Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, the Alice Cooper Band, Dr. John and Darlene Love will be welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next spring, the organization will announce Wednesday.
All five had been long eligible for induction under the hall’s criteria that acts wait at least 25 years after releasing their first recordings. In addition, Jac Holzman and Art Rupe, the founders of Elektra and Specialty Records labels, respectively, are entering the hall as co-recipients of the annual Ahmet Ertegun Award bestowed on influential record executives.
Demonstrating that when Elton John speaks, Rock Hall voters listen, Leon Russell has been selected as the honoree for the new Award for Musical Excellence, previously known as the Sideman category. John had been exceptionally vocal this year when promoting their duet album “The Union” in saying that his Oklahoma-based fellow pianist, singer and songwriter deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.
Of the nominees who were on the final ballot for induction, Bon Jovi, Donna Summer, Chic, Laura Nyro, the Beastie Boys, Donovan, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Joe Tex and Chuck Willis were left to wait for another year to be voted in.
As much as Waits’ induction will be cheered by critics and fans who have long admired his idiosyncratic songs, which often deal with the denizens of seedy bars and low-rent hotels, this year’s choices won’t help mollify those who have criticized the hall for the scant attention it has given rap music since its earliest proponents first became eligible in the last few years.
Dr. John’s selection can be seen both as a vote of confidence in his richly regional gumbo of New Orleans R&B, jazz and rock as well as for his prominence in recent years as an outspoken champion of the Crescent City’s status as a wellspring of musical and cultural riches following the devastation to the region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Mainstream rock fans are also likely to grouse about the snub of Bon Jovi, even though many music critics have been lukewarm to New Jersey’s catchy but cliché-ridden brand of Springsteen-lite pop-rock.
When cartoonish rock band KISS made the nominee list last year, many fans objected, saying that Cooper, a.k.a. Vincent Furnier, had established the template for outrageously theatrical hard rock and deserved to be voted in first.
The induction ceremony will be held in March in New York.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo of Tom Waits in concert at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles in 1999. Credit: Los Angeles Times