Why Freddie King's Induction as an Early Influence Makes a Mockery of the Entire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Process
Freddie King was one of the 15 performer nominees for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class. His name was on the ballot right between Joan Jett and Laura Nyro. His name was occupying one of the spaces on that ballot that dozens of other artists have been trying to be a part of for so many years and have been left out. You don’t think Deep Purple fans might have liked to see their name on the ballot there? They’ve never been nominated. Johnny Burnette & the Rock N Roll Trio? Nope. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Judas Priest. We could go on. The complaining wouldn’t be so loud if these artists ever even had a chance.
So why would the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee waste a space on the ballot for an artist who was going to be inducted as an Early Influence anyway? (More on that in a second.) What does that say to the Voting Committee members who used one of their five precious votes on someone who was already in? Are you kidding? Don’t you think most voters would have liked to use that vote somewhere else? We bet War, the Spinners or Donna Summer would have liked those extra votes.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Rock Hall did the exact same thing three years ago with Wanda Jackson.
The reason the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is so maddening to some of us is not because of who is in and who is out (that’s an entirely different discussion). It’s that the Rock Hall doesn’t even respect a defined process for induction. What other institution makes things up on the fly the way the Rock Hall does? Maybe the People’s Choice awards? Say what you want about the snubs of the Baseball or Football Halls of Fame (or even the Oscars), but you can’t say they don’t follow a set criteria and rules for induction.
Since 2005, the Rock Hall has honored five performer inductees every year. Since voters could choose up to five artists on their ballot, there was a logical symmetry between the ballot and the number of inductees. But this year, even though voters could still choose only five names, the Rock Hall decides to induct six artists. Why? Was it because one of the inductees is deceased (Laura Nyro)? No, they only inducted five in 2006 when Miles Davis was posthumously honored. So why are they inducting six this year? It feels like the system is being manipulated for some unstated reasons. The Rock Hall is certainly at liberty to change the rules, but does it need to be in the middle of the game?
And then there’s the issue of inducting Freddie King as an “Early Influence” -- an issue that came up the last time this happened with Wanda Jackson. The Rock Hall’s definition of the category from their website: “Artists whose music predated rock and roll but had an impact on the evolution of rock and roll and inspired rock’s leading artists.” The key part of that definition is that the music “predates rock and roll.” The rest of the definition applies to all Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Both Freddie King and Wanda Jackson’s important works did not predate rock and roll by any definition. Wanda Jackson was a contemporary of Elvis. Freddie King had most of his hits in the ’60s. So, again, has the criteria changed?
And while we’re discussing the ballot, why were the Small Faces and the Faces nominated together? Yes, they overlapped band members, but so have many other bands over the years. We joked about this on Twitter when the nominations came out, but are we going to see joint Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave nominations? Pearl Jam / Mother Love Bone? Should Guns N’ Roses have waited to be nominated with Velvet Revolver? These are ridiculous examples, but the Small Faces / Faces has now set a precedent for this kind of thing. Bizarre. (Maybe the Baseball Hall of Fame will combine the stats of all of the Molina brothers and put them in the Hall of Fame together.)
Look, when you call yourself a “Hall of Fame,” that means something. It should be something for artists to aspire to achieve. It should deserve respect from fans. But you can’t continue to erode people’s confidence in the institution by bending the rules and looking the other way when there are obvious conflicts of interest without causing damage to your institution. Take a longer view of things. The Hall of Fame should become even more important as music becomes less of a communal experience.
We’re already looking at artists eligible for the 2037 induction ceremony. Will anyone still care?