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Tom Waits, Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J top eclectic list of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees

When the list arrived of this year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first thing that occurred to me was a very current cliche. The roster -- eclectic, centerless, open to many interpretations -- seemed very much like an iPod playlist.

The nominees for induction in 2011 are Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits, and Chuck Willis.

HOF_2011Doesn't this unusually long and laudably diverse list seem like it could be on somebody's mix at the gym? Perhaps not a drag queen's, to steal a recent line from "Glee" -- but from one angle it does fulfill that stereotype, with disco favorites (and repeat nominees) Chic and Donna Summer sharing megabytes with glam rock's scary  uncle Alice Cooper, coffeehouse chanteuse Laura Nyro, and girl group heartbreaker Darlene Love.

Or maybe it's the Nano of a suburban mom or dad. I regularly meet several on the soccer field who will be delighted for Bon Jovi, one of the hardest-working bands in show biz and this year's populist choice. Like so many artists once scorned for being "too pop" -- like Neil Diamond, for example -- Bon Jovi has been recognized more recently for its consummate craft and dedication to the art of entertainment. One thing that's gone upside-down in the iPod age is the notion of what's hip. Loving "Cherry Cherry" and admitting you rock out in the car to "Livin' on a Prayer" are now signs of open-mindedness.

J. Geils Band, an underdog but a favorite of some rock hall insiders, is in some ways the Bon Jovi of an earlier generation -- a bar band gone nationwide. And a parallel can be drawn between Diamond and Donovan. Both songwriters were seen in their prime as mainstreamers of countercultural sounds and styles; now, both are reborn proteges of Rick Rubin, contemporary pop's prime conveyor of the stamp of authenticity, and are recognized as legitimate rock-era titans.

Hip from the beginning, the previously nominated Beastie Boys get another chance this year, and in some ways, the pioneering hip-hop punks stand alone; they're this year's purest representatives of the 1980s college-rock crowd. Put the Beasties and Jon Bon together on a playlist, though, and add in heartthrob rapper LL Cool J, and what do you have? A quintessential 21st-century wedding reception mix. None of these artists are that far apart.

Indie types could also claim first-time nominee Waits as their own, though he really transcends any subculture or simply defined category. The singer-songwriter and Anti Records artist will likely be lauded by several varieties of music snobs as this year's bravest choice. He's an art-rocking innovator who's never had a big hit; it's hard to imagine him schmoozing at this spring's VIP induction ceremony.

Yet Waits would easily fit on a playlist with Dr. John. The New Orleans stalwart connected roots music to psychedelic rock in ways similar to what the California contrarian, in his mid-period, did for it and post-punk.

As for the two lesser-known, roots music-associated names on this year's list, both make fitting predecessors to this era of delightfully mixed-up flash. Chuck Willis was a blues-rock dandy known for crossing over from R&B to pop. Joe Tex was a soul shouter and rival of James Brown whose distinctive vocal approach pre-dated rap.

I'd be happy for virtually any combination of this year's worthy and widely varied nominees. Apart from specifics, I'm glad that the rock hall, by definition devoted to hierarchies, has fully embraced the iPod approach to canonization. That little device and the culture of downloading that it embodies have thoroughly shuffled pop's hierarchies, making this an era of alternate realities, proudly personal value judgments and left-field notions of greatness. Yes, there will be complaints about this year's nominees, as always. But no one can argue that this mix is one that will make the fancy folks at this year's induction ceremony shake in their seats -- in the best possible way.

-- Ann Powers

Photo: Tom Waits poses for the Times in 1989. Credit: Ellen Jaskol / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (32)

I can't understand why Little Feat and Lowell George haven't been nominated and inducted yet. Little Feat...perhaps the most accomplished "R n R" musicians on the planet.

Happy for Bon Jovi-but confused. Bon Jovi themselves have in the past admitted to copying Def Leppard's sound, particularly "Slippery When Wet" being "Pyromania Pt.II"Yet, Def Leppard has never even been whispered about as a nominee. Why? Because Rick Allen's car accident slowed their recordings down? Or because Bon Jovi had more hits in the 1990's?

Once again! One can only assume that the nominating committee has overlooked Rush once again because the Canadian trio is once again filling amphitheater's across America with, once again, the hardest driving and best-performed live rock out there. I mean, you gotta retire first, right? So it ought to be a few more years before Rush gets their shot.

Put Rick Rubin on the list. Without him there'd be no Beastie Boys or LL Cool J.

The Rock Hall is becoming a good ol' boys network. LL Cool J, J Geils and the Beastie Boys over Chicago? And what about DEEP PURPLE? Who votes and who should be voting. Bon jovi is a good band but they are hardly PIONEERS OF ROCK AND ROLL LIKE DEEP PURPLE AND CHICAGO. Lets get real and boycott this phony I wash your back if you wash my back stuff

Still no Kiss?? Very disappointing!!

No RUSH again? What a joke!!

Hate to sound like a broken record, but seminal Los Angeles punk rock band X keeps getting overlooked.

It would be a grand party to salute the ladies and disco: Chic, Donna Summer, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, but eventually the ones who'll be making the cut are: Waits, Bon Jovi, Diamond, Summer, Nyro, Love and Chic if they go with 7 entries..if 5, Waits, Nyro, BJ, Diamond, and Love...amongst the missing where's Heart, B-52s, Styx, the Moody Blues and ELO?

there is nothing less interesting announced during the year than the list of R&R HoF nominees, except maybe when they announce those who actually get voted in.

who cares? my own HoF is in my iPod. what do i need Jan Wenner for?

