Any Hall of Fame is bound to be at least partially subjective, especially one in the humanities.  An athletic Hall of Fame can at least aspire to a veneer of objectivity based on statistics.  But an artistic Hall of Fame falls within the province of preference and opinion.  Of course, that’s part of the fun.  We can argue for the inclusion of our favorite candidates or bemoan the omission of our personal darlings.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is the most visible of the artistic halls.  Music fans argue endlessly about the candidates for induction and launch letter-writing campaigns on behalf of their favorites. 

I have a few opinions about who should be inducted as well and I composed my own top ten list of artists for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.  Naturally, the list betrays my personal biases.  It predominantly draws from the music of my youth and from my preferred genres or styles of music.  Heavy metal fans would argue for Deep Purple or Iron Maiden instead, fans of prog rock would push for Yes or The Moody Blues, while those who were into “goth music” would promote The Smiths or The Cure, and fans of electronica might champion Kraftwerk or Chic.  Honestly, I wouldn’t argue against any of those choices.  I recognize their impact on the music scene even if they weren’t my personal cup of tea.  But they don’t make my list. 

Without further ado, here is my top ten list of artists for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. 


Tommy James and the Shondells: (debuted in 1966, eligible since 1991)

The 1960s are pretty well picked over when it comes to Hall of Fame candidates.  That’s not surprising as Baby Boomers make up most of the Hall’s directors and voters and they’re going to reward the music of their youth.  However, there are a few notable omissions.  Tommy James and the Shondells were one of the more successful American bands to debut in the wake of the British Invasion.  They started out as a pop act with hits like Hanky Panky, Mony Mony and I Think We’re Alone Now.  Notably, the latter two were #1 hits in 1987 via covers by Billy Idol and Tiffany.  The Shondells were then one of the few pop groups to successfully navigate the transition to psychedelic music, resulting in additional hits like Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion.  By the way, Joan Jett had a top ten hit in 1982 with her cover of Crimson and Clover.  The group broke up in 1970 but their legacy of hits and success in two different styles should make them Hall of Famers.


The Monkees: (debuted in 1966, eligible since 1991)

I know the arguments against the Monkees.  “They weren’t a real band.”  “They were put together by a TV executive.”  “Session musicians played the instruments on most of their hits.”  Here are the arguments in their favor.  They were one of the biggest bands of the late ‘60s.  They proved they could play their own instruments on tour and on their later singles.  They could always sing.  It shouldn’t matter how they were formed- only what they did while they were together.  This is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of arbitrarily enforced integrity.  I think the Monkees will eventually be inducted.  The later generations aren’t as concerned about the Monkees’ supposed lack of artistic integrity.  They only care that the songs were great.  And yeah, the songs were great from the big hits like Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer, Daydream Believer and Harper Valley PTA to deeper cuts like Mary, Mary, You Just May Be the One and Valleri. 


The Cars: (debuted in 1978, eligible since 2003)

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame can be surprisingly anti-populist at times.  It rightly embraces the trailblazers and progenitors of new genres but it occasionally ignores the later artists that rose to prominence within a genre.  The Cars didn’t invent New Wave- they followed other bands like Blondie and the Talking Heads- yet the Cars were one of the most successful of the New Wave groups.  They had success right out of the gate with their self-titled debut and early hits like Just What I Needed, My Best Friend’s Girl and Let the Good Times Roll (though they infamously lost out on the Grammy for Best New Artist to the long-forgotten Taste of Honey).  They continued to churn out minor hits through the early ‘80s before producing their biggest smash in 1984, Heartbeat City, which included the hits You Might Think, Magic and Drive.  That’s an enviable string of hits and a sufficient resume for the Hall of Fame.


Dire Straits: (debuted in 1978, eligible since 2003)

I was surprised when I discovered that Dire Straits isn’t already in the Hall of Fame.  They seem like the kind of band that would be perfectly suited for inclusion.  They’re a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll band that had critical praise and commercial success.  Dire Straits doesn’t really fit any conventional genre.  They’d probably be classified as part of the roots rock movement that followed Bruce Springsteen if they came from the U.S. but they hailed instead from England.  Their first hit, off their self-titled debut, was Sultans of Swing.  They had a couple more hits on their third album with Tunnel of Love and Romeo and Juliet.  But they reached another stratosphere with their fifth album in 1985.  Brothers in Arms produced the huge hits Money for Nothing, So Far Away and Walk of Life.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t match that level of success.  Their final album, On Every Street, was poorly received (though I personally love it) and they parted ways soon afterwards.  Lead singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler has continued an excellent solo career but it would be great to see the band back together for an induction ceremony. 


