Click here to hear my conversation with Neil Diamond just before the holidays, discussing his career, his engagement, and his tour, coming to the Q July 1st.
Here’s my annual look at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame nominees. I’ve decided to give them each a score this year. Simple: 1-10, 10 being the most deserving.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – 6: Paul worked with a lot of influential people, and his band gave us Elvin Bishop, Billy Davenport, and jazz saxman David Sanborn. They played both Monterey Pop and
Chic – 1: Why do they keep getting nominated? Don’t get me wrong, I started as a disco DJ and they’re a 10 in my personal opinion, LOVE their sound. But I really think their strength (for the millionth time) is in the production work of Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, with songs like “We Are Family” for Sister Sledge and “Upside Down” & “I’m Coming Out” for Diana Ross as well as their Chic hits, and others like Debbie Harry.
Deep Purple – 8: Probably one of the most influential hard rock, heavy metal bands ever nominated. Should have definitely gotten in before Metallica, but that’s another discussion. “Machinehead” is one of the all-time classics, and I can’t think of a more influential rock song for learning guitarists than “Smoke On The Water” with that opening riff.
Heart – 10: Should have gone in last time. In the man’s world of Rock, has there been any better female rock vocalist than Ann Wilson, since Janis Joplin? Hard to think of one. Pat Benatar comes close (where’s HER nomination been all these years, by the way.) She and her sister Nancy have inspired many a great female rock singer doing it now, and they write brilliant stuff!!!
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – 6: I could make a much better case for the band The Runaways that she came from, setting the table for all-female outfits like the Go-Gos and The Bangles to come down the pike later. As a solo artist (with the Blackhearts) she’s done some great work, with the iconic “I Love Rock & Roll” standing out, but probably has a bit longer to go before getting in.
Albert King – 10. I’m surprised he’s not in already. Influential early blues musicians like Albert get an immediate pathway in, in my opinion. When you inspire people like Hendrix, Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn to do what they did, and provide the iconic “Born Under A Bad Sign,” it’s like; open the door and let him on through.
Kraftwerk – 4: I see where they were going with this. They are a quartet from Germany that pioneered a lot of the electronic rock we heard later by other bands like Depeche Mode in the 80’s, and much of it has been sampled by hip hop artists over the years. Their “Trans-Europe Express” is a line dance these days. But when you’re nominating 5 acts from this year’s pool, it’s like “not quite.”
The Marvelettes - 5: Here’s a perfect example of a female band that’s nominated mostly because they were with Motown. Had they recorded “Please Mr. Postman,” “Don’t Mess With Bill” & “Too Many Fish In The Sea” for another label, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. They were a good early female presence, so maybe a 5½.
The Meters - 7: Yes, actually a 7, although I don’t think they’ll get in, because too many people don’t know who they are, or understand their influence on R&B and Funk. Their instrumentation help set the table for people like George Clinton, and has been sampled by just about every influential hip-hop artist since the late 80’s. “Cissy Strut” is a straight-up classic.
Randy Newman - 9: More influential as a songwriter, but a great and unique performer as well. I can think of few lyricists as accessible, yet as poignant as Randy. Countless movie songs and scores, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” (Three Dog Night,) “Short People” “You C an Leave Your Hat On” (Joe Cocker), and his Cleveland connection includes "Burn On," the opening theme to the film Major League.
N.W.A. – 7: They never appealed to me much as a unit, but Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube are hip-hop icons and went on to do so much great work afterward, so it’s fair to say that their humble beginnings should be celebrated, especially considering that Gangsta Rap (love it, or hate it) grew from the work these guys did. I prefer the hip-hop work of the next band though.
Public Enemy - 9: Their work was a lot more intelligent, and raised the bar in terms of public consciousness on social issues in the community, especially the Black community. Chuck D is one of the best examples of a man who’s frustrated for all the right reasons. And while his partner Flava Flav, complete with an oversized clock around his neck so ya know “what time it is” in the metaphorical sense, is a total wack-job at times, it worked. BRING THE NOISE!!!
Procol Harum – 2: Don’t get this one. The song “Whiter Shade Of Pale” of much bigger than they are. “Conquistador” is great, but all-but-forgotten, and I’m trying to think of any other contributions to the rock world….OK can’t think of any, give me a minute to look them up. OK yeah… Robin Trower was with the band, if you know who he is, other than that...
Rush – 10: Slam-dunk here. Amazing band. Very much like Cream before them and the Police during and after, you listen to their stuff and go “This is a TRIO!” Such amazing work; intricate melodies and rhythms, almost jazz-like at times. They’ve recorded some of the most challenging tunes in the rock world, without alienating the average rock & roll fan!! That’s not easy to do. Getty Lee’s voice goes right through you while he plays amazing keyboard and bass parts, Neil Peart is one of the best drummers ever, and Guitarist Alex Lifeson holds it all together. Done deal, put ‘em in!!
Donna Summer – 10: The most controversial of all the choices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the case for her to get in. I know the argument: “She’s Disco… that’s not Rock & Roll” Spare me. "Rock and Roll" has grown to include any style in the Rock Era. I could see that argument if this was the Village People we were talking about, but it’s not. Donna was an amazing vocalist, and songwriter, who actually came up with some of the lyrics to “Bad Girls” and other tunes on the fly, as she was recording them. She paved the way for the Madonnas and Lady Gagas of the world. She’s been nominated 5 times, and it’s sad to me that she may finally get in this year strictly out of sentimentality, never having enjoyed the pleasure being the recognized as a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer during her lifetime. Time to make it right anyway though.