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And the Hall of Fame Nominees Are…

This year’s nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, which presents music aficionados with their annual opportunity to debate and gripe like baseball fans do every year when the National Baseball Hall of Fame unveils its selections. (Bert Blyleven? Let him in already!) So let’s have at it.

A few dozen music pros and critics chose this year’s 15 nominees. Now their worthiness will be judged by a larger pool of music insiders, who’ll whittle the number down to, presumably, five honorees. (That’s the number of inductees in the performer category each year since 2005.) In the running are Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Donovan, Tom Waits, Chic, Laura Nyro, Chuck Willis, Darlene Love, Donna Summer, Dr. John, Joe Tex and Neil Diamond.

Now for the grumbling. Plenty of the aforementioned artists don’t fit a strict definition of a rock ‘n’ roller. In fact, I’d venture it wouldn’t have occurred to a majority of folks on the list above to identify themselves foremost as rock stars.

A point of contention that comes up with these sorts of things centers on whether the wide-ranging interpretation of what constitutes rock ‘n’ roll is an example of gracious inclusion or a kind of artistic colonialism.

The former camp would say that the genre was shaped in part by pioneers (and past inductees) Billie Holiday, Bob Wills and Jelly Roll Morton, despite the fact that you’re not going to find much in the way of power chords from that distinguished lot. Their opponents counter that including Nat King Cole in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and he’s in there!) is like making a place for Michael Jordan in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Jordan’s greatness is beyond dispute – on the basketball court. To put it another way, when the great bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell famously declared, “I do not play no rock ‘n’ roll,” he was boasting, not apologizing.

Regardless, you’ve seen the list that’s being voted on. Love to see your comments on who deserves the honor. Or sound off on who was missed in the first cut. Populists have to ponder the absence of Kiss and Rush, while cultists would love to see a slot saved for Big Star and T. Rex.

In the meantime, here’s my prediction on the five who’ll make the cut this year.

  1. Alice Cooper. The granddaddy of shock rock really put the fear in fans when the genre was becoming a bit too respectable. Metal gets a little deferred love from voters.
  2. Chic. Yup, not a rock band, but their long-running influence well past their disco heyday helps them siphon off votes from Donna Summer among the dance crowd.
  3. Dr. John. Got his start in the ‘50s and he’s still making vital music. Seems like a no-brainer. Chuck Wills and Joe Tex made great records, but they weren’t in it for the long run.
  4. Neil Diamond. Another guy with a long track record, first as a songwriter and later as a pop chart-topper. Laura Nyro penned a bunch of hits, too, but she didn’t make as big a bang as a recording artist.
  5. Tom Waits. His impact reaches beyond genre and generational divides. Beastie Boys will have to wait one more year.

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