A Christmas Story” marathon. So much to love about that movie, but I have a special place in my heart for the parents. There’s such a wistful quality to them both, and their love – broken Major Award aside – grounds everything. I just read a piece by Dina Gachman called “Can We Talk About the Mom in ‘A Christmas Story?’” in which Gachman finds herself wondering what Melinda Dillon’s character got for Christmas. The Old Man got his blue bowling ball, Randy got a dirigible, and we all know what Ralphie got. But what about Mother? I realized that I didn’t know either, and had never even thought about it. I didn’t see what I hadn’t seen.

(Gachman contacted the owner of the Christmas Story House Museum in Cleveland, Brian Jones, about Mother’s gift (it turns out to be a flyswatter). His off-the-cuff reply?  “Who cares what the mother gets for Christmas?” Just a joke, but still.

Prophets Without Honor (Or, “What’s It Take to Get a Nomination Around Here?”)

With Mary and Eric of Hall Watchers

Back when I published my post about Gil Scott-Heron (is it six months already?), I got a message from Mary at Hall Watchers saying that she’d just been doing some research on artists with significant honors who’ve yet to score a Rock Hall nomination, and Scott-Heron was on that list.

She was kind enough to share her findings with me and invite me to expand on them in a post. So here it is: a baker’s dozen artists who’ve received significant honors not just from the music industry – Grammys, Songwriters Hall of Fame– but from the gatekeepers of American culture as a whole – the Kennedy Center Honors, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and others, and have no Rock Hall noms to date.

Looking at each artist in turn, it’s clear that the Rock Hall doesn’t own the market on inconsistencies: awards are a human institution and therefore often arbitrary. I was repeatedly struck by just how arbitrary. For example: Why do Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine or Diana Ross solo have NO recordings in the Grammy HOF? Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill” has long been hailed as a groundbreaking track that both reflected and influenced the culture of its time, so why is “Coal Miner’s Daughter” the only one of her recordings included there or on the National Registry?

But the thing I’ve really taken away from this doesn’t even have to do with the Hall. It’s the realization that Dolly Parton, despite her success as a musician, actor, businesswoman, and especially as a humanitarian, has not been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s not right, and it seriously pisses me off. Politics aren’t part of it: she deserves it.

It’s been a fascinating dive – thank you Mary and Eric for sharing this knowledge.

A few notes:

Genre purists will cry foul right off the bat and point out that these artists aren’t rock; a majority (three-fourths) come from country and jazz. Granted, but the Hall has generally taken the Ice Cube/Lester Bangs position that rock and roll is an attitude, and you can trace a link from probably every single rock artist already in the Hall – and others not so honored –and  at least one of the artists listed here.

For the purposes of this post, with the exception of a random note here and there, I’m staying with this list of awards. I think Mary chose the most important ones, and there are so many out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But for the country artists, I added two additional honors that are highly exclusive and have the same if not greater – importance in that genre: membership in the Grand Ole Opry and induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That last one is a tough nut to crack: The Judds haven’t done it, Dwight Yoakam hasn’t done it, The Gatlin Brothers haven’t done it, and Hank Williams Jr. JUST did it with a career spanning six decades.

First, the background and general qualification for the awards:

Country Music HOF

“Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is country music’s highest honor. The first members were inducted in 1961. Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is solely the prerogative of the CMA. New members (are) elected annually by an anonymous panel of industry leaders chosen by the CMA.”

(https://countrymusichalloffame.org/hall-of-fame/hall-of-fame-rotunda/election-process/)

(This is a tough nut to crack: Only three acts pass through the hallowed gates each year, in strictly defined categories. For more detail, here’s my blog post on the CMHOF from 2018:

(https://iconicrocktalkshow.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/unbroken-circles-and-glass-houses-comparing-the-country-and-rock-and-roll-halls-of-fame/ )

The Gershwin Prize

“The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding. The selection is made by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with a board that is both credible and broad enough in scope to represent the full spectrum of popular song. Board members may include but need not be limited to scholars, producers, performers, music critics, songwriters, and subject specialists within and outside the Library of Congress.”

(https://www.loc.gov/about/awards-and-honors/gershwin-prize/)

Grammy Hall of Fame  

“The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame was established by the Recording Academy’s National Trustees in 1973 to honor recordings (Note: These can be singles or albums. -MB) of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts.”

The Hall contains 1,114 recordings and can be viewed at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

(https://www.grammy.com/grammys/awards/hall-of-fame)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

“This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. (*Through 1972, recipients included non-performers.)”

(https://www.grammy.com/grammys/awards/lifetime-achievement-awards)

Grand Ole Opry

“The decision to increase the Opry’s ranks is…made exclusively by the show’s management. The people who’ve been entrusted with the Opry’s tradition and future direction take into account all the standards of success in country music—radio airplay, recorded music sales, touring success, industry recognition—when considering an act for membership. The Opry considers career accomplishment as well as the potential for continued success.”

