For Rock Hall of Fame, Supposed “Influence” More Important Than Mass Popularity?

Charles Brown

Should Charles Brown be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before Todd Rundgren or Jeff Lynne?

By Phill Marder

Sifting through a year’s worth of comments, or influence and other stuff that doesn’t mean squat…

Over the past year I’ve gotten a lot of mail and just about every piece has appeared in print, with the one or two that were complimentary receiving priority. But we’ve still got readers using the “I” word, the most overused and meaningless word around, except, perhaps, diva.

Now, why do I loathe and detest the word influence? I was puzzled myself. Never used to have violent reactions to that word. What suddenly made me cringe whenever I saw it in print? After much thought, the source of my discontent revealed itself.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keeps inducting artists who are cult favorites while ignoring true Rock & Roll giants. And almost every time I’d read the bio or publicity release issued by the RRHOF, the word influence was the reason as in, “they/he/she didn’t sell five records in their lifetime, but they were a huge influence on every artist who ever lived. There’s no way to prove it. Just take our word for it because we nominated them and voted them in and we (the 30 or 40 members of the nominating committee) know better than all you saps out there buying the music.”

Some examples – and just a few because there’s enough for a whole year’s worth of blog entries –
Charles Brown – The Hall of Fame biography states, “Charles Brown was a major musical figure in the pre-rock and roll era of the late Forties and early Fifties.” and later states “Brown’s mellow blues stylings fell out of favor during the rock and roll revolution of the Fifties.”

Nothing against Brown, but the guy – according to the Hall of Fame, itself – wasn’t even popular during the Rock & Roll era, so why is he in the Hall of Fame when so many famous rockers are not? Well, according to the Hall of Fame biography, he had a lot of rhythm & blues hits in the ’40s and he’s often cited as an influence on Ray Charles. Great. Then he should be in the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. If he must be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, why not in the “Early Influence” category I asked when this article was first printed as Brown was listed in the Performer category by the Hall of Fame website. Readers Roy and Tom Lane questioned this (see comments) and the next day (10-18-2011) Brown’s category was changed to Early Influence. Good job gentlemen.

“Guitarists ranging from Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield, to Peter Green, Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana have all acknowledged their debt to Freddie King (1934-1976), the ‘Texas Cannonball,’” says the Hall of Fame. And they owe nothing to any other guitarist? The HOF resume of BB King states, “His influence on a generation of rock and blues guitarists – including Eric Clapton(again), Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan – has been inestimable.” King is quoted as saying, “We don’t play Rock and Roll. Our music is Blues, straight from the Delta” and the HOF calls him “the genre’s(Blues) most recognizable and influential artist.” Meanwhile, a truly great guitarist who actually played on many Rock & Roll hits can’t get a nomination. I speak of Glen Campbell.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground “one of the most important rock & roll bands of all time”?

Here’s one of my favorites. Again, from the Hall of Fame biography – “The influence of the Velvet Underground on rock greatly exceeds their sales figures and chart numbers. They are one of the most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the Sixties for many tangents rock music would take in ensuing decades. Yet just two of their four original studio albums ever even made Billboard’s Top 200, and that pair – The Velvet Underground and Nico (#171) and White Light/White Heat (#199) – only barely did so.”

How can you make statements like that? How can you prove they were so influential or one of the most important bands of all time. Who’s saying this nonsense? Hardly anyone bought their records. Why? Because they couldn’t play and couldn’t sing. And most of their songs weren’t even very good.

Brian Eno is quoted as saying, “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

First of all, that’s a ridiculous statement if taken as fact. Eno’s point is made, though. They were “highly influential.” But how many of those inspired to start bands were inspired because they felt, “these guys are so bad, we can’t be any worse!”? So I offer my own ridiculous statement – “Chicago sold only six billion albums, but every horn player in the universe bought one and was inspired to join or start a Rock & Roll band.” As insane as that remark is, it certainly makes more sense than Eno’s quote, or the Hall of Fame’s, for that matter.

