The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Love It. Loathe It. Curse It. Damn It. Praise It. Bless It.

Goodness Gracious, Great Halls Of Fire: T
Sonia Moskowitz / IMAGES / Getty Images
– Goodness Gracious, Great Halls Of Fire:
The ageless Tina Turner and Little Richard are pictured during the 1989 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York City. While Turner was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1991 as Ike And Tina Turner, she’s getting her own spot this year in the performer category.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is both the most controversial and desirable location in the realm of modern music. Who’s in? Who’s not? Where are the women? What makes hip-hop rock? How does disco doyenne Donna Summer qualify? James Taylor? Madonna? ABBA?

Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson famously sniped, “Rock ’n’ roll does not belong in a mausoleum in Cleveland.” He continued in the 2018 Jerusalem Times interview, “It’s a living, breathing thing, and if you put it in a museum, then it’s dead. It’s worse than horrible, it’s vulgar.”
Calling the voting body “elitist,” Dickinson says he will refuse induction. Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider understands Dickinson’s frustration, though Snider encouraged his band’s fans to vote for Iron Maiden in the fan-based induction category.
Snider assails the issue this way: “The RnR Hall committee members are arrogant, elitist assholes who look down on metal and other bands that sell millions because we’re not their definition of cool. … I’m hoping that the fans don’t take a lot of notice of Bruce’s comments. I want Maiden to get what they deserve.”
When passions run that high, you know you’re onto something. But what? And how?
For The Go-Go’s, who’ve been eligible for the Rock Hall since 2006, the question is “What took so long?” The girl gang from Los Angeles’ fertile punk scene was not only the first all-girl band to top Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, they remain the only female band to have done so. Self-created, they embodied the do-what-you-do ferocity that made a scene that also spawned the Germs, X, the Cramps and more from such fertile soil.
Hail! Hail! Rock ’N’ Roll:
Sonia Moskowitz / IMAGES / Getty Images
– Hail! Hail! Rock ’N’ Roll:
Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles are pictured during the very first Rock Hall Induction Ceremony in 1986.
Started by Ahmet Ertegun in 1983, with a board that included Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, eclectic label executives Seymour Stein, Noreen Woods and Bob Krasnow, and lawyers Allen Grubman and Suzan Evans, its initial class would be inducted in 1986. Representing the foundation of rock ’n’ roll, the Rock Hall’s first class is a fairly straightforward list.
Elvis, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis were the initial inductees. Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Yancey were inducted as Early Influences, while Cleveland DJ/Moondog Coronation Ball promoter Alan Freed, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, and legendary A&R man and producer John Hammond were celebrated as non-Performers. 
Walking into the induction ceremony on Oct. 30, there are 351 members across the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Stretched across four categories, they are Performers, Early Influences, Musical Excellence and the recipients of the Ahmet Ertegun Award for nonperformers who’ve made a “a major influence on the creative development and growth of rock & roll and music that has impacted youth culture.”
Out of all those garage bands, one hit wonders, crazy sensations, enduring mid-level acts, “favorite bands” and splinter groups, just 301 have been voted in. This year, finally, Todd “Is God” Rundgren has been elected. For Rundgren’s legions of fans, it is sweet vindication; not because they were right, but because the ultimate oxymoron – “the rock ’n’ roll establish” – has recognized his brilliance as an artist, his impact as a producer (including Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, Patti Smith’s Wave, and Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band), engineer (The Band’s Stage Fright) and remixer (Tame Impala and Nine Inch Nails), as well as his influence on artists such as Aimee Mann, XTC, Lenny Kravitz, Björk and Rufus Wainwright.  
While the Rock Hall – no matter who you are – has massive fails based on people’s individual record collections; when an artist goes in, it is a victory for everyone who loves them. YES! The mark my favorite artist made mattered. They are among the best there ever was. They stand tall above their peers, or singularly in a world of absolute individuals. Vexing, though it may be … political, though perhaps it can get… silly,  even, after the number of years eligible … 
Tell that to Tina Turner, being inducted as a woman on her own. Or Carole King. Both had partnerships, but their solo careers far outshone wherever they’d come from. Turner and King are only the second and third women to be inducted to the Rock Hall twice after King was inducted with Gerry Goffin for songwriting in 1990 and Turner was inducted with Ike Turner in ‘91. Stevie Nicks was previously inducted as a solo artist in 2019 and a member of Fleetwood Mac in 1988. 