(https://www.opry.com/about/membership/)

Kennedy Center Honors

“The Kennedy Center Honors provide recognition to living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts. The primary criterion is excellence, and artistic achievement in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, and television is considered.”

(https://www.kennedy-center.org/whats-on/honors/)

Presidential Medal of Freedom

“Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, this prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

(https://www.whitehouse.gov/medaloffreedom/)

The National Recording Registry

“(Each year since 2002) the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings showcasing the range and diversity of American recorded sound heritage in order to increase preservation awareness.”

(https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/about-this-program/)

Smithsonian

“The National Museum of American History collects artifacts of all kinds—from gowns to locomotives—to preserve for the American people an enduring record of their past.”

(https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections)

Songwriters HOF

“Established in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame honors those whose work represents a spectrum of the most beloved songs from the world’s popular music songbook. A songwriter with a notable catalog of songs qualifies for induction 20 years after the first commercial release of a song. Out of the tens of thousands of songwriters of our era, there are approximately 400 inductees.”

(www.songhall.org/about)

And with that, the artists:

(Statistics included here are taken from the respective websites of the awards. Any inaccuracy/discrepancy is from that information.)

Glen Campbell

The Wrecking Crew should be considered for membership as well, so Glen Campbell really should be a candidate for the “Clyde McPhatter Club” as a multiple inductee. But these recognitions should earn him a look from the Nom Com on his own.

Country Music Hall of Fame: 2005

Grammy Hall of Fame:

By the Time I Get to Phoenix (single) (‘67/’04)

Gentle on My Mind (single) (‘67/’08)

Wichita Lineman (single) (‘68/’00)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement: 2012

National Recording Registry:

Wichita Lineman (‘68/’19)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=glen%2Bcampbell&

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The Carter Family

As Allmusic.com puts it: “The most influential group in country music history, the Carter Family switched the emphasis from hillbilly instrumentals to vocals, made scores of their songs part of the standard country music canon, and made a style of guitar playing, “Carter picking,” the dominant technique for decades. (Among) the first country music stars… (their) pure, simple harmony…influenced folk, bluegrass, and rock musicians like Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, the Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris, to mention just a few.”

Country Music Hall of Fame: 1970 (First group to be inducted)

Grammy Hall of Fame:

Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By) (single) (‘35/’98)

Keep on the Sunny Side (single) (‘28/’06)

Wildwood Flower (single) (‘28/’99)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement: 2005

National Recording Registry:

“Wildwood Flower” (single) (‘28/’06)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=carter%2Bfamily&

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John Coltrane

Artists as diverse as U2, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Duane Allman, and Eric Clapton cite him as an influence. The Byrds declared in a 1967 press conference that their iconic “Eight Mile High” was an attempt to bring his approach to music to the world of electric guitar. Miles Davis paid tribute to him on stage for years. The late Ronald Bell of Kool and the Gang said, “My greatest influence was John Coltrane…I wanted to be like John Coltrane and the trumpet player wanted to be Miles Davis.”

Grammy Hall of Fame: 

A Love Supreme (album) (‘65/’99)

Ballads (album) (‘62/’08)

Blue Train (album) (‘57/’99)

Giant Steps (album) (‘60/’01)

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (album) (’63/’13)

Lush Life (album) (‘61/’16)

Lush Life (single) (‘63/’00)

My Favorite Things (album) (‘61/’98)

Theolonius Monk and John Coltrane (album) (‘61/’07)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement: 1997

National Recording Registry:

Giant Steps (album) (‘59/’04)

A Love Supreme (album) (‘64/’15)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=john%2Bcoltrane&

(In 2014, the exhibit “Smithsonian Celebrates 50th Anniversary of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme” honored this milestone with lectures, rare photos, and Coltrane’s score of the album).

Also of note:

Pulitzer: Special citation 2007, for “his masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”

A former home, the John Coltrane House in Philadelphia, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999. His last home, the John Coltrane Home in the Dix Hills district of Huntington, New York, where he resided from 1964 until his death, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 29, 2007.

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Gloria Estefan

Her career has spanned five decades. In that time, she has brought Latin music into the public consciousness and gone on to transcend it and simply become one of the most successful, honored, and esteemed artists of her generation.

Gershwin Prize: 2019 (w/Emilio) (Along with Carole King, one of just two women honorees)

Kennedy Center Honors: 2017

Natl Recording Registry:

Rhythm is Gonna Get You (single) (‘87/’17)

Presidential Medal of Freedom: 2015 (w/Emilio)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=estefan&

Songwriters Hall of Fame:

Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award (w/Emilio), 2001

Nominated, 2019

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Ella Fitzgerald

The term “cultural icon” may be a bit of a cliché, but in the case of Ella Fitzgerald, it doesn’t go far enough. It’s been said that anyone who wants to be a singer should know her, and artists like Mica Paris, K.T. Tunstall, Patti Austin, Lana del Rey, Adele, and Lady Gaga honor her as an inspiration.

