Is rock and roll dead? It almost seems like a question with no real answer. Popular music has changed so much over the last sixty years. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the time capsule that captures the entire history of popular music in the modern and contemporary periods. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the mark by which we judge the best of the best in the rock world.
To say rock and roll is dead would be an exaggeration. The music industry, like the genre itself, has changed over the years. As long as there are still young people learning to play their instruments with their friends in garages, there will always be rock and roll. The people who get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the reason why the genre stays alive. These artists all inspire a new generation of young people to begin playing. Eventually, these young people will also inspire a new group of young people as well. Being inducted into the Hall is really just a big “Thank You” to those artists who keep the spirit of rock music alive with each new generation.
In order to be inducted, 25 years must have past since the artist’s first record or single. Each year a new crop of talent pops up and becomes eligible for induction. Since many artists do not get in during their first year of eligibility, those artists are also competing for a spot with a number of other artists who have been around for a much longer period of time. The number of years a group waits does not matter when it comes to who is going to get inducted. KISS was around for 40 years before they were inducted. KISS got inducted the same year as Nirvana, who got in 25 years after they started.
10. Lou Reed
Lou Reed was one of the major figures of the psychedelic rock scene in New York City. Reed started his solo career after his band, The Velvet Underground, broke up because they were unable to achieve mainstream commercial success. His self titled 1972 debut album released polished versions of many Velvet Underground songs. These more polished versions performed better on the charts and actually increased the Underground’s album sales. Following the success of “Heroin”, Reed went on to produce many more great songs including “Rock and Roll Animal” and “Walk on the Wild Side”. He passed away on October 27th, 2013 after a long struggle with liver disease.
9. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have made the final list of possible inductees for the past couple years, but still have not been inducted. If they are unable to make it in this year, they are going to have to wait for a long while before they get the nod. This may be one of the last years before many of the 1990s grunge bands are eligible. Joan Jett formed The Blackhearts in 1980. In 1982 they released the album I Love Rock and Roll. The title track from that album stayed on the top of the Billboard charts for seven straight weeks. This song solidified them as one of the biggest acts of the Los Angeles punk rock scene.
8. The Smiths
The Smiths are an English rock band consisting of Morrissey, John Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce. The group was formed in 1982 and only lasted five years. Not only did all of the members go on to have successful solo careers, but when they were together they were considered the finest rock band in England. The Smiths fused punk rock with the sounds of 1960s psychedelic music. They were able to achieve mainstream success in Europe during a time when electronic dance music had completely taken over as the favorite of the mainstream public.
7. Nine Inch Nails
This is the first year that Nine Inch Nails is eligible to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nine Inch Nails was founded in 1988 by Trent Reznor. Reznor is the only official member of the band. He records all the music himself and hires a backing band for touring. In 1989, Nine Inch Nails released its debut album Pretty Hate Machine. This album brought a new style of music to the masses. Prior to this the genre known as Industrial Rock was limited to the inner cities and unknown in the public’s eye. Nine Inch Nails was the first industrial rock band to achieve mainstream success.
Sting is actually already a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is in as a member of The Police. Sting began his solo career in 1981. He started out performing songs from his former bands and covers of Bob Dylan tunes. He officially left The Police in 1983 to focus on his own work. His first album was The Dream of the Blue Turtles which was released in 1985. Since then he has contributed to albums from a number of artists including Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, and Elton John.
5. The Marvelettes
The Marvelettes were the first group to release a number one hit for Motown Records. The group was founded by Gladys Horn, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanne Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Georgie Dobbins in 1960. Dobbins was later replaced by Wanda Young in 1961. That same year they were signed by Motown Records. Their song “Please Mr. Postman” was the first hit to come out of Motown. They were very successful early on with the record company, but they were soon overshadowed by their bitter rivals, The Supremes.
The idea of allowing N.W.A. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to cause some problems. Many people believe that rap artists should not be inducted. However, these people are fine with country artists like Johnny Cash or disco artists like ABBA being in there. Rap can be an extension of rock and roll. It is a modern version of funk music. The doors for rappers to enter the Hall have been opened because Grand Master Flash and Furious Five got the nod a couple years ago. N.W.A. may be the most important rap group ever. Formed by Easy-E, Dr. Dre, Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, and Ice Cube in 1986, N.W.A. was really the first group to separate rap as its own style of music. Prior to this, rap was considered a form of disco music. N.W.A. gave rap its lyrical content based on the tough upbringing of young people in the inner cities.
War was formed in California in 1969. The group was started by the former lead singer of The Animals, Eric Burdon. Burdon was looking to start a band that would encompass many different musical styles. He discovered the talent one night at a bar while seeing these phenomenal musicians playing as a backing band to Los Angeles Rams’ defensive end, Deacon Jones. War went on to become one of the most versatile bands in history playing such genres as rock, jazz, blues, funk, and Latin. They were also one of the first rock acts to break racial barriers.
2. Stevie Ray Vaughan
There is a reason blues music does not exist in the mainstream anymore. The reason is Stevie Ray Vaughan. No one can make a hit blues song today because Stevie set the bar way too high. The Texas Tornado began playing blues guitar at a very young age. By seven years old, he had already run away from home, started drinking heavily, and played with some of the biggest names in blues music. He formed Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble in 1977. They quickly became one of the most popular acts in Texas, but struggled to gain national attention. In 1983, the group released its debut album Texas Flood. It failed to sell well until they released their second album, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, the following year. From then on, SRV was synonymous with blues music and guitar virtuosos. He died on August 28th, 1990 following a show at The Alpine Valley Music Theatre with Eric Clapton. Stevie would have been sixty years old this year.
1. Green Day
This is the first year Green Day is eligible for induction. Make no mistake about it, they are going to get in. Green Day was formed in 1987 by Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt. Drummer, Tre Cool, joined three years later. They started off on a small independent record label. In 1994, they released their breakout record Dookie. This album opened the doors for punk rock in the 1990s. Most rock artists of the late 1990s and early 2000s list Green Day as one of their major influences. In 2004, the band brought on a new generation of fans by releasing American Idiot. They are one of the best selling artists in history and continue to sell out stadiums today.