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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rock and Roll In the Hall

Blues, country and western, gospel, swing jazz -- all of these types of music contributed to the birth of rock music. Arguments over the first true rock song and the original rock artist have raged for well over a half century, and still nothing is conclusive.

Whether "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Rocket 88," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," "That's All Right, Mama," or some other equally great tune is the first rock song remains cloudy. And, whether the Delmore Brothers, Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Jackie Brenston, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Elvis, or some other musician is the real "Rock Granddaddy of Them All" is still an open debate.

One thing is sure: rock music did not sprout overnight. A variety of people, places and scenes contributed to its early development. People like me who have grown up listening to rock music defend it as an important element of popular entertainment and pop culture.

A young child of the '50s (I was born in 1951.), I was immersed in the Hit Parade recordings of Perry Como, Johnny Horton, Nat "King" Cole, Dina Shore, and the like. Folk era artists like Harry Belafonte, the Kingston Trio, and the Highwaymen also had a big impact on my early love of music. I can probably still remember most of the lyrics to the 45s I began collecting in the '50s. I began to love music then while developing my personal musical tastes, and I think the decade produced many of the great vocal artists of all time.

Then, in the '60s, rock music stormed into my life. Of course, Elvis was the established king of the genre by that time, but with the emergence of transistor radios and AM rock radio, a flood of new artists entered my life at the touch of my fingertips. Allowing me instant access to mass recordings, radio became my constant companion, and DJs served as my personal ambassadors to this rock and roll wonderland. In came the Brill Building artists, Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke, Ricky Nelson, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, the Four Seasons... on and on.

By late 1964, the British Invasion, the Motown hit factory, Dick Clark's Bandstand, and garage band mania had completely stolen my musical heart. During the 1960s, rock matured and became the preferred popular music in America. I loved the stuff and could never seem to get enough. I am sure that I became a rock fanatic then, and I remain totally absorbed in the music today.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Several years ago I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. I loved the Hall and spent several hours there during my visit. I could have spent at least a couple of days absorbing all of the exhibits, but time did not allow. Count on it -- I will return for a longer stay.

And, what great stores at the Hall! It features a gift shop and a music store filled with all of the recordings of  the inductees. The music store was outstanding. It's a good thing I didn't have much extra money to spend. I believe I would have shelled out some major bucks there if only my budget had permitted.

As much as I like the Hall, I am disappointed that some of the great artists of the late '50s and '60s have yet to be inducted. I thought I would explore this issue here.

Here is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction process used for performers :

"Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.

The Foundation’s nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, selects nominees each year in the Performer category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of more than 500 rock experts. Those performers who receive the highest number of votes - and more than 50 percent of the vote - are inducted. The Foundation generally inducts five to seven performers each year."

Those selected to vote include academics, journalists, producers, and others with music industry experience. Around five to seven performers are inducted each year.The first group of inductees, inducted on January 23, 1986, included James Brown, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. As of 2011, 296 artists have been inducted.

The most frequent criticism of the Hall of Fame is that the nomination process is controlled by a few individuals who are not themselves musicians, reflecting their personal tastes rather than the views of the rock world as a whole. The committee has also been accused of largely ignoring certain genres such as progressive rock, '60s top 40, and New Orleans funk. Some people have actually criticized the Hall saying that too many artists are routinely inducted.

According to Fox News, petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were also being ignored, and some groups that were signed with certain labels or companies or were affiliated with various committee members have even been put up for nomination with no discussion at all. (Roger Friedman, "Rock Hall of Fame Fallout: 'There Is Resentment Building Up,' Fox News, April 4 2001)

Whether any of this criticism is valid, I don't know. I really don't even care to research further to find out why some people are not already in the Hall. All I know is that some more artists have the stuff necessary for inclusion in the Hall. 

In my opinion, some super rockers have not been inducted. These folks have made my rock experience very rewarding. I continue to listen to their recordings to this day, and I truly believe each of them has contributed greatly to the advancement of rock and roll. In no particular order, here is my personal list of those worthy of induction:

Steve Miller Band
Neil Sedaka
The Monkees
Tommy James and the Shondells
Johnny Rivers
The Moody Blues
The Zombies
Connie Francis
Dick Dale
Grand Funk Railroad
The Guess Who

It is very apparent that my list is comprised mainly of artists most popular during my early years. I plead guilty to being a big fan of that rock era.

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