INXS: (debuted in 1980, eligible since 2005)

We’re fully in my wheelhouse now.  INXS was one of my favorite bands when I was young.  Their smash album, Kick, came out when I was 13 and first discovering rock ‘n’ roll.  That album is full of hit after hit: Guns in the Sky, New Sensation, Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart and on and on.  But INXS is more than a one-album band.  I went back and discovered the excellent Listen Like Thieves (as well as their inexecrable debut).  And I was on board for their forthcoming albums X (with great songs like Suicide Blonde, By My Side and Bitter Tears) and Welcome to Wherever You Are (with Taste It, Communication and Not Enough Time).  I recognize my bias in regards to INXS.  Yet, regardless of my personal passion, they were a successful and significant band.  The mid ‘80s saw a bit of a miniature Australian invasion with Men at Work, Midnight Oil, INXS and Crowded House.  INXS is the biggest of those bands and their body of work is deserving of the Hall of Fame.


Duran Duran: (debuted in 1981 debut, eligible since 2006)

This is probably my most contentious choice since people who don’t like Duran Duran really don’t like Duran Duran.  More than any other band, Duran Duran is accused of being style over substance- of capitalizing on good looks and interesting videos over musical talent.  I even saw one book that listed Duran Duran as one of the three worst artists ever (then again, the other two have both been inducted into the Hall of Fame).  Duran Duran certainly had style.  But they also had memorable hooks and catchy lyrics.  They were on the innovative edge of using synthesizers.  Plus, they were great for dancing, which has been an important part of rock ‘n’ roll for more than 60 years.  I also think their use of music videos is a point in their favor.  Musicians have routinely recognized the importance of visuals from movies to stage shows.  Duran Duran shouldn’t be penalized for recognizing the increasing importance of using music videos to reach an audience.  Instead, they should be rewarded for their incredible string of great songs including Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, The Reflex, Notorious, Ordinary World and Come Undone. 


Eurythmics: (debuted in 1981, eligible since 2006)

I admit it: I like New Wave music.  I’m not embarrassed to have three New Wave artists on this list.  The Hall of Fame has done a good job of inducting early New Wave artists like Blondie, Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads, but they’ve been more reticent to induct later New Wave bands despite otherwise impeccable credentials.  The Eurythmics were a great pop duo.  Dave Stewart crafted excellent songs, mixing synthesizers and guitars.  And Annie Lennox was a superstar.  She helped introduce a new kind of female lead singer (along with Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde).  She was also the androgynous answer to Mick Jagger and David Bowie.  She was confident, sensitive, complicated and one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen.  The Eurythmics combined intelligent lyrics with sing-able tunes in hits like Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, Here Comes the Rain Again, and Angel.  


Sting: (debuted in 1982 debut, eligible since 2007)

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame has established a precedent for inducting solo artists who were already inducted as part of a band.  They inducted 3 of the 4 Beatles, Paul Simon and, just this year, Peter Gabriel.  Sting compares very favorably to those last two.  Like Simon and Gabriel, Sting expanded his musical style as a solo artist and drew on world music for inspiration (see Desert Rose).  As a solo artist, Sting addressed an incredible range of topics from the political (They Dance Alone) to the personal (Fragile and All This Time) to the literary.  He’s sometimes accused of being pretentious but I prefer an artist who quotes the occasional line from Chaucer or Shakespeare over one who writes the same love song over and over again.  Sting is simply a great writer, whether he’s addressing universal themes like love, grief or divorce, or inhabiting a specific character. 