For those who have complained about Percy Sledge’s induction, take this, the opening line of Sledge’s bio on the Hall of Fame website – “If Percy Sledge had only recorded ‘When a Man Loves a Woman,’ one of the greatest of all soul songs, he would have earned his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Really? One song gets you into the Hall of Fame? That’s like a guy going into Cooperstown after hitting a home run in his first at-bat, then adding a few singles mixed in with a ton of strikeouts over the next couple decades. Isn’t there supposed to be a great body of work? How about all the great songs recorded by Mary Wells, Jerry Butler, Dionne Warwick etc., etc.? How about Neil Sedaka, Jack Scott, Freddy Cannon, US Bonds, Johnny Rivers, etc.? How about some I haven’t even written about, such as the great Chuck Jackson, who could sing circles around Sledge. But wait…I forgot…who was on Atlantic Records?

And the dreck has continued year after year. This years bios tell us: “Together, the Small Faces and Faces have been a lasting inspiration on artists like the Black Crowes, the Jam’s Paul Weller, the Replacements and Oasis,” like all the great artists yet to be nominated never inspired anyone.

“In the 1990s, (Joan) Jett’s no-nonsense attitude and guitar sound was a major influence on the riot grrrl movement, and she went on to produce Bikini Kill and record with L7. Her success inspired renewed interest in the Runaways, who were dismissed in their day as a gimmick.” Not really. They were dismissed as being not very good. As far as the influence part goes, ever hear of Fanny, Marianne Faithful, Cher? How ’bout the baddest of the bad girls – Nancy Sinatra? And didn’t Suzi Quatro have the black leather, biker chick look a couple years before the Runaways. Yes, she did. But the Shangri-Las had it years before Quatro, too.

Chaka Khan? “…influencing pop stars and critical favorites from Mary J. Blige to Ledisi. (It is impossible to imagine the contemporary hip-hop-soul diva without Khan’s earthy, rhythmically savvy template.)” My sentiments exactly.

The HOF bio acknowledges Eric B. & Rakim made just four albums, BUT “All four albums were hugely influential – it is difficult to imagine contemporary stars like Jay-Z and Eminem existing at all without them.” I’m sure both Jay-Z and Eminem would be washing cars now if not for Eric B. & Rakim.

Laura Nyro? “Elton John acclaimed her influence to Elvis Costello: “The soul, the passion, the out-and-out audacity of her rhythmic and melody changes was like nothing I’d ever heard before.”

Get the picture? You can take any artist you like and find someone to call them influential. Worse still, you can find some pretentious “music critic” to make outlandish statements, and quote them in your supportive bios.

“The Clash is the only band that matters” and “The Clash brought Great Britain to its knees.” !Yikes! There were a lot of bands selling a lot more records, so evidently other bands did matter, especially to a music industry basing its survival on sales. As for the Great Britain quote, even the American colonies didn’t bring that Empire to its knees. We just kicked its shins a few times. The Nazi bombing of London may be the only event to bring the Empire to its knees…and even that wasn’t for long. Brit rhymes with grit, you know.

I liked The Clash, but other bands – The Moody Blues, The Guess Who, even bands such as The Grass Roots and The Buckinghams and hundreds of others – also mattered.

Small Faces

Should the Small Faces be inducted before The Monkees, The Moody Blues, Deep Purple or Rush?

When I asked him to provide proof of the Small Faces’ “influence,” reader Steve very articulately and politely responded, “’Proof’ as you’ve described it is pretty much unprovable. All I have to go by are the countless artists who have cited (Steve) Marriott as one who inspired them. The list is considerable, and goes back to Robert Plant (a fan of Small Faces), Paul Stanley, Steve Perry, Rod Stewart himself, and especially Chris Robinson who has praised Marriott on many occasions.”

Point taken. But again, I really doubt if Plant or any of the others Steve mentioned would have been tax accountants or professional boxers or something else if they hadn’t heard Marriott.

So, I give Steve – and you – this quote from Plant: “When I was a kid I used to hide behind the curtains at home at Christmas and I used to try and be Elvis.” He didn’t try to be Steve Marriott, he tried to be Elvis.

And for every Paul Stanley and Steve Perry inspired by Marriott, I can give you an example such as Brian Wilson saying of The Monkees, perhaps, according to fan reaction, the biggest Rock Hall omission to date, “The Monkees inspired me to write ‘Break Away’ with my dad.” Or what about Taylor Swift, perhaps the biggest star out there today, who recently named Bon Jovi one of her influences

And speaking of Elvis (sorry Declan, there’s only one Elvis), isn’t he “the King Of Rock & Roll?” Wasn’t one of his favorite singers Dean Martin? You can hear Martin in many of Elvis’ vocal inflections. You even can see Martin in many of Elvis’ mannerisms. If you’re going to put people into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the basis of influence, why isn’t Dean Martin in there?

