A Divisive 2024 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Class Chosen for Fall Ceremonies

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

By “Tampa” Earl Burton

On Sunday evening (more on this in a moment), the announcement was made regarding the Class of 2024 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There has always been great controversy over the inductees in any year since the Hall was founded in 1985, but this year’s class seems to be more divisive than ever before. With this said, you can break the honorees down into three categories – highly deserving of the honor, got in because they were popular, and WTF?

First, a criticism of either the Hall, their broadcast outlet (Disney), or both. The new inductions were announced during an episode of what has become a joke in its own right, the television show American Idol. As a part of their “Hall of Fame Week” for the show, the inductions were named.

I am all for drawing as much attention as possible to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This, however, was a blatantly manipulative process that looked to shore up the credibility of what was once a staple of U. S. television that has fallen on hard times (even with Katy Perry’s constant “wardrobe malfunctions”). I was fine with the announcement of the inductees on SiriusXM and enjoyed the interviews afterward with nominees whose initial reactions were broadcast to the world. Whether it was Disney looking to maximize its investment in broadcasting the Hall ceremonies this fall, or the Hall looking to break into prime-time television, it was a pitiful look – I certainly hope that the Hall wasn’t involved in the decision (I expect such things out of Disney).

Now, without further ado, let’s look at those three categories:

Highly Deserving Honorees Led by Ozzy

First, a criticism of either the Hall, their broadcast outlet (Disney), or both. The new inductions

Of the sixteen new members of the Hall, there were several who fell under this category. These inductees were all chosen by one of three methods – election by the Hall’s membership and a select number of rock and roll’s elite, the Musical Excellence Award (chosen by committee), or the Musical Influence Award (ditto). There is a fourth method, the Ahmet Ertegun Award, but that is reserved for non-musician entities such as label executives, songwriters, or producers (and this year goes to television producer Suzanne de Passe, who created the program Showtime at the Apollo).

Peter Frampton at The Sound. Photo by Chyrisse.

With that out of the way, the inductions of Ozzy Osbourne (elected as Performer), Peter Frampton (Performer), Kool & The Gang (Performer), A Tribe Called Quest (Performer, surprisingly) John Mayall (Musical Influence), “Big Mama” Thornton (Musical Influence), Jimmy Buffett (Musical Excellence) and MC5 (Musical Excellence), were all extremely deserved and, in a few cases, entirely overdue in happening. Osbourne now becomes the 28th member of the Hall to have two inductions (he was previously inducted with Black Sabbath), and Buffett, who passed away last fall, was a bit of a (pleasant) surprise in that he had never shown up on the ballot before.

The selections of Mayall, Thornton, and MC5 are the key inductions here. These were all performers who were not going to get in through the Performer route (for whatever reason), but their contributions to “rock and roll” could not be ignored (and had been ignored for far too

long). By ushering in these musical legends, the Hall can clear off some backlog that had been grossly overlooked previously. I must be honest in the fact that I do not have full knowledge of Alexis Korner and Norman Whitfield. Korner was a keystone in the bands Free and Blues Incorporated and a major force on the British blues scene, while Whitfield was the “right-hand man” for Berry Gordy in the formation of Motown, writing and producing many of the massive hits from the label in the Sixties. I will bow to the knowledge of the committees who chose these men for inclusion in this year’s Induction Class.

Populist Selections Still Need to Have Done Something

Dave Matthews. Photo by Chyrisse.

There has been a disturbing trend since Chairman John Sykes took over the helm of the ship at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. First, these “mega-classes” where more than a dozen inductees are honored have now become the norm rather than the exception. It was a decent idea when it first started, but now it has become a bloated exercise that looks to sweep up the errors of the past, which is not the purpose of a Hall of Fame. Second, the choices that land in this category – Mary J. Blige, Dave Matthews Band, and Foreigner – are all acts that, while extremely popular with fans, cannot be said to have “changed the course of rock and roll.” Blige is about the only one who approaches that barrier, having been a groundbreaking R&B singer/rapper who changed the stylings in the Nineties. Neither DMB nor Foreigner, however, could be said to have done anything that changed music history – they sold a shitload of records, sure, but that is not supposed to be what gets you in the Hall (look over at Mariah Carey, tapping her foot).

Yes, the Hall is quite observant of the fact that they have to produce a three-hour (minimum) show in November that will highlight the new inductees into their Parthenon. Yes, the Hall knows they need to have some “stars” on the marquee that can sell tickets for the party (Mariah’s glaring at us now). But they needn’t be so blatant with the pandering, with the usage of “Bon Jovi Syndrome” (induction because of how many records you sold, not because of any seismic shift you caused in history), they need to stay the course with electing and honoring those who truly brought about change to the history of music since the Fifties – rock and roll.

WTF?!?!?

Kelly Hansen of Foreigner. Photo by Chyrisse.

That leaves a couple of entries here that I honestly have to say “WTF?!?!” as to their induction. I ALMOST put Foreigner in this group, but they at the minimum have a “rock and roll” pedigree that they can lean back on as credence for their induction. The final two members that we have on the list cannot make the same claim.

Cher’s induction looks to be more of a factor that she was able to outlive almost everyone else in the world of music. She outlived her husband, Sonny Bono, who she broke through with in the group Sonny & Cher, and is still around after the departure of her former husband Gregg Allman. In fact, about the only remarkable thing about Cher was her ability to rack up superstar paramours (Gene Simmons was also in this category). Musically she never even approached rock and roll – more of a pop/dance chanteuse (don’t look – the straightjacket is out for Mariah) – and she didn’t have any effect on the history at all. Take her away, and nothing changes in rock history.

The same could be said for Dionne Warwick. A few years ago when she was announced as a nominee (this was her third nomination), I kind of chuckled at the joke because of where it started – on Twitter as a joke. Then people started clamoring for it…why? Outside of working with the late Burt Bacharach (who has more rock credibility than Cher does) and a collab with Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight, Warwick lacks the credentials to be a Hall inductee.

Once in a while, these types of inductions are made and people, years in the future, scratch their heads and wonder “What were they thinking?” From the “early days” of the Hall, such inductions as Percy Sledge, Clyde McPhatter (as a solo artist), Eddie Cochran, and Ricky Nelson were some of those head-scratchers. At that time, they were considered seminal parts of the history of rock and roll – today? Not so much. I believe that Cher and Warwick will be in this category in the future.

With this said, all these performers have now earned their entry into the rarefied air of Rock & Roll Royalty – whether we like it or not. They will be inducted in November, in a massive ceremony that will be broadcast on Disney+ (see, told you there was a television reason). People will debate for months over the viability of these inductions, or even the viability of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame itself, but there is one fact – these performers AND the Hall aren’t going anywhere, so get used to it.

Tampa Earl

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