The day the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its inaugural class for 1986, music fans started complaining — “Hey, they picked Fats Domino, why did they leave out B.B. King?” Twenty-five years later, controversy resurfaces every time the hall of fame announces its new class of inductees. The hall will announce its 2012 inductees in a few weeks, and once again, many music fans will complain that their favorite group has been overlooked. These fans look at some of the musicians who are already in the hall of fame, and think, “You can’t be serious.” Here are 10 groups that deserve a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, based on several factors, including their influence, popularity and critical acclaim. Finally, there’s the ultimate litmus test — are they more talented and deserving of a spot than artists already in the hall?
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers rank low on this list for only one reason — they’ve only been eligible for the hall of fame since 2009, and they seem to be a shoo-in for the hall when officials announce the inductees for 2012. If they don’t make it this year, they would move nearer the top of this list.
So what does it take to earn a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? According to the hall’s criteria, found on its website, “We shall consider factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.” You could interpret that statement many different ways, but the band Chicago seems to prove that popularity, strong record sales, musical talent and longevity aren’t enough to rate a spot in the hall of fame. Formed in 1967, and still touring with four original members, Chicago has a slew of gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums, five of which reached No. 1. The group continues to receive heavy airplay on classic rock, pop and easy-listening stations.
8. Hall & Oates
We tried to limit this list to rock-oriented groups and individuals (since it is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). So you won’t find Donna Summer or other disco, rap or pop singers. But we have to make an exception here for pop rockers Daryl Hall and John Oates. Their music rocks harder than a number of musicians who are already in the HOF. Their body of work has earned them six No. 1 hits and countless other accolades. They deserve a spot in the hall.
7. Jimmy Buffett
Buffett’s music is an acquired taste — you either love it, or you don’t. You don’t exactly hate it, either, because such infectiously catchy songs as Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise evoke images of good times and good friends. Although he’s better known for his tours and his large following of Parrotheads than his studio albums, Buffett still has seven multi-platinum records. His music can also be heard on Radio Margaritaville on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
6. Several Classic Rock Groups
Grouping several bands together like this and not choosing one or two in particular might seem gutless, but frankly, you could fill this list with groups that are often dismissed as “arena rock bands” (as though the ability to consistently sell out large stadiums and arenas is something to be ashamed about). The point here is that hall of fame voters have been frequently criticized for ignoring some extremely popular and influential 1970s and ’80s classic rock bands. That’s changed in recent years with the induction of groups such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath and Van Halen. But will hall voters honor other arena rockers from a class that includes, in no particular order, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Journey, Deep Purple, Bad Company, the Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Styx and Grand Funk? Probably not anytime soon. Eventually, several will probably find their way in, years after they deserved to be selected.
5. Joe Cocker
What’s so surprising about Joe Cocker’s failure to make the hall is that he seems to embody many of the characteristics hall of fame voters love. He’s universally admired and has worked with many critically acclaimed musicians who are in the hall of fame. Several of his songs, namely You Are So Beautiful, Feelin’ Alright, With a Little Help From My Friends and the duet Up Where We Belong, are instantly recognizable to several generations of music fans around the world. And he played at Woodstock to boot. Cocker is 67. You know he’ll get in the hall some day, but it would be nice if he were around to have some time to enjoy the honor.
Here’s another group you could stick in the category of classic rock bands that have been ignored (see No. 6 above). Heart gets a waiver because Ann and Nancy Wilson are not only supremely talented, they’re women who rock, a rarity in the music business when they started, and a rarity today. They’re among the 15 finalists for the 2012 class, so this could be their year. On a final note, Pat Benatar deserves to be in the hall, too, but Joan Jett, one of this year’s nominees, will probably make the hall before either Heart or Benatar, despite a career that doesn’t compare as well.
Progressive rock groups haven’t fared well with hall of fame voters. Genesis finally entered the hall in 2010, years after they were first eligible. Fellow progressive rockers the Moody Blues, Yes and Rush are still on the outside looking in. Of the three, Rush stands the best chance of being honored soon. Their musical talent is undeniable — Rolling Stone Magazine readers voted Neil Peart the third best drummer in rock history in 2011, and guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee have also made some “Best of” lists. As we’ve seen from some of the other bands on this list, record sales apparently don’t matter that much, but here’s a very surprising factoid: according to the Recording Industry Association of America, Rush ranks third among rock bands for most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. The two bands ahead of Rush? The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
2. Stevie Ray Vaughan
What is the most popular and iconic instrument in rock ’n’ roll? The piano? No. The stand-up bass? Maybe if this were 1954. The most popular instrument in rock history is the guitar. And Stevie Ray Vaughan is near the top of almost every “Greatest Guitar Players of All Time List” that has come out in the past 25 years. Some consider him the greatest guitar player ever. So if one of the greatest guitar players of all time isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is that a knock against Stevie Ray Vaughan? Or does it bring the whole concept of the hall of fame into question? This is his fourth year of eligibility.
One word: Why? Many critics contend a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without Kiss isn’t really a Hall of Fame. For millions of music fans, Kiss is the personification of rock ’n’ roll — loud guitar, screaming vocals, stage theatrics, a huge fan base selling out concerts and buying Kiss lunchboxes and other collectibles. And the band has been doing this for almost 40 years. Frankly, from a commercial and marketing standpoint, the hall of fame needs Kiss more than Kiss needs it.
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