Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations: Who should get in? Who got overlooked?
I've already expounded on this year's long list of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- many of which have been up for the honor before. I neglected, however, to play the game every music nerd will join today: discussing who was left out, and who might be the ideal short list. Rush fans, time to speak up!
So. I am happiest about the following from this year's crop, and hope they make it:
Chic: Not just a great disco band -- a great band, period. The sound and style created by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards set the stage for both hip hop and new wave. Donna Summer is deserving, too, but I'd go for Chic first.
Tom Waits: Sorry, King Crimson fans; Waits is the quintessential art rocker. He's a visionary without being pretentious. He has a sense of humor. And the man sure knows how to bang on a can.
Laura Nyro: Though I would have preferred to see her friends in Labelle get the nod, I support another effort to induct this important, though sometimes overlooked, singer-songwriter, who died in 1997. Nyro's own albums were complex and joyful and boundary-breaking, setting the stage for artists such as Sara Bareilles and Ben Folds. She also wrote enduring hits, including "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Wedding Bell Blues."
LL Cool J AND the Beastie Boys: It's only been a few years since the Rock Hall began to acknowledge the overwhelming dominance of hip hop in today's culture. It's time for some catch-up. If Nirvana pioneered the hard-soft dynamic in rock (and you know that band will get in the instant it's eligible), LL did it for rap. He's an all-around entertainer who deserves the spot. And the Beasties are much more than Jewish rappers -- they fused punk and hip hop in a hugely influential way, helped define the style and practice of indie culture, and (kudos to Adam Yauch) showed how modern-day benefits should be done with the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Like Chic and Donna Summer, these two are probably either-or, but I think they should be both-and.
Dr. John: Having recently spent some time in New Orleans, I've been reminded of that city's central role in defining American pop. Mac Rebennack is a scholar of Crescent City sounds who's taken its traditions into utterly unexpected places. In recent years, he's become a powerful spokesperson for the region, from the post-Katrina Ninth Ward to the oil-soaked Gulf.
And who was left out?
Labelle: This trio of amazing women has journeyed from the girl group era through classic rock, funk, disco, quiet storm and contemporary soul; and as anyone who saw Labelle's recent tour can attest, Patti still hits the high notes, Sarah is swellegant, and Nona can still shake her tail feathers. So wrongly overlooked.
Kate Bush: The godmother of New Wave, a pioneer of electronic music and the definitive artist of what I call "ultrafemme" pop, this thorny English rose is probably too reclusive to ever make it into the Rock Hall's party crowd. But with artists like Maxwell and Big Boi speaking up for her, Bush is ripe for reevaluation.
Frank Sinatra: I have been reading James Kaplan's hefty new biography of Ol' Blue Eyes, and it makes a strong case for Sinatra as Elvis before Elvis, and fab before the Beatles. Sinatra was initially no friend to rock -- he once called it "brutal" and "ugly" -- but he recorded songs by both. If we're revising pop history, we might as well recognize that his artfully confrontational, frankly sexy style created the context for those other history-making acts. Heck, there's already a Facebook group devoted to getting him nominated.
Now it's your turn, pop fanatics. Who should get in the Hall this time around? Who hasn't gotten the nod yet, but should? Marc Bolan? The Smiths? Keely Smith? The Gap Band?
-- Ann Powers
Images, from left: LL Cool J (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times); Beastie Boys (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times