Before I leave you, back to Nyro. I wrote “Laura Nyro – May have more nominations than memorable songs written” and concerning Chaka Khan I said, “In all the years I’ve studied this subject, never once have I seen or heard this group (Rufus) or Chaka Khan mentioned as one that should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not once.” For Eric B. & Rakim, I simply wrote, “Who?”

On Facebook, a gentleman commented, “…the Laura Nyro diss is stupid. And if you don’t know who Eric B. & Rakim are, do some research. And the Chaka Khan slam is also ignorant. BTW- the nominating committee has previously considered her in the past.”

The “diss” (wow, I got to use cool, new lingo) was stupid? Nyro has been nominated the last three years and, in my opinion, only wrote two truly memorable songs, “And When I Die” and “Wedding Bell Blues.” The former became memorable thanks to the talent of Blood, Sweat & Tears, the latter thanks to a great showing by the Fifth Dimension. I considered “Eli’s Coming,” but that really took a great job by Three Dog Night to make it a smash. Nyro, herself, had no hits and her albums sold moderately, at best. She was good, and she wrote other good songs, but, as I stated, “Maybe she deserves it (induction). But before Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Bob Crewe, Jimmy Webb, PF Sloan, Thom Bell and countless other songwriting greats?” Of course, that’s probably a stupid question, too.

Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro, the greatest songwriter not yet inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame?

The Chaka Khan “slam” ignorant? Maybe. I didn’t realize it was a “slam.” To me, it’s just fact. What I wrote was factual. The nominating committee previously considered her? What’s that mean…they sat around a table and someone said, “What about Chaka Khan?” I wasn’t at that table, and it’s not likely I’ll ever be invited, so nobody ever recommended her to me – verbally or in written form – and that’s what I stated. Just ignorant fact.

As for the research comment, the “Who?” was written tongue in cheek because I would imagine most Goldmine readers would have that response. But if I or any reader of Goldmine has to “do some research” to learn about someone who is nominated for the Hall of Fame, then they shouldn’t be nominated. Chubby Checker and approximately 1,000 other artists never nominated, have more Hall of Fame credentials than Eric B. & Rakim and I wouldn’t have to do research to find out who they are.

The biggest problem I’ve seen the last year is that the Hall of Fame has no criteria except the 25-year rule. That’s why the word “influence” is so prominent in their prose. In many cases, there’s nothing else to justify their selections.

Next time, we’re going to offer some criteria that actually can be substantiated by fact, not just opinion, and some other changes the Rock Hall may wish to consider. If you have any suggestions, please place them in the comment section.

We’re also going to take a close look at just what constitutes “Rock & Roll,” another hot button topic among readers.

Maybe, just maybe, we can influence the Hall of Fame enough that it actually gets in tune with the public. Did I just use the word influence? Quick – hand me a gun.

34 thoughts on “For Rock Hall of Fame, Supposed “Influence” More Important Than Mass Popularity?

  1. I see the writer mentioned me. The last half of this is a takedown of my Facebook response. To the writer: let’s debate the Hall anytime, any place on a neutral site. Have the guts? Email me and let’s do it.

    What would you like to debate Tom? And what’s a neutral site? You want to meet in a parking lot somewhere?

  2. LAURA NYRO

    THE BILLBOARD 200 ALBUMS CHART

    01. 1968 – # 181 – Eli And The Thirteenth Confession
    02. 1969 – # 32 – New York Tendaberry
    03. 1971 – # 51 – Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat
    04. 1972 – # 46 – Gonna Take A Miracle
    05. 1973 – # 97 – The First Songs
    06. 1976 – # 60 – Smile
    07. 1977 – # 137 – Season Of Lights…Laura Nyro In Concert
    08. 1984 – # 182 – Mother’s Spiritual
    09. 2001 – # 8 – Angel In The Dark

    THE BILLBOARD 100 SINGLES CHART

    01. 1970 – # 92 – Up On The Roof

  3. To Phill Marder

    Are you familiar with the websites:

    Future Rock Legends and Digital Dream Door ?

    Do you keep track of the Songwriters Hall of Fame?