What about Rush? They have been around for nearly 40 years, are gifted musicians and have influenced many artists already enshrined in the HOF. They have something like 30 gold or platinum records and continue to tour with the same line up for 36+ years. Why the snub?

Is it me? ....how about the Doobie Brothers or Rush. The RnR hall is Pop bs.

Bon Jovi? Seriously? If you are going to give them anything you have to give it first to Desmond Child, the real writer of their "hits." To all those Rush fans out there who feel their band is slighted...count your blessings...Rush is too good to be lumped in to this bland, vanilla list. Rush continue to go about the job of making rock and roll without needing a pat on the back or someone whispering in their ear that they're good. They know they are.

KISS, Genesis, Def Leppard, Pat Benatar, Chicago, Boston, The Doobie Brothers, Rush, The Moody Blues, Cheap Trick..come on now, how can these 10 STILL be looked over???

Being a die-hard Rush fan for a few decades now, I am quite fine with them never being inducted into the Hall of Fame - and I bet Rush is fine with it, too. We fans know how great Rush is, and there's not a single artist or group out there who does not envy the success Rush has enjoyed throughout their career. To create great music with your best friends for nearly four decades, to never have a record company dictate anything about your career, to continue to sell out venues and play in front of devoted fans who are there only for you (i.e. never an opening act), to have the most gold and platinum albums after the Beatles and Stones...nope, it can't get much better than that! None of the nominees - with the exception of Bon Jovi - would ever play to a stadium filled with 60,000+ fans as Rush will be doing next week in Brazil (for the second time). So...despite their great ability to lead by example, despite their immeasurable professionalism and skill, despite their immense dedication to their craft, despite their career-spanning success, despite their great influence on numerous artists and bands over the decades...well I guess all that stuff just doesn't matter to the Hall of Fame. And that tells you a lot about the Hall of Fame, now doesn't it.

As Greil Marcus said many years ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a bad idea. As opposed to a sports hall of fame where numbers rule, this tries to quantify what can only be qualitative. Any body that claims to represent rock and roll but cannot make room for Billy Lee Riley, Ernie K-Doe, the Five DuTones, ? and the Mysterians, the Gang of Four, Afrika Bambaataa or the Replacements and CAN make room for Billy Joel has, to me, lost track of what rock and roll really is. I understand: artists sell records, make money, get respectable and, therefore, get votes and accolades from Clive Davis and Jann Wenner and their ilk and there is a need to glorify that but it really has nothing to do with what the essence of rock and roll really is, now is it?

So yes, Ann, let us really consider the eligibility of Bon Jovi. At the end of the day, are they anything more than a consumately professional and shiny entertaining unit, often hinting at real passion without ever really dirtying themselves with it. In other words, they are a perfect band for their market group and, in many ways, deserve to be in the rock and roll hall of fame as much--or perhaps more--than the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan because they PLAYED THE GAME that, ultimately, the rock and roll hall of fame seeks to honor.

And back to Billy &*%#in' Joel, how is he more rock and roll than Neil Diamond. I mean, is it still rock and roll to you, Ann???

I am beyond getting pissed about Rush being snubbed every year. 3rd longest streak of gold or platium albums behind the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Arguably the best drummer of all times. Not just selling out concert venues across the world for decades but getting better as time goes on. There is only 3 in the band and they put out more sound than bands twice the size.
I have been a fan all my life. Their whole career. I am done getting upset. Now I am rooting for them not to get in. They are to good to be named with most of the bands or musicians in the hall of fame. Oh sick.. just threw up in my mouth as I wrote hall of fame. hall of fame NOT!

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a joke. Even Larry Mullen Jr. from U2 admits that his band should not have been inducted in the first place. It's a crap party for the powers that be in the music world who can't think of anything better to do for the fans.

Not a huge fan, but even I know bands like KISS, Moddy Blues, Yes, RUSH, Chicago, ELO, Deep purple, Doobie Bros., Carole King, Stevie Ray Vaughn deserve entry before this list. Only 2 that totally deserve is Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond. And why they continually leave the LA band X off the list is beyond me.

J. Geils and Donovan? Sheesh!

The R&R HOF is an absolute JOKE!!! No Rush, no Cars and, most egregiously, no Sparks! If the pioneering and ground-breaking Mael Bros are not in the hall, nobody else deserves to be! Sparks practically invented glam, electronic disco and 80's synth. What a complete sham. Yet, they have Darlene Love (who??) and Laura Nyro (WHO???) on the ballot. What a bunch of rubbish. Thats why nobody goes to the stupid R&R HOF...

How can you call it the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame when Rush and KISS are always overlooked? Both bands sold millions of records, created iconic music recognizable throughout the world and STILL draw today. It's pretty ridiculous and pretentuious of the Hall of Fame.

This list is mad diluted. It's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If they aren't "rock and roll," why include them? If their influence is limited in time or to a sub-sub-genre of rock music, why include them?

Within that list I only see 2 worthy of getting in, Al Cooper and Bon Jovi. And, why isn't Def Leppard being added to the inductees? Although they shouldn't get in before Cooper. Plus I don't believe Rap belongs in the Rock Hall of Fame....

Why doesn't anybody else realize that most of those names mentioned aren't ROCK BANDS? Donna Summer and the rest of the disco "phenomenon" have no business in the ROCK hall of fame.

I really think Bon Jovi ought to be admitted to the “Country” music Hall of Fame, because nowadays, every “Country” band sounds like Bon Jovi with a hat.

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