Grammy Lifetime Achievement: 1967

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

A-Tisket, A-Tasket (single) (‘38/’86)

Ella and Basie!   (album) (‘63/’10)

Ella and Louis     (album) (‘56/’00)

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book (album) (‘56/’00)

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book (album) (‘59/’19)

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Song Book (album) (‘56/’99)        

Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife (album) (‘60/’99)

Porgy & Bess (album) (‘58/’01)

Kennedy Center Honors: 1979

National Recording Registry:

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book (album) (‘56/’03)     

Presidential Medal of Freedom: 1992

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=ella%2Bfitzgerald&

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Merle Haggard

Johnny Cash once said that Merle Haggard was “What they all think I am.” He was a true maverick and country in style but rock and roll in attitude. His tunes have been covered by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Keith Richards, the Byrds, John Fogerty, Jorma Kaukonen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Thorogood, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Country Joe McDonald, and Lemmy (with Throw Rag).

Country Music Hall of Fame:  1994

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

Mama Tried (single) (‘68/’99)

Okie from Muskogee (single) (‘68/’17)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards: 2006

Kennedy Center Honors: 2010

National Recording Registry:

Mama Tried (single) (‘68/’15)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=merle%2Bhaggard&

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 2007

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Carole King

She’s in the Hall as an Ertegun Award recipient with her former husband, the late Gerry Goffin, but that leaves out the epic success of her solo album “Tapestry,” her solo songwriting and performing career, and her autobiographical Broadway musical, “Beautiful.”. Did you know she’s worked with Eric Clapton AND Slash? And her response to Aretha singing “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors is the cutest thing ever.

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2013

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings: 

It’s Too Late (single) (‘71/’03)

Tapestry (album) (‘71/’98)

You’ve Got a Friend (single) (‘71/’02)

Kennedy Center Honors: 2015

Gershwin Prize:  2013 (The first woman so honored and one of only two, along with Gloria Estefan)

National Recording Registry:

Tapestry (album) (‘71/’03)

Presidential Medal of Freedom: 2013

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=carole%2Bking&

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 1987 (Inducted the same year as writing partner Gerry Goffin, but has separate entry)

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Loretta Lynn

No award or accolade – she has scores more than those listed here – or capsule bio captures this woman’s importance. To say she broke ground and for female artists who came after her is an understatement. She is, still, the first lady of country music, and so much more. 

Country Music Hall of Fame: 1988

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2010

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

Coal Miner’s Daughter (single) (‘70/’98)

Grand Ole Opry Membership: 1972

Kennedy Center Honors: 2016

National Recording Registry:

Coal Miner’s Daughter (single) (‘70/’09)

Presidential Medal of Freedom: 2013

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/object/loretta-lynn:nmah_1203625

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 2008

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Willie Nelson

Willie Effing Nelson. What else needs to be said? Oh, maybe that the CMA Lifetime Achievement Award is NAMED AFTER HIM.

Country Music Hall of Fame: 1993

Gershwin Prize: 2015

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

Always on My Mind (single) (‘82/’08)

On the Road Again (album) (‘80/’11)

Red Headed Stranger (album) (‘75/’02)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2000

(Also: Member of Grammy Legends inaugural class, 1990)

Grand Ole Opry Membership: 1964 (lapsed prior to 1968)

Kennedy Center Honors: 1998

National Recording Registry:

Red Headed Stranger (album) (‘75/’09)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=willie%2Bnelson&

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 2001

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Dolly Parton

The more iconic the performer, the more superfluous words become. And in a way, so do honors and titles. But I’ll say it again in all seriousness: that she’s not a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient is a travesty that must change.

Country Music Hall of Fame: 1999

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

I Will Always Love You (single) (‘74/’07)

Jolene (single) (‘73/’14)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2014

Grand Ole Opry Membership: 1969

Kennedy Center Honors: 2006

National Recording Registry:

Coat of Many Colors (single) (‘71/’11)

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=dolly%2Bparton&

Songwriters Hall of Fame: 2001

Also of note:

2-time Oscar nominee for “9 to 5” (‘81) and “Travelin’ Thru” (from “Transamerica”) (‘05)

If you want to see ALL of her awards, just go here; I can’t even: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Dolly_Parton

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Diana Ross

Of course inducted with the Supremes, she’s simply one of the most accomplished and yes, iconic female solo artists in history. Her career has netted more than 70 hit singles, 12 Grammy nominations, and a Golden Globe award and Academy Award nomination for her lead role in “Lady Sings the Blues.” All this led Billboard magazine to name her “Female Artist of the Century.” She is, truly, The Boss.