    Roy –

    Yes No Yes

    Phill

  4. “Influence” is always the most nebulous and abused term when people try to gauge a band’s relative importance. And it becomes more difficult to accept in the context of less commercially successful bands. Rarely can you point to an instance when a band is so influential that musical trends would not simply precede along the same lines if the supposedly influential band did not exist. (In most cases it is a bunch of bands that spark a musical trend, not just one.) And musical influence (actually affecting musical trends) has to be distinguished from personal inspiration.

    The bottom line is that on some level every major musical act is influential. In very few cases however do you have an instance where the influence is tangible, such as the Sex Pistols touching off the punk explosion in the UK. Maybe it would have happened anyway. Maybe other bands-hello NY Dolls-beat them to it. But the case is at least historically credible. But too often a band’s supporters weave an overblown tale in telling us how influential a band allegedly is. At some point, after a band’s apologists in the music press drive the claim into the ground, when does an artist’s alleged influence become something akin to conventional wisdom to be parroted by subsequent artists?

    I will say that the Velvet Underground is cited by a lot of bands from the punk era who shared that sensibility and that the sensibility the VU presented was different than a lot of the music from their era. I don’t think saying the VU was very influential is off base. It would be a shame if commercially unsuccessful bands were excluded from recognition on that basis. But in weighing a band’s supposed influence, there should be something more concrete than artist A liked artist B. There are influential and innovative bands in music history, but largely and virtually inevitably that influence went hand in hand with commercial success.

  5. Wait, wait, wait. The first example he uses is Charles Brown. Says Brown should be in the Early Influence category and not the main performer one. Attention Goldmine magazine! How did you let this writer get this past you without fact checking.
    Charles Brown was inducted in the Early Influence category in 1999. So, his expert analysis (tsk, tsk) on whether Brown is taking up some sort of imaginary valuable main perfomer category space is invalid.
    How did this writer get to do a Rock Hall article for this magazine’s website in the first place?
    This guy doesn’t think BB King or the Velvet Underground should be in the Rock Hall? How did you let him write a piece on the Rock Hall in the first place?
    We want answers.

    Tom –

    You may be correct. But according to the Hall of Fame website, Brown is inducted as a performer. Could the Hall of Fame have made a mistake? I suppose so. But that’s what it says.

    Phill

  6. I usually find errors on the Rock Hall pages. I report them to the Rock Hall by email and they get fixed.

    Wikipedia lists Brown in the Early Influence category

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Rock_and_Roll_Hall_of_Fame_inductees

    I will email the Rock Hall about Charles Brown, as well as Steve Douglas, who is listed in the performers category instead of the sidemen category.

    Roy –

    Wikipedia may be right, but I would have to follow what the Hall of Fame website says as official until they change it and he’s listed as “performer” in three different places! Brown was inducted in 1999, so they’ve had 12 years to correct it so far !! And Roy, do me a favor…see if you can find out if Jerry Butler was inducted with the Impressions. He should be in as a solo artist instead, but I haven’t found anyone “official” who can say if he’s in or not either way.
    Thanks,
    Phill

    NICE JOB ROY & TOM, OR WHOEVER WAS RESPONSIBLE. WHEN I CHECKED THE HOF WEBSITE THE MORNING OF 10/18/2011, THE INDUCTION CATEGORY OF CHARLES BROWN HAD BEEN CHANGED TO “EARLY INFLUENCE.” ALSO STEVE DOUGLAS HAS BEEN CHANGED FROM PERFORMER TO SIDEMAN. I WILL REVISE THE STORY ACCORDINGLY.

  7. Why should anyone pay attention to your argument–you’re not “popular.” But here’s a hypothetical: Let’s say that next year at the nominating committee meeting someone circulates your article and the nominating committee decides that you’re right and they ought to only nominate popular artists. Additionally, let’s say that the nominating committee admits that this article changed their minds even though only a handful of people ever read it on the Internet. Do you think you would deserve credit as the person who forever changed the way the R&RHoF memorialized its inductees, even though few people read your “unpopular” article? Or would it be better to heap credit on “popular” publications and websites for simply writing about the R&RHoF even if their writing on the subject is derivative or overtly commercial?

