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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 announced Tuesday is a study in genre hopscotch, so much so that only two of the half-dozen inductees would ever show up on the average “classic rock” playlist.
Fans of the roughly 30-year-old radio format are likely to hear Rush and Heart every day, but they’d have to do some serious dial-twisting to find tracks by Public Enemy, Randy Newman, Albert King or Donna Summer.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist and 2012 inductee Flea announced next year’s crop of Hall of Famers at a news conference at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, where the induction ceremony will take place in April. The six acts will be joined in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum by Quincy Jones and Lou Adler, who are receiving the Ahmet Ertegun Award for nonperformers.
Jones, Adler and Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart were on hand at Tuesday’s event, as was Joel Peresman, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation
“I love the Hall of Fame — I love all Hall of Fames,” Flea said. “To pay homage to people who do amazing things in academics and arts and athletics and all those things I love so much. … For people who take it far enough to really have an impact on the culture — whether a cerebral one, a physical one, an entertainment one, a spiritual one — it really takes a lot of courage, a lot of bravery. And people who choose that life more often than not come from difficult circumstances.”
Arguably the biggest surprise — or no-brainer, depending on one’s point of view — among the newly minted class is Rush, a first-time nominee despite being eligible since 1998. Rarely has a band divided rock fans, purists and writers like the venerable Canadian prog-metal trio, for which “kinda digging them” really isn’t an option. For every fanatic who’s all in for their epic, virtuosic live shows and such undeniably classic albums as 2112 and Moving Pictures, there’s a hater who can’t stomach Geddy Lee’s Chipmunk voice or Neil Peart‘s ponderous, verbose lyrics. Soon, both sides of the aisle can cheer or boo them with equal rigor in Cleveland.
Rush’s induction — or vindication — comes after years of intense fan-led lobbying for “the world’s most popular cult band,” one that many critics have dismissed for decades.
“I know for me, and I would say it’s true of all of us, we felt that you’ve got to enjoy every moment that you’re out there doing this,” founding guitarist Alex Lifeson told Billboard this year. “It’s a privilege to be able to play music, especially for your whole life, and it’s an even greater privilege to have such a fantastic audience who’s willing to support you and listen to what you’re doing and become so passionate, like Rush fans always become. You know, it’s really, really something special, and it’s never lost on us.”
Another mild surprise is the anointing of Public Enemy, this class’ only act to be honored in its first year of eligibility. The seminal and widely influential rap group led by Chuck D. — and pushed by current reality star Flavor Flav — took the anger from the streets and channeled it into such groundbreaking albums as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet, which spawned the incendiary, politically charged singles “Bring the Noise” and “Fight the Power,” respectively. Whether it’s really “rock ’n’ roll,” of course, is in the ear of the beholder. (See Summer, below.)
Thumbing their noses at the male-dominated mid-’70s rock scene, the Wilson sisters led Heart out of Seattle and straight into the nation’s charts and minds. After scoring with such anthemic rockers as “Barracuda,” “Heartless” and “Straight On,” the group would find an MTV-fueled second wind as video vixens in the mid-‘80s with pop hits including “Alone,” “Never” and “These Dreams.” It’s been a career-validating year for the Wilson sibs: They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September.
Speaking of empowered women, none ruled the airwaves during the 1970s like Summer, who made the Rock Hall in her fifth nomination try. The undisputed but pigeonholed Queen of Disco had a rare voice and an ever rarer run of hits during the Me Decade, from the near-porn of “Love to Love You Baby” through such mirror-balled classics as “Last Dance,” “Heaven Knows” and “Hot Stuff.” The versatile singer had three consecutive No. 1 albums — one studio, one live and one hits compilation — and won Grammys during her career in the fields of R&B, dance, inspirational and, yes, rock; she won the inaugural award for best female rock performance for “Hot Stuff” in 1980. She died of cancer in May at 63.
Newman’s career can be looked at in myriad ways: He’s the sardonic singer-songwriter behind such criminally radio-bypassed songs as “Political Science” and “Sail Away.” He’s the two-hit wonder everybody knows from “Short People” and “I Love L.A.” He’s the 20-time Oscar-nominated (and twice victorious) composer of movie scores and songs ranging from Ragtime and Parenthood to Meet the Parents and the Toy Story trilogy. In short, he’s an iconoclastic icon from Los Angeles who has seen it all and written about it.
King is the second blues guitar giant to be honored by the Rock Hall in as many years, following Freddie King. A towering southpaw whose playing inspired legends from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Warren Haynes, he recorded definitive versions of such blues standards as “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Crosscut Saw” and “As the Years Go Passing By.” “The Velvet Bulldozer” with the Flying V died of a heart attack in December 1992, two days after playing his final show. He was 69.
