At the time of this article’s writing, there are a number of artists who are nearing the top of the fan vote poll to enter the 2018 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In a clear lead, at just over 1 million votes is the glam metal band, Bon Jovi.
Given the Hall’s recent history choosing fan favorites, the most recent being Journey, who was inducted last year; there’s a real possibility Bon Jovi will be inducted by fan votes alone.
Regardless of the arguable relevance of an institution such as the Hall of Fame, there’s a real danger of focusing on these fan favorites while neglecting the less famous artists, some of which are returning to the list of nominees after several previous snubs.
At the bottom of the fan poll, for instance, are some artists renowned for widespread and long-lasting influence not to mention historical significance. The Meters are one of the seminal originators of what became funk music, on par with James Brown for innovation. Link Wray bridged the gap between rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, helping to crystallize the modern guitar riff and bringing the power chord to prominence. Like Wray, there would be no classic guitar heroes like Keith Richards or Jack White without Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black gospel singer who could belt out spirituals while shredding it up on her guitar.
These three artists alone linger at the bottom of the list with little doubt they’ll stay there. Even the sure-favorite Radiohead is curiously lingering in the bottom half of the list of nineteen artists.
The danger is not so much that Bon Jovi’s less critically-favored music will be compared among the ranks of Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and other giants of rock music. It’s that year after year these artists with a wider-reaching influence are consistently being swept under the carpet.
The Hall has attempted to remedy this failing for constant snubbing with its “Award for Musical Excellence” (previously the “Sidemen” category) given to people like Ringo Starr, The E Street Band and Nile Rodgers (but not the often-snubbed Chic). It’s the equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars; lip service and an apology that ignores specifics in remarkable bodies of work.
It’s important to retain the history of rock and roll as much as it is to nurture its future. The Hall is well-regarded for archiving a venerable treasure trove of rock history dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, with immersive and eye-opening audio-visual accompaniment. To put the spotlight on a mainstream artist like Bon Jovi as opposed to MC5, Kate Bush, or the remarkable Sister Rosetta Tharpe is both counterproductive and unfortunate.
The public can vote for five artists per day from now up until midnight Dec. 5 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website.