    Jason –
    Terrific point. If I thought I was the only fan offering this argument, I probably would re-think the argument. On the contrary, I may be wrong but from what I’ve read in many places and from almost everyone I’ve talked to, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is on the “unpopular” side of the fence. I’m not the “voice of reason in the wilderness.” In fact, go up a few comments to Astrodog, who expresses himself a lot better than I do, or drop down to Paul, who did likewise.
    If you have 300 people saying Connie Francis belongs in the Hall of Fame and 300 other people saying Wanda Jackson belongs, how do you decide which one gets in? Either put both in, or go by the music industry barometer for success. That is not opinion. That is record sales and concert tickets sold.
    The handful of readers of this blog named the following as the artists thay wanted to see nominated this year: The Monkees; The E-Street Band; Todd Rundgren; Deep Purple; The Smiths; Duran Duran; The Cure; Jethro Tull; Yes; Jimmy Buffett; Heart; Linda Ronstadt and The Moody Blues.
    I would think this group represents artists who are not just popular, but talented as well. And – again I may be wrong – but I believe this list would be much better received by the public than the one offered by the HOF. Just because you’re popular – or “commercial” – doesn’t mean you’re not talented or without merit.
    Phill

  8. My biggest gripe about the Hall: It is supposed to be a ‘Hall of Fame’, not a ‘Hall of Give You Some Fame’.

    Nice article, Phil.

    Thanks Paul.

  9. You seriously said the VU werne’t important enough to be inducted?
    That is a credibility killer if I ever saw one.

  10. The Charles Brown and Steve Douglas entries have been fixed by the Rock Hall!!

    Charles Brown – Early Influence
    Steve Douglas – Sideman

    Jerry Butler is listed as an inductee with The Impressions on wikipedia. The Rock Hall bio for The Impressions mentions Jerry Butler, but only three members of the group are pictured, I don’t know who’s who. Jerry Butler did say those trophies were heavy when he inducted Gamble & Huff. I don’t know if that’s a sign of whether or not he was inducted or not. I’m trying to remember if Jerry Butler was called a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer by the announcer when he stepped out on stage in 2008 to induct Gamble & Huff. I’ll have to check the tape!

    Roy – See your other comment & also see the Charles Brown section of the story. The three Impressions pictured are the three who should be inducted, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden & Fred Cash. Butler sang lead on just the first single, “For Your Precious Love,” & the Brooks Brothers also were gone before the group released its first LP, “The Impressions.” Let me know what you find out.

    Thanks again –

    Phill

  11. Commercial success on its own should not be taken into consideration for induction. In any event, there are plenty of acts in the Hall of Fame who enjoyed mass commercial success- and some also happen to be regarded as the greatest/most important/influential, too. Critical acclaim (especially on best/greatest features and lists) should be an integral part of the process- and is- especially in regards to acts like Velvet Underground. Of course, some acts in the Hall of Fame did not enjoy as much critical success as others, but they usually enter the Hall long after they become eligible (i.e. Neil Diamond).

    I agree that Percy Sledge is one of the biggest head-scratchers. While that one song is very revered, it should not be enough for induction.

    For some acts, it’s just a matter of when they get inducted. It took Neil Diamond 22 years since he became eligible, and that shows that the same can happen for other acts who may not be the biggest critical/historical smashes.

    Nicely put JR. The problem is who decides Percy Sledge is more important than Neil Diamond? Or The Velvet Underground is more important than Jeff Lynne and ELO?

  12. Don’t Hall of Fames have requirements like most home runs, yards passed, 3pt scored or how often they were number one? They just have 25 years and what they think is important (or on Atlantic records). There should be some bar to meet along with influence or it is just someones opinion.

    Here is an example. Maybe you don’t like the Monkees, but how can you deny them consideration when you look at their record (no need to go into how popular, etc they were/are).

    Oh I forgot that only snooty people get to decide who is in and who is out and they did not play on their first two albums. Well they ended up playing on their albums and in concert. They even wrote a few of their songs. By that measure, they certainly are more deserving then the Supremes. No I don’t think the Monkees are more deserving then the Supremes. I am just pointing out one of the biggest hurdles the Monkees have to climb. There are also others I think should get in before the Monkees, but the Monkees should be in way before a lot that are already inducted.

    There should be some standard of achievement or it just becomes a joke. Who’d of thunk that Rock n Roll would be so hogged tied my snooty opinions and not what the people wanted. Rock n Roll in controlled by “the Man”. Didn’t Rock n Roll start out as against “the Man”?

    By the way Donovan and Heart would be the only ones I would induct. Others should have to wait.

