By Brian Ives
On Friday night (April 7), Nile Rodgers will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His band, Chic, has been nominated for induction eleven times, including on the latest ballot, but they’ve never been voted in.
But Rodgers will not be inducted in the “Performers” category along with Pearl Jam, Yes, and Journey; instead, he’ll be presented with the “Award for Musical Excellence,” and that honor will not include the other members of Chic, the late Bernard Edwards, and the late Tony Thompson.
The Award for Musical Excellence seems to serve as a way for the Hall of Fame to honor artists who have not been voted in by the organization’s electorate (which includes over 900 music industry professionals, journalists, and musicians), but who they feel deserves the recognition. Past recipients of this award include the E Street Band in 2014 and Ringo Starr in 2015.
Starr—who, of course, was already a Hall of Famer with the Beatles—was the lone member of the Fab Four to not be inducted on his own; this seemed to be something the Hall of Fame wanted to change, but he was unlikely to be voted in by the voting body. As a bonus, his induction also provided an opportunity to get Paul McCartney to present Ringo at the induction ceremony, and to get the two surviving Beatles to perform together (which is exactly what happened).
The E Street Band wasn’t eligible to be inducted with Bruce Springsteen because he didn’t put their name on his albums until 1986’s Live 1975-1985 box set. It seemed like an error of sorts that they weren’t in with their leader (as opposed to the Heartbreakers, who were inducted with Tom Petty), so their induction righted a wrong.
The Rock Hall’s website‘s description of the Award for Musical Excellence says: “This award honors performers, songwriters, and producers who have changed the course of music history. These artists have dedicated their lives to creating influential, important music infused with originality, and have achieved a level of timeless distinction.”
So here is a list of other artists who fit that description, and who deserve the prestigious recognition by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but who may never get the votes needed to be inducted in the “Performers” category.
Randy Rhoads – The original guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Rhoads helped the former Black Sabbath singer redefine himself for a new decade. He only played on two albums—Osbourne’s 1980 releases Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman—before dying in a plane crash on March 19, 1982 (he also played on some early Quiet Riot albums). Still, he would go on to be one of metal and hard rock’s most influential guitar players; Tom Morello named his first son Rhoads. In fact, Morello told Radio.com that he’s been trying to get Rhoads honored: “I’ve lobbied for it exhaustively, and will continue to. He’s certainly deserving of that category: the Award for Musical Excellence.”
Emmylou Harris – Her stellar career as a solo artist has helped shape the course of the Americana movement, merging the worlds of folk, traditional country and rock and roll, and her work on other artists’ records—including Bob Dylan’s Desire, Willie Nelson’s Teatro and Gram Parsons’ trailblazing GP and Grievous Angel albums—goes far beyond being a “backing singer.” Her voice is an irreplaceable instrument, even on other people’s albums, and it’s a voice that has influenced generations.
Gram Parsons – Speaking of Parsons, he should have been inducted as a member of the Byrds, but the Hall of Fame opted only to include the band’s original lineup, which ignores the huge influence of the album that Parsons played on, 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The band he formed after leaving the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, further blazed the alt-country trail, and Parsons continued that on the two solo albums that he recorded before his 1973 death.
Ronnie James Dio – Like Parsons, he could have been inducted with a band he was a member of—Black Sabbath—but again, the Rock Hall decided to only include the band’s founding lineup. But Dio, first as a member of Rainbow, then with Sabbath, and finally leading his own self-named band, is one of metal’s biggest icons and most influential vocalists. The Hall of Fame has a lot of catching up to do where heavy metal is concerned—Motorhead, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden have still not yet been inducted—but at some point, after those icons get their due, RJD deserves to be honored as well.
Carole King – King actually is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer; she was inducted in 1990 as one-half of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King songwriting team, in the “Non-Performer” category. A worthy honor, to be sure, but it overlooks and ignores her solo career, and notably her 1971 classic Tapestry, which has sold over 25 million copies, and which defined the singer-songwriter movement of the ’70s. Her induction as “Non-performer” doesn’t recognize her as a singer, so she deserves to be recognized for that as well; it would make her the first female two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (other artists to get in twice include Jimmy Page, Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Rod Stewart and all four Beatles).
Paul Rodgers – It’s kind of mind-blowing that one of rock’s greatest singers isn’t already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In years past, the argument against Rodgers’ most successful band—Bad Company—may have been that they were a bit too populist for the critics in the voting body. But with the recent inductions of the Steve Miller Band and Chicago, not to mention this year’s inductees Journey and Electric Light Orchestra, there seems no reason why Bad Co. shouldn’t get in. But if, for some insane reason, they don’t, then at least Rodgers – who also sang for Free in the in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and the Firm in the ’80s – deserves a place in the Hall.
Ric Ocasek – As with Rodgers, it would be absolutely insane if Ocasek’s former band, the Cars, aren’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it should have happened years ago. But Ocasek’s production resume is also worthy of the Hall of Fame, including working on seminal albums for Weezer, No Doubt and Bad Brains (who also need to be inducted, soon).
Steve Ferrone – He’s another guy who should have been included with his band; Ferrone has been playing drums for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers since 1995 and played on Petty’s ’94 solo album Wildflowers. A former member of the Average White Band, he also logged time in Eric Clapton’s backing band and has played on records by Chaka Khan, Steve Winwood, Duran Duran, George Harrison, Johnny Cash and Stevie Nicks.
Paul Shaffer – He would deserve it just for his contribution to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself; he has been the Musical Director for their induction ceremonies starting with year one (1986). But also, as David Letterman’s bandleader—both with the World’s Most Dangerous Band during Letterman’s NBC years, and later, with the CBS Orchestra—he’s provided backing for hundreds of acts, along with being Dave’s always-on sidekick.
Rick Rubin – If the Rock Hall brings back the “Non-Performer” category, Rubin, who co-founded Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons (who should also be honored with that award) deserves that. But RR has produced classic albums for a number of Hall of Famers, including Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Petty, and his list of credits also includes albums by LL Cool J, Slayer, the Black Crowes, the Cult, Rage Against the Machine, System of A Down, Slipknot, Jay Z, Weezer, Shakira, the Dixie Chicks, the Avett Brothers, Adele and Eminem among many others.
Don Was – His band, Was (Not Was), was almost too weird for this world. But when he started producing other acts in the late ’80s, he helped to revitalize the careers of Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop, the B-52s and Bob Seger; in the years since, he’s become the Rolling Stones’ producer of choice (working on all of their albums since 1994), and his credits also include albums by Brian Wilson, Paul Westerberg, Willie Nelson, Solomon Burke and Lucinda Williams.
Tom Wilson – He’s perhaps not as famous a name as some of the aforementioned artists. But we’ll let his list of credits tell the story: Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’ Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and “Like a Rolling Stone”; Simon and Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning, 3 AM and the pop remix of “The Sound of Silence”; the Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out!; the Animals’ Animalization; the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and White Light/White Heat.
Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson – If Chic doesn’t get voted in, the Rock Hall should at least include the other members, Edwards (bass) and Thompson (drums). As Nile Rodgers asked Rolling Stone, “How do you pluck me out and say I’m worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but this band of mega players is not? The only reason why I know Bowie or Madonna or INXS or Duran Duran is because of Chic.”