First Impressions of the Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 

Opinion

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio

By “Tampa” Earl Burton, Rock At Night Tampa

This morning, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2023, and it was done rather quietly. The reason I say this is that, in years past, the induction announcement was usually a big deal, complete with the fanfare of being announced over SiriusXM. That fanfare usually included interviews with the new inductees and, in general, it celebrated rock and roll. This year? Nada…I was a bit surprised. 

That doesn’t keep me from taking a look at the class, however. For the record, here are your inductees for 2023:

Kate Bush
Sheryl Crow
Missy Elliott
George Michael
Willie Nelson
Rage Against the Machine
The Spinners

Chosen as the “Musical Influence” inductees (the former “Early Influence” category) were:

DJ Kool Herc
Link Wray

Chosen for the Award for Musical Excellence were:

Chaka Khan
Al Kooper
Bernie Taupin

And the Ahmet Ertegun Award goes to:

Don Cornelius (creator of Soul Train) 

What follows are my first hot-take thoughts on what will be the Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: 

1) Overall, a decent class that has taken care of a couple of oversights from the past. In the Performers category, the inductions of Bush and Rage Against the Machine were long overdue and the Voting Committee finally corrected this error (some would also add The Spinners into this category). If there was a guaranteed inductee for the 2023 class (like last year’s Dolly Parton induction), Willie Nelson was going to be going in. 

For both Missy Elliott and George Michael to go in with the same class was a bit of a surprise. I figured that one would go in before the other would (and I thought that would be Elliott over Michael), but they both made it through the battle. Sheryl Crow has done it all in her stellar career and the Hall enjoys honoring those who have always been there for them , thus her induction isn’t a surprise.  

2) Those who were spurned from the Performers category are…well, let’s just say that the carryover of the “populist” theme from last year is evident. Critical favorites like Joy Division/New Order, Warren Zevon, Soundgarden, The White Stripes, A Tribe Called Quest, and Cyndi Lauper (we’ll get to the other in a minute) were not inducted and they didn’t get a nod from the “non-voting” paths. This isn’t a case of “not enough support” – Zevon and Lauper (along with #3) were WAY up in the Fan Vote and it was believed this would be the year, especially in first-time nominee Zevon’s case. Alas, it was not to be. 

3) Not that they were sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, but Iron Maiden is probably never being inducted into the Hall. I’ve heard the explanations regarding the bypassing of hard rock/metal bands, and Iron Maiden in particular, but they’re beginning to ring hollow. How you can have one act but not another – in this case Judas Priest (who FINALLY got in through the “non-voting” method last year) and Iron Maiden – is befuddling. If I am finding it hard to believe, then you can only imagine how the Average Joe is seeing it. 

4) The Award for Musical Excellence honorees are OUTSTANDING. They also took care of a few oversights here by inducting both Chaka Khan (but not Rufus, surprisingly) and Bernie Taupin (writing partner of Elton John), who needed to be in the Hall. The inclusion of Al Kooper was a bit of a surprise since there hadn’t been a huge drive for his induction, but it is a welcome addition; Kooper’s legacy of work and influence are worthy of induction. 

5) Equally as excellent as the AME were the choices for the Early Influences and the Ahmet Ertegun Award. DJ Kool Herc was the originator of rap, way back in the early Seventies, but it is a bit odd to see him go in and not alongside his longtime performing partner Coke La Rock. Link Wray is another one of those “oversight” corrections that the Hall takes care of through this manner, but it is also a well-deserved induction (and, we must note, if you’re going to have Duane Eddy in the Hall, then why not Wray?).  

While I would have liked to have seen the Ertegun go to Rick Rubin, the choice of the creator of Soul Train, Don Cornelius, is a BRILLIANT move. Many people point to American Bandstand and its influence on the culture. Soul Train was just as big, if not more influential, in its impact on R&B, soul, rap, and culture overall. It’s too bad that Cornelius is no longer with us – I am sure that he would have delivered a FIRE induction speech! 

Overall, the Class of 2023 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame isn’t bad, but it’s not as great as it could have been. There are a few trends now, three years into the reign of Hall chairman John Sykes, that can be identified, but we’ll save that discussion for another time. For now, we can enjoy and congratulate those that were inducted and commiserate with those that were not.  

Tampa Earl

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