Public Enemy is No. 1 (and other thoughts on today's Hall of Fame noms)
- Blog Post by: Chris Riemenschneider
- October 4, 2012 - 10:32 AM
Metalheads have a little less to complain about -- but not disco haters – after today’s announcement of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations. Rush, Deep Purple, Heart and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts made the ballot for next year’s induction ceremony (but not Kiss, as is still the Hall’s greatest shame). Disco-affiliated ‘70s stars Donna Summer and Chic are also on the list, as is pioneering hip-hop groups Public Enemy and N.W.A., German electronic heroes Kraftwerk, New Orleans funk masters the Meters, piano man and songwriter extraordinare Randy Newman, blues guitar giant Albert King, plus leftover ‘60s acts Procol Harum, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Marvelettes. Here’s who should take the podium when the ceremony is held next April:
Why?: Should be a shoo-in, I believe. Simply the greatest hip-hop group of all time, with at least three landmark albums to their name: “Yo! Bum Rush the Show,” “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and especially “Fear of a Black Planet.” They enjoyed a decent amount of commercial success despite little to no airplay, as is often a gauge for Hall voters, with the latter two albums topping a million in sales. More importantly, they integrated social commentary into hip-hop more effectively than any other act before or since. Why not?: The tired, old, old-man argument that rap music doesn’t belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the only one I can think of.
Why?:Their timeless ‘70s albums are a blueprint for so much funkified music that came after, from the Talking Heads and Red Hot Chili Peppers to essentially every hip-hop album with a good beat. They also did session work for Allen Toussaint and Dr. John and made a strong impression on the Stones, who brought them on tour in the mid-‘70s before co-founders Art and Cyril Neville started the Neville Brothers. Why not?: Lacking in commercial success and name-brand recognition.
Why?: With his classic albums for Stax Records (“Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Live Wire/Blues Power”) and dynamic stage presence, the late Memphis legend is as responsible as anyone else for influencing rock’s bluesiest guitar heroes, with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Doors’ Robby Krieger being four of his biggest devotees. Why not?: Hall voters who don't like lengthy blues guitar jams in their rock can blame him.
Why?: Like it or not, disco was huge enough at the time for even the Stones and Kiss to sell out to it, and the late Donna Gaines (who just passed away in May) was a big reason for its success with such hits as “Hot Stuff” and “Love to Love You Baby.” Summer also went on to craft more innovative dance-pop albums and became a strong voice for women, not just with "She Works Hard for Her Money." Why not?: Too many of the Hall’s voters were active members of the “Disco Sucks” campaign and still have a target on her back.
Why?: With Ice Cube, the late Eazy-E and Dr. Dre as its members and a direct connection to 2pac, Snoop Dogg and Eminem, the controversial group was essentially the big bang for some of the most successful rap music ever made. Their own albums, especially 1988's “Straight Outta Compton,” blueprinted thuggish rap music across the country but also provided a darker, more street-level contrast to Public Enemy’s brand of commentary. Why not?: They were rap’s original gangstas and thus also sparked some of its most violent imagery.
Why?: Ritchie Blackmore and his British quintet cranked out one of rock's most elementary-schooled guitar riffs ("Smoke on the Water") and are probably right behind Sabbath and Zeppelin -- and Kiss! -- for influencing rock's heaviest sounds. Let the metalheads at least get this one. Why not?: Their second best-known song, "My Woman From Tokyo," sounds so un-p.c. today it's not funny. Still a great song, though.
Why not for the rest: Sorry, Rush fans (some of whom already begrudge me), but those musical wizards haven't cast much of a spell on rock outside of their fanatical fanbase. Kraftwerk’s influence is even more cultish, and its albums are generally overrated. Joan Jett and Heart are among’s rock’s greatest heroines but were otherwise not all that pioneering or unforgettable musically. The Butterfield Blues Band also did not brand much original music nor was it a major presence. The Marvelletes and Procol Harum are B-listers at best. I'm on the fence about Randy Newman -- I still harbor a personal grudge over "Short People" and question a Disney soundtrack writer being deemed rock 'n' roll, but obviously he is a heck of a grand songwriter.
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