Overdue Inductions Into Rock Hall
Geddy Lee of Rush performs at the Scottrade in St. Louis, Missouri. (Zia Nizami/Belleville News-Democrat/MCT)
Akron, Ohio — Well, two long-suffering, deserving rock bands down, and a bunch more to go.
After waiting patiently (and by waiting patiently, I mean filling arenas throughout North and South America and Asia and still making and selling pretty good records), Canadian prog-rock trio Rush, eligible since 1998, is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Joining the band will be Heart (waiting patiently since 2001), blues legend Albert King (don’t get me started on how long his ghost has been waiting), singer/songwriter Randy Newman, R&B and disco queen Donna Summer, hip-hop revolutionaries Public Enemy, producer/manager Lou Adler and producer/composer/band leader Quincy Jones.
Artists are eligible for enshrinement 25 years after their debut recording.
It’s an eclectic group, a trend the rock hall is making a concentrated effort to continue as it expands its definition of rock and roll to basically mean popular music. The induction ceremony will be held April 18 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
Here then, is your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2013:
The Canadian rock trio of helium-voiced singer/bassist Geddy Lee, underrated guitarist Alex Lifeson and drum god/erudite lyricist Neil Peart has been eligible for more than a decade but 2012 was the band’s first time being nominated, highlighting the bias many interested observers believe the Rock Hall Foundation voters hold against certain bands.
Rush was never a critic’s band or considered particularly cool, but its hits — which span its entire 40-plus years of performing and include Tom Sawyer, The Spirit of Radio, Working Man, Closer to the Heart, Fly By Night (featured in a car commercial) and many more — are all rock radio constants. And the band’s influence on younger bands such as Metallica, Mastodon, Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins is undeniable.
Another overdue induction. It may seem a bit quaint to young rock fans now, but in the 1970s, a female-driven rock band (as opposed to a manufactured “all-girl” band such as the Runaways) was an anomaly, and every woman in rock ’n’ roll owes a debt to sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.
Despite greasy music “bizness” types’ best efforts to reduce them to sexy rock chicks and/or lovers (detailed in the galloping Barracuda), they stuck to their musical guns, giving rock fans tough tunes such as Magic Man, Straight On and Crazy on You. In the ’80s, the group went the power ballad route, having bigger hits with slow dancing tunes including What About Love and These Dreams from its self-titled Billboard-topping 1985 album.
This is the band’s second nomination. It’s been eligible since 2001.
When Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy was inducted into the rock hall in 2005, one of the people he championed as more deserving was Albert King, who died in 1992.
The left-handed Texas bluesman was known for playing his signature right-handed Gibson Flying V upside down. His biting, sharp tone and soulful singing was a huge influence on his peers and he is still influencing young guitar players today. One famous acolyte, Stevie Ray Vaughn, filled his first album with licks cribbed straight from the Albert King/Jimi Hendrix (who was also heavily influenced by King) handbook. King’s best-known songs include Crosscut Saw, As the Years Go Passing By and Born Under a Bad Sign.
This is King’s first nomination but he’s been eligible since 1987.
The celebrated singer/ songwriter, beloved in the industry by his musical peers and by a dedicated fan base, is likely best known to younger generations for his Academy Award-winning songs and scores for Disney films including Toy Story. But his ability to balance a sharp satirical wit with naked emotion and heart and make it all hummable has earned him numerous accolades and fans.
The satirical bent is evidenced by some of his biggest and commonly misunderstood pop hits — the bouncy and controversial Short People and the feint praise of I Love L.A. The heart and emotion can be found in the plainspoken lyrics of songs such as the hurricane-themed Louisiana 1927, which gained new resonance after Hurricane Katrina, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story.
His rock hall honor is another in a long line of accolades that include his 2002 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction, 20 Academy Awards nominations (with two wins), three Emmys and five Gram’my Awards. This is his second nomination, but he’s been eligible since 1993.
The militant, fist-pumping, sloganeering rap group is known for its purposefully dense beats (courtesy of the production team the Bomb Squad), emcee Chuck D’s big voice and angry, pro-black screeds, balanced by class clown Flava Flav.
Albums such as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990) and Apocalypse ’91. The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), helped elevate and expand hip-hop from the more traditional party rocking and bragging. The group’s scorched-earth lyrical approach to issues facing the black community, found in songs such as Rebel Without a Pause, Fight the Power and Don’t Believe the Hype, jump-started hip-hop’s (long dead) socially conscious era, courted controversy and forced critics and pundits to take the music and the message seriously.
This is the first nomination for the band, which became eligible this year.
Best known as the Queen of Disco, Summer, who died in May, was an R&B singer who ruled the dance charts in the late 1970s with sexy songs including the breathy, pulsating I Feel Love and controversial Love to Love You Baby. In the ensuing years, Summer expanded her sound and crossed over with tunes such as the rock-flavored Hot Stuff, Bad Girls, She Works Hard for the Money, On the Radio and Enough Is Enough, her girl-power duet with Barbra Streisand. Summer had hits into the ’90s and in 1999, her VH1 television special Donna Summer … Live and More Encore received some of the network’s highest ratings.
This year’s nomination was Summer’s fifth. She’s been eligible since 1999.
Receiving the Ahmet Ertegun (nonperformer) Award is music producer and manager Adler, Jack Nicholson’s courtside buddy at Laker games. Adler is also a film director and owner of the fabled Roxy in Los Angeles. Besides owning one of the most famous rock clubs in the music’s storied history, Adler is known for producing Rocky Horror Picture Show, directing the classic stoner comedy Cheech and Chong Up in Smoke and producing artists such as the Mamas and the Papas, the Grass Roots and Sam Cooke.
Why this obvious choice has taken this long is a bit of mystery.
As a producer, Jones guided Michael Jackson’s trilogy of pop awesomeness — Off the Wall, Bad and Thriller (you know, the best-selling album of all time). He organized/produced We Are the World, produced the film adaptation of the Broadway musical The Wiz and performed and/or recorded with music legends, including Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald.
He won a best album of the year Grammy for his generation- and genre-melding hit album Back on the Block and gave the world two of the best television themes ever in Sanford & Son and Ironside.