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

Stop! In the Name of Love (‘65/’01)*

Where Did Our Love Go (‘64/’99)*

You Keep Me Hanging On (‘66/’99)*

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2012

Kennedy Center Honors: 2007

National Recording Registry:

Where Did Our Love Go (‘65/’15) *

Presidential Medal of Freedom: 2016

Smithsonian: https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=diana%2Bross&

Songwriters Hall of Fame: Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award, 1998

*Credited to The Supremes

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Gil Scott-Heron

He merged poetry and music to offer biting commentary on his world and times. In the process did more than create lasting art, but also became – unwillingly – the honored grandfather of rap and hip hop. One can only imagine what he would say of the times we’re living in now.

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2012

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (single) (‘71/’14)

National Recording Registry:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (album) (‘70/’05)

Smithsonian:  https://www.si.edu/object/black-leather-jacket-worn-gil-scott-heron:nmaahc_2015.52.1

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Tina Turner

She is, quite simply, the queen. And what she’s done as a solo artist more than merits a Rock Hall induction. The sooner, the better.

Grammy Hall of Fame Recordings:

Proud Mary (w/Ike) (single) (‘70/’03)

River Deep, Mountain High (single) (credited w/Ike) (‘66/’99)

What’s Love Got to Do With It- (single) (‘84/’12)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: 2018

Kennedy Center Honors: 2005

National Recording Registry:

Private Dancer (album) (‘84/’09)

Smithsonian:  https://www.si.edu/search?edan_q=tina%2Bturner&

Also of note:

Ordre des Arts et des Lettres: 1996

France’s most prestigious arts honor; only awarded to artists considered to have made notable contributions towards popular culture in France.

Guinness Book of World Records (1988-1997) Largest paying rock concert attendance for a solo artist      (180,000), “Break Every Rule” World Tour, Rio de Janeiro   

And on the topic of prophets without honor, I recently came across this: Jim Croce is a Songwriter’s Hall inductees. Incidentally, he’s also on the Alumni Wall of Fame of his high school alma mater, Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, Upper Darby, PA. It’s also the high school alma mater of Liz Lemon herself, Tina Fey. But I knew it instantly as the high school of one wizard and true star, Todd Rundgren. (What a concentration of talent!) While Croce and Fey are on the Wall, Mr. Rundgren, despite his honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and DePauw University, numerous gold records, and two Rock Hall noms, is not. I weep. Must be the unabashed advocacy of recreational drug use….

Politics, Filthy Lucre and Ritchie Valens’ Roller Skates: A Look at “The House That Rock Built”

I don’t know how many books there are out there that chronicle the creation of a museum from scratch. I’d wager not many. But even if the shelves at Barnes and Noble were filled with them, the story of building the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a singular one. “The House that Rock Built,” by noted DJ and author Norm N. Nite and former Plain Dealer journalist Tom Feran, tells that story from the inside: one of the first Clevelanders to get involved, Nite was there from the time the Hall was a twinkle in Cleveland’s eye right up through the opening extravaganza in September of 1995. (With a show that was scheduled for six hours and still ran long – some things never change).

Reading this book brings it home that many of the issues we see today in how the Hall operates aren’t new, but date back to the Hall’s genesis. And they didn’t necessarily happen for the reasons you might think.

Five Songs to Celebrate Canada Day

This Wednesday, Canada celebrates its national holiday. In the 153 years it’s been around, the nation to the north of us has gifted some pretty incredible music to the world. Here are five songs to honor it in all its vibrant forms. Bonne fête!

A brilliant song meets a sublime voice. And it got her a co-writing credit with the Rolling Stones.

A little of Queen St. in beautiful Toronto here:

Now in his 80s and still active, Gord is a legend. This is to celebrate the 45 my mom brought home for me one day, 69 cents in the rack at Turn-Style. (Sale price was 49 cents). It was like no other song on the radio – then and now.

The first Indigenous person to receive an Academy Award, as the co-writer of this classic:

In the pocket:

“All the dreams you show up in are not your own”: The Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron

Back in the day (mid 80s), I was lucky enough to have the coolest job ever –  a record store clerk. I started at the more “alternative” Co-Op Records (the company logo featured some ambiguous flora, albums filed in crates, dim lighting, head shop by the register), but then moved to “the big time”: uptown to the Music Den at the mall. Here we had real fixtures, sold skinny ties and pins with band logos and photos by the register, and had a big light-up purple star in the front window to showcase Chicago “17” and “Brothers in Arms.” We were happening.

And it was here, in the too-bright lighting with the scent of burnt KarmelKorn wafting across the hall,  that, courtesy of my uber-cool boss, Kat, I was turned on to a new album called “The Best of Gil Scott-Heron.”