The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominates its Class of 2014
Thirty years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was launched “to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Beginning in 1986 with an inaugural class including such greats as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and the Everly Brothers, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has enshrined select groups of performers, sidemen, songwriters, producers and industry heavyweights every year.
Artists become eligible 25 years after the release of their first record. The Hall of Fame's nominating committee seeks inductees of unquestionable musical excellence, based on such criteria as the influence their work has had on other artists, longevity and depth of their catalog, musical innovation and superiority of craftsmanship. Nominees are then put to a vote; ballots are sent to more than 600 artists, historians and music business leaders around the world. Performers who receive the most votes (and been named on at least half of the ballots) are inducted into the Hall – typically between five and seven artists per year.
Nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2014 class have just been announced, and as usual, the field is as diverse as it is talented. In terms of recordings, the longest legacy belongs to Link Wray; the guitarist caught ears with such raunchy instrumentals as “Rumble” beginning in the late 1950s. And though the Hall has many veterans of the 1960s, that decade's explosive creativity produced a number of worthy acts not yet inducted, including The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Led by Chicago singer/harpist Butterfield – and such incendiary guitarists as Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop - the band spearheaded the '60s blues boom on this side of the Atlantic while such bands as The Yardbirds and Cream explored the music in England. The British Invasion of the 1960s provides another nominee, The Zombies, who went from the jazzy beat of “She's Not There” to the sophisticated pop of Odessey And Oracle.
The sound of rock further diversified in the 1970s. The wistful folk-inflected songs of nominee Cat Stevens are poles apart from the costume-draped fist-pumpers of Kiss. The New York quartet has company in the hard rock field this year: Deep Purple. The British band started out as a classically influenced progressive rock group before diving into heavy metal with 1971's In Rock album; with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they stand as pioneers of the form. Yes also started out as a progressive rock band, but rather than amp up the primal power, they went the other way, refining their music to dazzling levels of complexity and instrumental virtuosity.
Funk came of age in the 1970s as evidenced by the nominations of The Meters and Chic. New Orleans R&B inspired such Hall of Famers as Little Richard and Fats Domino, and The Meters are successors to that tradition; both as backing instrumentalists and on their own acclaimed releases; their music is infectiously danceable. Dance music was also the stock-in-trade of Chic, which was disco's most influential band (thanks largely to members/producers Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards). Linda Ronstadt may never have gotten funky, but her long career touched nearly every other style of music; from folk and country to new wave, Latin and standards, the performer is among the most versatile of the rock era.
The 1980s are also well-represented in the current crop of nominees; after cutting some seminal albums with Genesis, Peter Gabriel went solo with a series of outstanding releases exploring art rock and world music. Hall and Oates combined punchy pop and blue-eyed soul to become one of the decade's most reliable hitmakers. But rap was probably the 1980s' most revolutionary development, and nominees from both coasts underline hip-hop's rapid ascent: New York ladies man LL Cool J and Los Angeles gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A.
Alternative rock fans also have cause to cheer; Pacific Northwest grunge icons Nirvana were nominated in their first year of eligibility. And if The Replacements never had an album top the charts like Nevermind, the Minneapolis quartet remains among the best loved and most respected bands of their generation. Paul Westerberg and crew's heartfelt (and consummately crafted) songs and raucous performances paved the way for legions of pop-punk and emo bands.
Many are called but few are chosen, and this list will be whittled down considerably when the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees are announced in December. For the second year in a row, fans can weigh in on the final choices here. The top five vote-getters as of December 10th will be entered into the official tally as a fan ballot. Let your voice be heard!