Tell it to Jay-Z, who’s carved whole new tributaries between hip-hop flow and straight up rock ’n’ roll. Tell it to the Foo Fighters, who like Jay-Z, got in during their first year of eligibility to be inducted. Indeed, to see Clarence Avant be given the Ahmet Ertegun Lifetime Achievement … Kraftwerk, Charley Patton and Gil Scott-Heron framed as Early Influences … and LL Cool J, shredder Randy Rhoads, and funky cool keyboardist Billy Preston going in for Musical Excellence, those are wins. 
Like sports, there’s always the rub that keeps people talking. It will never be perfect. There will always be egregious omissions and inductions that feel, well, odd. But there’s no reason to call the whole thing off.
With its 150,000 square foot footprint in a giant I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid rising up from the edges of Cleveland’s Lake Erie, the Rock Hall creates a target for the faithful to hone in on. Beyond where the music happened – thank heavens for Motown in Detroit; Sun Studio in Memphis; FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala.; First Avenue in Minneapolis; Antone’s and The Continental Club in Austin; the Peppermint Lounge, CBGB, Apollo Theater and Ritz in New York; and the Whisky, Troubadour and Roxy in LA – there are those places, like Cleveland, where music was oxygen.
Photo by Ebet Roberts / Getty Images
– Shoe-Ins:
The Beatles get their due in 1988, with (L-R) Ahmet Ertegun, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Julian Lennon pictured at the ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Also inducted that year were legends like The Drifters, Bob Dylan, The Supremes and The Beach Boys. In just its third year, the Rock Hall was already seeing some controversy with an incendiary speech from Mike Love, who criticized just about everyone in the room as well as those who chose not to attend, such as Paul McCartney and Diana Ross.
Never mind how many times WMMS won Rolling Stone’s Best Radio Station in their annual poll, or the fact Allen Freed coined the phrase “rock ’n’ roll” on his late night WJW radio show, it’s the people who create and embrace the artists who become legends. Bowie, Prince, U2, Springsteen, Rush, Rundgren, John Mellencamp, Lou Reed and more had footholds in a city where the river burned, the lake died and the sports teams are their own kind of legend.
When you take away the expense accounts, the posturing, the who made more money – and you take it back to the root and the combustion of why any of this matters, to the heart of rock ’n’ roll, it’s the people. Having been born and raised in the 2-1-6, I understand the power of a song to transform your DNA helix … And that is what great rock ’n’ roll does.
Carole King’s 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry, was the first record I ever bought. Tina Turner walked, instead of talked her feminism, and looked good doing it. I listened to Todd Rundgren live from Hank LoConti’s Agora Ballroom on WMMS on his “Back to the Bars Tour” – and thrilled when “A Dream Goes On Forever” made his live record. The Go-Go’s? They represented refusal and kicking expectations in the knee – how punk rock! – but never surrendering your smarts or your exuberance; what could be more rock ’n’ roll?
As for Jay-Z and the Foo Fighters, one listen says all you need to know. They bring it hard and true. Their focus is complete, their ability to transform people, build them up and then make them erupt with songs is everything that fueled the Swingos’ economy of misadventure, late nights and good times.
That’s really what the Rock Hall is about. More than the stats and the committees, it’s about the people who make the music and the people who consume it. When you walk through an exhibition like Pink Floyd’s The Wall you step into where the music, the moment came from. Whether it’s clothing, manuscripts, instruments, or Janis Joplin’s psychedelic car, you can size up these artists. It is a human-sized reality for the largest larger than life stars.
Maybe in having a place to come together, to compare and argue, we tighten our bond to the things we love. 
Regardless, the Rock Hall matters. If you think it doesn’t, let’s get Iron Maiden in and see what Bruce Dickinson does.