  13. Twenty Six years have now passed since Smokey Robinson’s “solo” induction… and STILL no induction for the rest of the MIRACLES. Now it is 2011. Marv Tarplin has just died. Ronnie White left us in 1995. And word is that Pete Moore and Bobby Rogers are not doing well. SHAME on the RRHOF for TOTALLY IGNORING one of the greatest , most historically important groups of all time. Influence ?? BY FAR,the most influential group on the Motown label. No less than 59 (yes, FIFTY NINE) of their songs covered by literally SCORES of other artists… in EVERY MUSICAL GENRE you can think of. Pop.Rock.R&B/Soul. Country-Western.Jazz. Reggae.MOR.You name it, The Miracles have influenced it.But still no induction. Not even a NOMINATION. In Twenty-Six years.The group who’s success launched the ENTIRE MOTOWN PHENOMONON.
    And, wouldn’t it be ironic if all of The Miracles (including Claudette) left us… and the only person left alive to accept the award (once they FINALLY got around to inducting them)….was SMOKEY ?

  14. INFLUENTIAL ? YES.
    WROTE THEIR OWN SONGS ? YES (ALL of them…NOT JUST SMOKEY)
    HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT ? YOU BETCHA.
    POPULAR? YUP.WORLDWIDE.
    INFLUENCED THE BRITISH INVASION ?? TREMENDOUSLY.
    STILL REMEMBERED TODAY ?? YOU GOT IT.
    INDUCTED ?………..

    no.

    Why no induction for The MIRACLES ??

    Topcat –

    Because those in the know feel they’re not as important as The Velvet Underground?

    Phill

  15. Exactly , Phill.They are a perfect example, and a commentary on everything that’s WRONG with the RRHOF.

    That’s why I just can’t understand the logics and politics behind the Rock Hall’s process of choosing who should be in and who shouldn’t. Excuses are made for minor-level artists to justify their inductions…while at the same time , artists and groups who should be SHOO- INS for induction are left out ….with no reasonable explanation given AT ALL for their omission.

  16. I do think that “Influence” should be as important, if not possibly more Important than mass popularity for entry into the R&RHoF. I would however disagree that it is. IF it were, both Doug Sahm and Tom Dowd would have been entered into the Hall WELL ahead of many that are in. That fact alone leads me to the conclusion that mass popularity is, more often than not, more important to the HoF voters than Influence. Add to that the fact that Leon Russell should have been in years ago, and before many of the earlier inductees as well if Influence was more important to HoF voters. Besides, any serious music lover knows that mass popularity does not necessarily indicate a better quality of music, and HoF credentials should certainly put musical quality and influence ahead of popularity.

    Al Moss

    Al

    Musical quality & influence are matters of opinion. The problem remains, who decides whose opinion is correct? Any serious music lover would consider Beethoven, Bach & Mozart quality music. Yet they remain, even today, extremely popular.

    Phill

  17. Phill –

    Certainly there is some opinion involved, but I think musical quality and influence are as much factual as opinion amongst people who really know music (especially with influence being often documented thru interviews and comments from those influenced), and HOF voters are generally considered, or certainly should be considered, knowledgeable music people. And there can certainly be no question of the influence of Doug, Tom, and Leon.

    Al

  18. btw, Phill, I did not mean imply that quality and influence were always separate from popularity. <> Often, however, they are, and thus all three should be weighed in R&RHoF voting consideration, and there are many influential (and quality) artists and creators that never achieve mass popularity, but that fact alone should not keep them from the Hall, nor should mass popularity alone be the sole consideration, nor should it outweigh quality and influence. btw, as influence is often quite documented, and thus more than opinionated, it also stands to reason in my mind that it would be difficult for artists, particularly those who do reach mass popularity, to be influenced by artists whose music is not of high quality, despite the fact that, yes, quality of music can certainly also be opinion.

    Al

    ps: great article.

    Thanks Al. And keep commenting!

  19. The Velvet Underground’s clear and obvious influence on some of the best and most important acts of the last 40 years doesn’t seem to mean much to you. Well, how about the fact they made four of the finest albums of the 20th Century? Does that cut any ice with you?

    And if you think Laura Nyro only wrote two memorable songs, your taste is mostly in your mouth. This article is so silly I’m inclined to think it was posted as a prank.