Bon Jovi: (debuted in 1983, eligible since 2008, previously nominated in 2011)

Here’s another band that doesn’t get a lot of critical respect.  Bon Jovi was initially dismissed as another heavy metal hair band at a time when that style of music dominated the scene.  But Bon Jovi wasn’t simply another hair metal band.  They were the most popular and the most enduring.  They had #1 hits with You Give Love a Bad Name, Livin’ on a Prayer, Bad Medicine and I’ll Be There for You (plus Jon Bon Jovi’s solo hit Blaze of Glory).  And they’re still making music today, adding more hits this century like It’s My Life, Have a Nice Day and We Weren’t Born to Follow.  Their heavy metal contemporaries Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica and Nirvana are being inducted as soon as they become eligible.  It seems strange that Bon Jovi is being made to wait.  As I said before, the Hall is sometimes strangely anti-populist.


LL Cool J: (debuted in 1984, eligible since 2009, previously nominated in 2010, ’11 and ‘14)

Some fans would prefer to see a narrowly defined Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.  They would only induct “pure” rock ‘n’ roll bands and leave out rap artists, disco acts and pop stars.  I appreciate the sentiment but that ship has sailed.  The Hall of Fame has already inducted rap artists like the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Run DMC.  As their contemporary, LL Cool J clearly belongs in the Hall of Fame as well.  LL Cool J helped usher in the popular age of rap music and was rap’s first solo star.  His debut album, Radio, was certified gold.  His next two albums, Bigger & Deffer and Walking with a Panther, reached #1 on the R&B charts and top ten on the Billboard charts.  He demonstrated his staying power with Mama Said Knock You Out (“don’t call it a comeback!”).  Although he’s since transitioned to acting more than rapping, his early output and position as a pioneer are Hall of Fame worthy.

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Figserello said:


I'd hope that whoever performed "Fight the Power" and "The Revolution will not be televised", respectively, are in already.


If you are referring to the Isley Brothers" song "Fight the Power," they were also inducted some years back.

I think he's referring to Public Enemy who were inducted last year.

The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is situated in the United States (Cleveland, Ohio, to be precise) so it naturally reflects the American perspective.  They've inducted plenty of bands from other parts of the world but mostly English-speaking nations (UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia) and mostly those who have had success over here.  However, if you look at Randy's list of criteria, you could make a case for RoxyMusic based on their musicianship and influence even if they were a bigger name in their native land.   

Frank Roach said:

They were not a big item here in the States, but I find it hard to understand why Roxy Music has never made the Hall Of Fame. Is the Hall subtitled Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Only groups big in the US can apply)?

Roxy's impact on British Rock and culture can not be overestimated.

Chic is (are?) an interesting item.  They've been nominated for the Hall of Fame more than any other act.  They've been finalists 8 times and have never been elected.  Nobody else has been a finalist even half as many times without being inducted.  It's partly a backlash against disco which should have died out long ago (the backlash, that is; disco obviously survived long after its supposed "death").  Then again, I think Niles Rodgers arguably has a better case in the non-performer category as a producer. 

Randy Jackson said:

Chic - Influential. Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers and some of the best dance music ever.

Figserello said:

The Smiths are not a 'Goth' band. Tongue-in-cheek miserabilist Indie pioneers would be a better label maybe? 

"Indie pioneers" works for me.  I was trying to think of the right description and "Goth" was the best I could come up with, based more on their fans than on the band itself.  

I take it back. I'm vindicated. I was listening to a box set of '80s underground music and reading the liner notes and the set editor referred to British bands The Smiths and The Cure as goth rock. They may not have been referred to that way in the British Isles but they were called that over here.

Chris Fluit said:

Figserello said:

The Smiths are not a 'Goth' band. Tongue-in-cheek miserabilist Indie pioneers would be a better label maybe? 

"Indie pioneers" works for me.  I was trying to think of the right description and "Goth" was the best I could come up with, based more on their fans than on the band itself.  

Suit yourself!

I would most assuredly not call the Smiths a "Goth" band;.

IIRC, during their heyday, the media referred to them as a "glum rock" band. These days, they would likely be referred to as "emo".

Content-wise, their lyrics sort of fit some goth themes, but those themes can be equally applied to any number of sub-genres. Also, to me "goth" implies more than just a tone, but a look as well. The Cure fits. The Smiths did not.

Agree that the Smiths were in no way, shape or form a goth band.  Also agree about what others have said about Roxy Music and would add that they were enormously influential on musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.  Check out the song Editions Of You from the great For Your Pleasure album:  the entire career of The Cars is summed up in that one song.

I've been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It's a nice place to visit but the selection process for membership is a joke. 

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