October 21, 2016 by Jay Minkin
Dear Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation:
I guess it’s time to call you out. Over the last few years, the selection committee had been announcing nominees that made many folks scratch their head and wonder. It seems that the ballots sent out to your over 600 historians, members of the music industry and select performing artists to choose five performers off the list for the induction class is missing a few names. With artists becoming eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record, it would be suffice to say that list could be quite lengthy. By opening the door as you have shown to the broad spectrum of genera’s deserving distinction, I feel one voice is being left out of the argument. As a longtime member of the museum and supporter of the foundation, this year’s nominating class shows some negligence to several deserving names that AT LEAST should be listed on the ballot. I feel it’s my duty to take a stand and speak out for the artists who have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence and talent, along with having a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock & roll.
Not sure if there is another woman who can rock it out like Lucinda Williams. Since her self-titled debut in 1988, she has melded poetry about love and pain with an electric guitar. Her career skyrocketed in 1998 with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road that remains one of the signatures of Americana music fusing rock, blues, and country. Another eligible songwriter that is hard to categorize is Steve Earle, who released his breakthrough album Guitar Town in 1986. Combining storytelling with rock, country and bluegrass, this rebellious Texan has quietly put together an amazing songbook of compositions. Of course, when you’re talking about songwriters, who can you leave out John Hiatt whose Hangin’ Around the Observatory in 1974 was the initial spark to one of today’s most respected American singer-songwriters. Just as revered by his peers is John Prine, widely regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation since the release of his self-titled album in 1971. Just on the cusp of eligibility is Alejandro Escovedo with his first solo album Gravity released in 1992. His rootsy alt country mixed with a dash of punk or Mexican strings is truly morphed from rock and roll with influence from The Rolling Stones and …..
When you mention iconic voices, there is no other like Ian Hunter. If his former band Mott The Hoople can’t be recognized, certainly the former lead singer whose self-titled solo album released in 1975 should garner him some notice. The glam rocker still pounds the keyboards and is releasing new material to critical acclaim. Another artists who could be multi-categorized is “The Wizard and True Star” Todd Rundgren. Hailed for his catalog of hit songs and for his iconic album production of other artists, Rundgren has also instilled cutting edge recording technologies since the release of Runt in 1970. Part of the Southern California songwriter’s circle of the mid 1970’s, Warren Zevon has not only written great songs for his own records, but also huge hit singles for other artists since the release of his self-titled debut in 1976. But you can’t bring up the influence of Laurel Canyon without mentioning ….
Yes, “The Cosmic Cowboy” and Godfather of Alt Country Gram Parsons should definitely have a resting place inside The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum flying solo or with his bandmates from The Flying Burrito Brothers. You have to take into consideration his influence as a member of The Byrds with the release of Sweetheart of the Rodeo in 1968 that transitioned into The Gilded Palace of Sin in 1969 with the Burrito’s or his short lived solo career with GP in 1973. He paved the way for Nashville and Los Angeles to meld into the country rock genera that influenced artists and bands now honored in the hallowed hall. On top of that, he discovered a songbird named Emmylou Harris whom he blended gorgeous harmonies with. Blessed with one of rock’s most beautiful and distinguishable voices, Harris’s biography includes a long recording career as a singer-songwriter with Pieces of the Sky released in 1975. She is also revered as a harmonizer; making appearances on a who’s who list of albums, tours, and special releases second to none giving her the distinction of Americana royalty.
It would be interesting to see a ballot with these additional names and how the votes would be cast. I could easily pick five and call it one of the most stellar classes inducted into the Hall of Fame. With a return of the week-long celebration and ceremony to Cleveland, it would defiantly amp up the induction class with a few of the above mentioned names. Adding a voice of truth and reason may squelch some of the huge amounts of negativity that seems to drown out some of the excitement in announcing the nominees list. It would be an honor and privilege to be a part of the process if asked to participate, so I’m throwing my hat into the ring for 2018.