Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2019 Nominees: Our Writers Answer Five Big Questions
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's has announced candidates for its Class of 2019 and, as per usual, some justly celebrated acts are included – but there are always curious omissions and questionable reaches.
We decided to delve into a few of these issues, as voters – and the fans – decide on a ballot that includes Def Leppard, Devo, Kraftwerk, MC5, Radiohead, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, the Cure, Todd Rundgren and the Zombies, among others.
Each of them became eligible after releasing their first commercial recordings at least 25 years ago. But so did plenty of others, some of whom have been waiting for some time to earn this signature recognition. Keep scrolling for a lively discussion on this year's surprises, key snubs, and sure-thing candidates.
Overall, what do you think of this year’s class of Hall of Fame nominees?
Matthew Wilkening: We’re well into the mop-up years now. The obvious first-year nominees used to be easy to predict years ahead of time. Now it seems to be more a matter of picking an artist that’s been waiting a few years to represent each of the various genre or demographic-based boxes that get filled every year. It was very surprising that Radiohead didn’t get in on their first ballot last year, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Foo Fighters two years from now.
Michael Gallucci : Not too many surprises, lots of repeats from previous years, but none of these artists really has me shaking my head this year. Still, it sure seems like the Hall of Fame is playing catch-up these past few years. Not one of this year's nominees is newly eligible this year.
Dave Lifton: This isn't a value judgment on any of the acts, but it reads like a bunch of retreads. Even most of the acts that are on the ballot for the first time feel like they've been nominated several times over. Todd Rundgren and Roxy Music really haven't been nominated before? But I still like that they've diversified, going with other genres than blues-rooted classic rock.
Martin Kielty: The best in a long, long time. Aside from the usual couple of “they’re not rock” names – Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Chaka Kahn – it’s a good strong list with good strong arguments in favor of every nominee. Plus, the breadth of genres is a decent attempt at inclusiveness. There are long, long nights in the pub ahead, arguing over this list, and the arguments are going to be fun.
Nick DeRiso: Very much a make-good year. Can't complain about that, even if it doesn't feel all that buzzy. Of course, there are still some important names to get to, even beyond all of these returning previous nominees – including King Crimson, Motorhead, the Doobie Brothers, Jethro Tull and Warren Zevon, among others. Fingers crossed.
Who is the most surprising nominee?
Wilkening: John Prine. No offense to his talent or highly dedicated following at all, it’s just an unexpected choice. (And full disclosure, when I expressed this surprise, half of the team pretty much ripped my head off.)
Lifton: The only name that popped out was John Prine. He's been recording regularly since 1971, and put out a good album this year, but it seems like he's had a higher profile recently, possibly in part due to being championed by Jason Isbell. I doubt he'll get in, but anything that gives him mainstream press and draws attention to his catalog is a bonus.
Gallucci: Stevie Nicks. The Hall of Fame usually reserves solo artists who are already in with their bands for people like Neil Young, whose solo catalog surpasses or at least equals his band output. Frankly, Nicks' solo work is pretty underwhelming. That said, I think she has a pretty good chance of making it in this year. Her influence on female artists has grown so much over the past few years.
Martin Kielty: John Prine. While it’s wonderful to see his name there, and I’ve heard him name checked through the years by a wide range of artists, I don’t think his public profile matches the Rock Hall’s ambitions. They still get points for associating themselves with him, though.
DeRiso: Yep – John Prine, but I have different reasons. He is, of course, one of the country's most important songwriters. Smart and funny, he's won two Grammys, earned praise from Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Roger Waters, and serves as a source of literary influence for next-gen acts like Jason Isbell. Prine strikes an inspirational figure too, having fought through a series of devastating ailments. So, of course, he probably has zero chance.
What’s the most surprising snub?
Wilkening: Judas Priest. if you want to say they were never the very first at any one particular thing, fine. But they were right on the forefront of three distinct and important eras in heavy metal history, are repeatedly cited as a huge influence on future generations, and have maintained a high standard of excellence for almost five decades now. By snubbing them, you’re basically thumbing your nose at heavy metal as a whole.
Gallucci: No Warren Zevon again? Or what about Jethro Tull and King Crimson, as far as catch-up influential classic rockers go?
Lifton: In general, the lack of a true pre-Nirvana American alternative band, like Husker Du or the Pixies. I guess they're covering those bases with Devo and the Cure, but they both also had their share of hits on the pop chart. I was also surprised to not see the J. Geils Band on the list, because they've been on it for years.
Martin Kielty: The continuing lack of tribute to Lemmy is the single biggest factor that smashes the stained-glass decor of the Rock Hall’s claimed intentions. Was there a bigger rock ’n’ roll star? Doubt it. Will there ever be anyone that big again? No. Until Lemmy is in the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame itself is no more than Hall of Fame nominee.
DeRiso: King Crimson. Now that Genesis, Rush and Yes have been inducted, presumably for their proggier efforts rather than the pop stuff, it's hard to imagine what's keeping Robert Fripp's band off the ballot.
Is there a hard rock / metal act that should have been nominated before Def Leppard?
Wilkening: There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with Def Leppard being nominated this year; they should have been inducted years ago. But along those same lines of logic, if the past decade of so of voting had gone properly Judas Priest and Iron Maiden would have already been there to welcome them in.
Gallucci: Iron Maiden seem the logical choice here considering their long and looming influence on the genre. But I get it: Def Leppard are way more accessible, sold way more records and commercially make way more sense.
Lifton: The only one I can think of is Foreigner. Their sales figures were only slightly smaller but they had that mixture of hard rockers and ballads, with Mutt Lange's studio polish, a few years before Def Leppard.
Martin Kielty: You just can’t have Def Leppard nominated before Iron Maiden in terms of career effect. The difference, of course, is that Def Lep never shied away from the aim of being “the biggest band in the world” (and for a short time, they were). Def Leppard will comfortably play ball with the Rock Hall; Maiden would rather kick the ball into the crowd and forfeit the game than follow the rules. But since Iron Maiden have more right to write rules than the Rock Hall, they should be inducted.
DeRiso: Iron Maiden, if we're going by influential impact; Judas Priest, for a more mainstream pick.
Who do you think will get in this year?
Wilkening: From these choices, my ballot would be Def Leppard (who will walk away with the largely ceremonial fan vote, just like Bon Jovi did last year), Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Radiohead and LL Cool J. But if we’re betting on who will actually get in, replace Rundgren with MC5 and probably LL Cool J with Janet Jackson.
Gallucci: Not necessarily my choices as to who should get in next year, but Def Leppard, MC5, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead and Roxy Music seem like the most obvious choices based on the Hall of Fame's recent class selections.
Lifton: Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J and Roxy Music.
Martin Kielty: Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks and MC5 are my top bids, but the Rock Hall thrives on controversy (and therefore headlines) so I’ll hedge my bets re the others. Oh, probably the Zombies in that “and finally” left-field thing the Rock Hall likes to do.
DeRiso: The fact that first-ballot-worthy candidates like Radiohead aren't in already is astonishing. Beyond that, I'd guess Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson and Roxy Music.