If you’re like me, you have a deep appreciation and interest in music. That is probably why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame got my attention this past week.
Last week, they released their nominee list for the class of 2020 to be inducted into Cleveland's home for popular music history. When the nominees were released, SiriusXM's Volume channel jumped on the discussion of which artists were worthy of nomination and eventual induction.
First off, what is the Volume channel? Sitting at 106 on the SiriusXM dial, this is a station where the talk is about music. Though you would rather listen to the actual song or album on the radio, I found it even more fascinating when the discussion goes beyond the recording, spotlighting an artist’s methodology behind the music and how music impacts our lives and society in general.
For the sake of disclosure, I am that kind of geek. One who wants to know what’s behind the music and that particular industry. Do you think the automotive industry is fascinating? Try the music industry.
As announced, the nominees for the induction class of 2020 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are: Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, The MC5, Motorhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy.
I would love to tell you which of these nominees should be nominated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but I would love to tell you what the hosts on Volume had to say about them.
It comes as no surprise that Eddie Trunk is an advocate for any of the rock and metal artists who are nominated for induction. For the unfamiliar, Trunk is a talk show host whose main focus was metal and hard rock. In fact, you can learn a lot from this radio and television host from New Jersey about these genres, if you have even a small inkling about these bands. However, Trunk is a voice of what has become a huge debate regarding the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame regarding the definition of "rock & roll."
This debate goes back to the original induction class back in 1986 – all of whom frame the beginnings of what we call "rock & roll." Inductees, such as Elvis Pressley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Robert Johnson, and Sam Phillips – all of whom framed the popular music we listen to today. That initial induction list also includes James Brown, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Jimmie Rodgers – people who could be classified in other genres other than "rock." And, yet, they fit the original intent of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by celebrating the foundation of today's vast musical atmosphere.
This is where the debate gets lively. What is considered "rock" music? Who is a "rock" artist? Are they really "rock & roll?" Should the entire Jackson family – including last year's inductee Janet – be considered "rock & roll?" How "rock & roll" is an artist such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, or NWA – all inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
This had been the theme across all of the shows on Volume – and, not just Eddie Trunk's show. The arguments were lively from Laurie Majewski and Nik Carter in the morning, through Alan Light and Mark Goodman in the afternoon – all the way to Lyndsey Parker on the Volume West show. Each host was taking a swipe at defining who is worthy of induction and whether or not they for the definition of "rock & roll." The consensus of these hosts and guests has been that every nominee is worthy of induction in their own right – as it really should be.
My response? In their own special way, all of these nominees are very rock & roll! Hip Hop was born from the beats and grooves laid down by James Brown's band, which in turn is traced back to the original Rhythm and Blues, and further back to the Blues – i.e. Robert Johnson.
Which brings up this very controversial question: Is the music business racist? If you go back to the 1950s, white artists re-recorded R&B hits from black artists to make those songs more palatable to a segregated audience. It seems that the same forms of racism that keep music in silos even though they came from the same roots.
This has been one of the issues about the broadcasting business for a century: the notion that while you cannot physically filter a radio wave – your ears can judge what comes on through your antenna. That judgment comes from your biases, tastes, and interests. These are conditioned by the people around you.
So, Mr. Trunk, before you disrespect Biggie Smalls for his nomination in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 2020 induction class, consider the notion that the same rock music your favorite artists played – and continue to record – have roots dating back to the Blues and further back to African rhythm patterns, as they eventually melded into European orchestral and folk musical ideas.
So, whom would I pick for the induction Class of 2020 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Each and every nominee has an argument for induction, so picking a top five for the online ballot is hard. We’ll know more after the new year when the induction class is eventually announced for the May ceremony in Cleveland.
Oh, and please make sure you put these nominees on your music streaming playlists!
Photo courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame