Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees Announced: Our Writers Answer Six Big Questions
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2017 class of inductees has been announced, with Journey, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra, Pearl Jam, Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur set to be honored next April.
So now, naturally it's time to debate: Who got in that shouldn't have? Who was wrongly snubbed? Will Steve Perry and Jon Anderson reunite with their former bands at the ceremony? Our writers tackle six big Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2017 questions below.
1) Who is the most surprising inclusion?
Michael Gallucci: Joan Baez. She always seemed like a marginal performer within a marginal scene. And her influence over the years has pretty much been limited to just a small group of politically minded singer-songwriters. Plus, she's been eligible for induction from almost the start of the Rock Hall. There was no reason to believe they'd finally acknowledge her this year.
Nick DeRiso: Probably Yes, because – with the death of stalwart co-founder Chris Squire – they seemed like more of a sentimental shoo-in last year. I really wondered if Yes would ever get in at this point. Of course, there’s no denying the notion that this should have happened while Squire was alive, but at the same time, their belated inclusion raises the intriguing possibility of an onstage reunion between the band’s parallel factions.
Dave Lifton: It was a shock to see Joan Baez on the list. I guess there’s a precedent from a few years ago for those acts that are great but were on the fringe of what we consider rock when they inducted the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. And both have a Bob Dylan connection! Could we see Dave Van Ronk in 2018, perhaps?
Jeff Giles: Now that Kiss and Chicago are in, I'm not sure any inductees could really surprise me anymore. That said, I suppose I'm a little surprised that this ended up being Journey's year — although I think it's pretty clear that critical cred is really no longer the bar to entry that it used to be, and the Hall has entered an era during which they'll be forced to make a number of picks that would have surprised people years ago.
Matthew Wilkening: Joan Baez. Why now, out of nowhere? It's not like a new generation of songwriters influenced by her work suddenly revealed themselves to the world.
2) Who is the most surprising exclusion?
Gallucci: I don't think there were any real surprises this year. Maybe the fact that the nominating committee didn't go with at least one critical favorite – like Bad Brains or MC5 – over the more popular artists that dominate this year's class. Seems like there's usually one or two of these each year. Joan Baez is the closest they got, and she was never really critically adored.
DeRiso: The Cars. THE CARS. Seriously, the Cars.
Lifton: I thought Janet Jackson was a lock.
Giles: MC5 and Kraftwerk are both vastly more influential than some of the performers who ended up making the cut.
Wilkening: The Cars thing is just perplexing. All the other big New Wave bands are in there; it seems like they would be right in line with whom the Hall's voters have chosen in previous years. Their commercial and artistic credentials are undeniable, and they came in right behind Pearl Jam in the fan vote. Next year, I guess?
3) Do you think Steve Perry will perform with Journey?
Gallucci: Maybe one song. I can't see him showing up to the ceremony and not singing at least one verse of "Don't Stop Believin'."
DeRiso: Neal Schon, the keeper of the Journey flame, has made a series of very public efforts at detente with their former singer, seemingly to no avail. That said, perhaps this is just the moment that the reunion every Journey fan has been waiting for over the past two decades finally happens.
Lifton: Both sides have been very diplomatic toward each other in recent years, so it would be silly for it not to happen
Giles: You'd hope so, wouldn't you? Things seem to be in a pretty good place between Perry and his former bandmates — at least good enough that it's hard to believe he wouldn't emerge from hibernation for a night.
Wilkening: The ball's pretty clearly in Perry's court, the welcome mat has been laid out for him by Neal Schon for years now. Perry's largely disappeared for more than two decades now, and when he does pop up it is in unexpected places like World Series games or Eels concerts. Is it unreasonable to think he's just left this all behind him forever?
4) Do you think Jon Anderson will perform with Yes?
Gallucci: Definitely. He still regularly performs Yes songs, so as long as he shows up -- and why wouldn't he? -- we can expect to hear him sing "Roundabout" or some other Yes classic.
DeRiso: This one is trickier, I’d guess, with Chris Squire gone. Anderson certainly wrote plenty of great songs with Steve Howe, but the current lineup no longer features anyone who helped start the group. That shared history with Squire as co-founders of the band feels like Anderson’s connective tissue back to Yes.
Lifton: I don’t know. Anderson will definitely want to, and the Hall will want it, but the existing group might not be so open to it. There’s a lot of ego involved. I’ll get the popcorn.
Giles: Absolutely. They may still be soloing by the time the next batch of nominees is announced.
Wilkening: Well, you'd hope they wouldn't go up and perform in two different configurations, just for the sake of the poor stage crew.
5) Does this mean Pearl Jam are officially classic rock now?
Gallucci: They were classic rock as soon as radio started to play songs from Ten.
DeRiso: The ‘90s were longer ago than some people want to acknowledge. It’s time to let them join the club.
Lifton: They always have been.
Giles: If "classic rock" is a function of time — and I kinda think it is, to some extent — then Pearl Jam have aged into that category. There are obviously fans who hate the idea that any act outside the established classic-rock boundary could ever make its way in, but that's the same sort of thinking that makes veteran artists afraid to perform (or release) new music, and it's turning the genre into an increasingly narrow niche.
Wilkening: Fine, I withdraw the question. It doesn't bother anybody else that they've made at most three great albums, the last of them more than two decades ago?
6) Do you agree with Tupac Shakur being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What do you think of the people who get mad about rap artists being included?
Gallucci: Hop-hop belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as much as any other popular music. Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy and N.W.A are every bit as significant to popular music as the Beatles, the Stones and the Who. People who have a problem with rap in the Rock Hall should look at "rock 'n' roll" as an umbrella term for pop music and not get so caught up in one narrow genre. It makes more sense that way. That said, I think Tupac Shakur is one of hip-hop's most overrated artists. Then again, I never liked Journey all that much either.
DeRiso: Couldn’t this same "not-rock" argument have been made about James Brown, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles – all members of the Hall of Fame’s very first class? It was the wrong argument to make then, and it’s wrong now.
Lifton: I’ve got no problem with hip-hop acts being inducted. It’s part of the continuum of African American music that also gave us the blues, R&B and soul, which nobody complains about. But for some reason, a flag goes up when you bring up disco or rap acts. I think the problem is that the idea of the Hall was conceived in the mid-‘80s, when it was unknown if hip-hop would be around. Maybe they should change the name to reflect all genres, but “Post-1955 Popular Music Hall of Fame” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Giles: It's pretty difficult to build a persuasive argument for Tupac as a "rock" artist, but on the other hand, genre boundaries are pretty arbitrary. Just as rock's greatest acts borrowed building blocks from other "types" of music, rap and hip-hop (and pop and R&B and soul and ... ) are part of the same continuum of sound. They share DNA. The Hall has really always been a celebration of the greatest and most successful music of the rock era, anyway. There are definitely better things to get angry over.
Wilkening: Those people are getting way too caught up in semantics. I can't say I thought Tupac deserved the honor, but Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C absolutely fulfilled rock 'n' roll's most important missions, of innovation and rebelliousness.
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