Some years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems bent on stretching the definition of rock and roll. And some years, like this one, it seems bent on pleasing the crowds.
The bulk of this year’s class of inductees — Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits and The Moody Blues — are long-eligible rock bands whose fan bases (and some of the artists themselves) have cried bias for years as their heroes have been passed over.
In 2016, Jon Bon Jovi told Howard Stern that his band had been kept out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because he had a “big falling out” with one of the guys who runs the museum, though he wouldn’t name him.
“I called [the guy] a few choice words,” Bon Jovi said. “And I’m never shy, when I see him, to call him a few more choice words. And there’s other guys on that thing that have made it their personal mission to [expletive] with me. And that’s OK. I get it. I’ve sold more records than their artists.”
However, less than two years later, Bon Jovi finds himself, along with his band, getting into the Rock Hall. So what has changed?
Conspiracy theories abound. Some say that now that the Rock Hall inductions are open to the public, the museum wants more popular acts on the bill in order to sell tickets. Others claim that the waning influence of Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner, who sold the bulk of his stake in Rolling Stone magazine in December, means that many artists that he had previously blocked are now getting their due.
The most logical reason, though, is that the Rock Hall voting body is changing. After a committee picks nominees each year, more than 900 previous inductees, historians and music industry experts vote, with the top five or so artists with the highest totals getting inducted. The number of voters grows each year, as more and more inductees are added. And unlike the early years, when many of the inductees were deceased and could not vote in the following inductions, the ranks are growing rapidly and many are voting for their friends and collaborators.
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While many observers were shocked that nominees Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine were not inducted in their first year of eligibility, those bands simply don’t have the deep connections among other inductees as this year’s slate does.
Here’s a look at this year’s inductees.
BIO The New Jersey band showed how hard rock could keep its place on pop radio, as Jon Bon Jovi combined stadium-worthy anthems with a movie-star frontman delivery and Richie Sambora’s roaring guitar. They closed out the 1980s with a run of eight Top 10 singles, including four at No. 1, starting with the one-two punch of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” That run has kept arenas and stadiums filled for nearly three decades, still one of rock’s most popular bands and recently landing a No. 1 album in connection with their upcoming tour.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 2009
BIGGEST HIT “Livin’ on a Prayer” (No. 1, four weeks, 1987)
INDUCTED BY Howard Stern
BIO Led by singer-guitarist Ric Ocasek and singer-bassist Benjamin Orr, The Cars took the edgy, forward-thinking experiments of 1970s glam and punk and streamlined them into the upbeat pop-rock of “Just What I Needed” and “Let’s Go,” aided by Elliot Easton’s sharp guitar riffs, Greg Hawkes’ synthesizer flourishes and the drumming of David Robinson. The group disbanded in 1988. However, after Orr’s death in 2000, the surviving members of The Cars reunited for an album in 2011.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 2003
BIGGEST HIT “Drive” (No. 3, 1984)
INDUCTED BY The Killers’ Brandon Flowers
BIO Only Dire Straits mastermind Mark Knopfler could manage to turn an indictment of the music-video age into one of the most famous music videos of all time. Yes, Knopfler was a guitar virtuoso, but the band’s biggest hits are marked by his deadpan vocals, telling the tales of “Romeo and Juliet,” as well as “Walk of Life” and “Sultans of Swing.” Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, when Knopfler went solo and he rarely looks back on the band — which may explain why it’s unclear whether he will attend the ceremony since he has made no comment on the band’s induction.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 2003
BIGGEST HIT “Money for Nothing” (No. 1, three weeks, 1985)
INDUCTED BY TBA
THE MOODY BLUES
BIO As their name would suggest, The Moody Blues started as more of a blues-influenced band. However, the band came into its own with its sophomore album “Days of Future Passed,” the ambitious 1967 concept album that is seen as one of the cornerstones of progressive rock, built on the classic “Nights in White Satin.” The mix of symphonic orchestrations and psychedelic rock influenced a generation of British bands, including Yes and Genesis.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 1989
BIGGEST HIT “Nights in White Satin” (No. 2, 1972)
INDUCTED BY Heart’s Ann Wilson
BIO “The High Priestess of Soul” became a star thanks to her interpretive skills and her distinctive, soulful voice, tackling jazz, folk and blues in her own style, from Nat King Cole’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me” to the Scottish folk song “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” However, in the midst of the civil rights movement, Simone crafted her own indelible classics, including “Mississippi Goddam” and “(To Be) Young Gifted and Black,” that have influenced a generation of R&B and hip-hop artists such as Lauryn Hill and Kanye West.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 1986
BIGGEST HIT “I Loves You, Porgy” (No. 18, 1959)
INDUCTED BY Mary J. Blige
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
BIO Rosetta Nubin was a gospel prodigy, only 6 when she started performing at churches with her mother in 1921. But after working with bandleaders, including Duke Ellington, Tharpe developed a sound of her own, a combination of gospel, blues and jazz funneled into her electric guitar and her booming, soulful voice. Her 1945 single “Strange Things Happening Every Day” not only helped influence rock and roll, but it inspired a generation of early rockers, including Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, making the late singer-songwriter’s induction as an “Early Influencer” long overdue.
FIRST ELIGIBLE 1986
BIGGEST HIT “Strange Things Happening Every Day” (No. 2, R&B chart, 1945)
INDUCTED BY Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard
WHAT The 33rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Public Auditorium, Cleveland; airs 8 p.m. May 5 on HBO