Among the nonperformers in the Rock Hall Class of 2013, Jones hardly needs an introduction. His 79 Grammy nominations lead the league, and his 27 wins — all as a producer — are tied for second-most of all time. He produced the world’s best-selling album (Michael Jackson’s Thriller) and one of the biggest-selling singles (USA for Africa’s “We Are the World”) and was the first African-American to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Along with working with legends including his boyhood friend Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie, Jones’ wide-ranging résumé includes composer, arranger, TV producer and being the man who recommended acting novice Oprah Winfrey for her role in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple.
Flea was emphatic during his introduction of Jones, saying: “To work at the highest level, the most sophisticated music, the stuff that if you’re a musician like me you grow up aspiring to maybe one day touch upon one little hint of the magic these incredible musicians do — he did it all, at all levels. And then he went and made Thriller.”
Adler is a true musical multihyphenate: a label executive, songwriter, producer, manager and club owner. He helped produce the Monterey Pop Festival, founded Dunhill Records and Ode Records, produced and won Grammys for Carole King’s landmark 1971 album Tapestry, produced Sam Cooke and The Mamas and the Papas, managed Jan & Dean, discovered and recorded Cheech & Chong (later directing their stoner classic Up in Smoke), produced midnight-movie stalwart The Rocky Horror Picture Show and owns The Roxy on the Sunset Strip. He’s also that guy sitting next to Jack Nicholson at Laker games.
Jones gave a rambling but fascinating semi-scripted speech Tuesday, touching on his long and singular career in music from bebop and doo-wop to rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop. “I’m humbled, really, to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — finally,” he began. “Excuse me for reading here, but I only slept an hour last night. Trying to get my brain together.”
One of the many highlights of Jones’ speech was when he talked about trying to make it as a young musician. “I tried to get in [Lionel Hampton’s] band when I was 15, and his wife threw off the bus, told me to go back to school,” he said. “But they called me again at 18. Lionel Hampton, along with Louis Jordan – they were the first rock ’n’ roll bands, trust me. Lionel had all the jazz musicians, and it was the end of the big bands, but [Hampton] would not stop until he had people jumping off the top of the ceiling.”
And in an epic job of summarization, he said, “From blues and jazz, which is our classical music, bebop, doo-wop, hip-hop, rock ’n’ roll – what ever you want to call it, man, to me it’s all music, and you gotta feel it.”
Adler had to follow Jones’ musical history lesson. Stepping up to the podium, he began with, “Uh, ditto.” He spoke about the honor of receiving an award named for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. “He was sophistication, he was music, he knew how to dress.” After reminiscing with Jones onstage about their working together 40 years ago, Adler added, “And the other special thing [about being inducted next year] is that it’s in California finally. We should have had it a long time ago. … We’re gonna have a big party, and you’re all invited.”
The Wilson sisters took the stage after the performer inductees were announced.
“It just goes to show you that just when you think you know the shape of rock ’n’ roll, it changes shape on you,” Ann said. “We weren’t expecting to be standing here. In fact, it was a running joke between us for a long time – ‘Yeah, we’ll get inducted, yeah, yeah; real funny.’ So this is really more than thrilling and something we never expected — to get to start taking those gender designations off the list and al staying together in rock ’n’ roll.”
Nancy chimed in: “We like to thanks our fans that are are true-blue loyal, and Jann Wenner and all the voters who actually voted for us this time. We feel like we deserve it, so we’re happy to be here.”
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said about next year’s induction ceremony being held Los Angeles for the first time in 20 years: “We’re very proud that after almost 10 years of talking and trying to encourage them to look at LA Live, they were able to understand the uniqueness of this campus. This really give us, from our standpoint all of the musical events and all of the awards shows that we dreamed about, that we built the [Nokia Theatre] for, that we designed the campus for. We’re big fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
The timing of the move to L.A. and the inductions of Jones, Adler and Newman is interesting in that the three have such distinct ties to the city. Or perhaps it’s less than coincidental.
The six performer acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 were culled from a list of 15 finalists announced Oct. 4. The nine that missed the cut are The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kraftwerk along with first-time nominees Deep Purple, N.W.A, The Marvelettes, The Meters and Procol Harum.
At least four of the overlooked were guilty of rotten timing: Chic, now 0-for-7, likely split the vote with fellow disco favorite Summer; Deep Purple was odd-act-out among the trio of nominated classic rock bands; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was second fiddle to female-fronted Heart; and N.W.A bowed to fellow first-ballot act and trailblazing rap collective Public Enemy.
Performer inductees were chosen by more than 600 voters of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. To be eligible for nomination, an act must have released its first single or album at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination — 1987 for the 2013 class. For the first time, the public had a say — though a decided minor one — in electing the Hall of Famers. More than a half-million fans voted online, and their collective favorite counted as a one vote.
Among the acts eligible for enshrinement for the first time in 2014 are Nirvana, Traveling Wilburys, Soundgarden, Morrissey, Melissa Etheridge, Phish and The Offspring.
The 28th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is set for April 18. It will mark the event’s first trip to Los Angeles since 1993 and will be open to the public. Tickets go on sale Jan. 25. HBO will broadcast an edited version of the ceremony May 18.
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