    The Hall of Fame’s poll running on its web site has had 257,493 voters with Nyro getting 2,246 votes, which puts her dead last in the field of 15 nominees.

  20. What people tend to forget is that musicians liked to be looked at as “artists” as much as performers. They know that bands are judged by their company as much as their product. You can thank music editors for this. The result is a host of bands listing the Pixies, Velvet Underground, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc. as influences simply because it sounds correct and gives them artistic credibility.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a local band say they are influenced by the Pixies…and then they sound nothing like them. Doesn’t mean the Pixies didn’t help inspire them to pick up a guitar or sing out of tune. It’s possible. But most of us who eventually got around to getting into the underground stuff did it long after we picked up guitars. I find it more endearing that Kurt Cobain was embarrassed to admit he liked REM. They were a true influence and not because they were “cool”.

    The HOF lost all credibility with real music lovers LONG ago. *shrug* Their job is to be smarter and cooler than you and I. That doesn’t happen when ELO gets in.

  21. It looks as if The Miracles’ work is considered with Smokey Robinson’s solo induction. If you look at his bio at the Hall’s site, most of it is about Smokey & The Miracles’ work.

    As for those deciding which act is more important than another- it would be committee of 30-something people, and then the 500 or so voters who vote on the nominees. :) Of course, the committee has great power in establishing the ballot before it goes out for vote.

  22. The MIRACLES’ collective work as a GROUP should have NEVER BEEN credited to SMOKEY ALONE. Like he was in the studio by himself. As much as “certain unnamed individuals” have attempted to change and RE-WRITE HISTORY, the sobering fact is, without The Miracles, Smokey would have NEVER gotten as big as he did. Most of the songs people credited to him as an individual were , actually GROUP compositions.

    Everything that The Miracles ever did, they did as a GROUP. They toured together, wrote songs together,performed together, and HELPED FOUND MOTOWN TOGETHER. They should have been INDUCTED TOGETHER.

    CURTIS MAYFIELD was just as prolific a songwriter as SMOKEY was.
    He ended up as a double RRHOF inductee. For his work as a solo artist, and as a member of THE IMPRESSIONS.

    I didn’t see the RRHOF simply discard THE IMPRESSIONS to induct HIM.

  23. And how much longer can the RRHOF continue to overlook Janet Jackson? It’s time for her to be considered.

    Out of this year’s nominees I’m really pulling for The Cure and Beastie Boyes.

  24. While a fascinating exposition, your article is fundamentally flawed in ignoring “the elephant in the room”. People like Charles Brown, Chaka Khan, Rap pioneers, and most of the “Early Influences” are in the HOF for reasons other than talent or actual influence. They are in the HOF, or up for serious consideration, because they were/are Black. Its not like this is so hard to figure out, so why leave it out of your otherwise provocative article?

    As for Laura Nyro, her open lesbianism was before its time, & certainly no secret. It has also been the driving force behind her nominations. There are many more deserving, “singer-songwriters”.

    And while there are many glaring deficiencies with the HOF, the failure to induct the band Love is hard to fathom. In addition to some popular success in 1966-67, they were, in fact, hugely influential, especially in the U.K. And, they were a true integrated band when that feat was pretty much unimaginable.

  25. You have some-some- valid arguments…But your examples are deplorable. Especially that of the Velvet Underground. You can’t just act like the VU were unimportant for the purposes of writing a particularly snarky article.
    Who’s acting?

  26. Okay, fine then. In reality, punk and alternative music isn’t important, and wasn’t heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground, and Taylor Swift’s opinion of Bon ‘78% of People Would Kick Him Square in the Nuts’ Jovi is more important than any actual contribution to music. Hell, Jovi, Journey, KISS, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Herman’s Hermits, Wham!, why not induct them all? They were popular, right? Oh, and why not Ace of Base, everyone loved them in the 90s. Hey! Paula Abdul! She had so many number one hits! Wow, and you know, when the time comes, we should induct Limp Bizkit and Creed, because late 90s 17 year olds were fond of their not-at-all-musically-valid recordings. But, you know, they were popular. So that makes up for their ineptness.
    OK Scott – You degrade artists who sell millions of records as if that’s a bad thing, where, in actuality, it means they bring pleasure to millions of listeners. Who are you to say someone’s music is not at all musically valid? Meanwhile, you make statements that punk and alternative music is “important” and the Velvet Underground is – here comes that crutch – “influential.” Yet you never tell us why punk & alternative is important and why the Velvet Underground is important or “influential.” What I like is almost everything and I happen to like a lot of punk and alternative music. I don’t care if it is or isn’t “important” or “influential,” whatever that means. You like the Velvet Underground – fine. Now explain to me why it’s important besides the fact that you think so. And see if you can do it without using the word influence or cursing.

  27. For some reason this article came to mind again. The way I see it is that popular success cannot not be ignored. It’s a legitimate and objective factor. The caveat I have is that you can’t just go with commercial success. There has to be room for other factors such as artistic merit, cultural impact, historical importance, effect on popular music, innovation, etc. But what the article is correctly pointing out is that once you get away from objective factors like record sales and chart performance, you encounter a mess of subjective factors that bring issues of favoritism, ideology, and outright snobbery to the forefront. At that point the subjective factors have to be applied honestly and critically or the entire process can be alled into question. Why for example was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers a first ballot induction while the Cars (who were even more commercially successful in their prime years and easily just as historically important) can’t even get nominated? It’s the type of arbitrary voting pattern that screams Rockism (i.e., only traditional rock is valid; only rock played a certain way with certain instruments is valid; and “authenticity” trumps creativity, syle and innovation) and highlights the type of ideological assumptions that characterize traditional music journalism of which the Hall voters are a reflection. But if you cannot step back and see these assumptions, it poisons the whole process.
    I certainly don’t want the R&RHF to simply rubber stamp artists because they were popular. (For example, I for one do not believe tht Britany Spears, who did nothing new, didn’t write her own material and notoriously lip-synchs at concerts, warrants any consideration no matter how many records she sold). But popular success has to be weighted properly in the induction process, and when it gets shoved too far to the side it opens up the R&RHF to legitimate accusations of cliquishness, favoritism and arbitrariness. To cite an example on the other side of the spectrum, I don’t think Patti Smith ever deserved induction. Never that popular. Backward looking musically. Not enough original songs. Never as historically important as the music press wanted people to believe, especially when the punk era first got reevaluated in the 1990s. But the music press, who saw her as a comtinuation of the “authentic” rock/poetry tradition of the early 1960s, loved her and as long as too much subjectivity and back room politics can be injected into the process, you get suspect results.
    Very nicely put, dog…and stay tuned!

  28. I totally agree and hadn’t made the Atlantic label connection until you said so. What I see is the New York bias that has always been so prevalent. Tommy James and the Shondells had one of the greatest psychedelic songs of all time, Crimson & Clover, and numerous other hits that were all then covered by artists in the 80s. Are they in? No. But the Lovin Spoonful and Rascals are because they’re from NY and Tommy was from Niles, Michigan. They only added The Stooges AFTER Madonna shamed them AND after Ron Asheton died. I wish Devo was from Michigan as they would be on this list for sure. Here’s 10 just from Michigan who deserve consideration, compared to who’s been inducted:
    1. Tommy James and the Shondells (see above)
    2. The Contours (ask Geils who covered half of their songs)
    3. The Miracles
    4. The MC5 (influential, you think?)
    5. Ted Nugent/Amboy Dukes (never with his politics)
    6. Grand Funk (Shea stadium anyone?)
    7. Rosalie Trombley (the most influential dee jay of the late 60s and early 70s — ask Bob Seger or Elton John)
    8. Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (ask John Cougar)
    9. The Spinners
    10.Suzy Quatro

    And they’ll probably snub The White Stripes, Kid Rock and Eminem for years while adding in other NY-NJ-Philly groups. I hate the RRHOF.
    Tommy James & the Shondells, Grand Funk & the Spinners were covered earlier in this series. Just go to Blogs & call up “Great Blogs Of Fire.” The Miracles, also covered earlier, are being inducted this year. And you forgot the first Rock star from Michigan, who also was the first in this series … the incomparable Jack Scott!!

  29. Why couldn’t they inducted Laura Nyro as a SONGWRITER rather than as a performer?
    Because that would have made sense

  30. The worst abuse of the word “influence” was by a critic who claimed that the B-52s were “influenced” by Yoko Ono. Supposedly the screeching noises on “Rock Lobster” were inspired by Yoko.
    The same critic condemns HOF member Billy Joel because he can’t think of any artists who were “influenced” by Joel.

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