Some of the comments I read when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voting was taking place in the autumn of 2017 puzzled me. There was a loud contingent that seemed to think that The Cars were not worthy. Oh, they had their hits, but they lacked that je ne sais quoi. Owning three or four of their albums, I seriously disagreed.
They did well in the fan voting and was inducted in 2018. The Rock Hall folks wrote: “Ric Ocasek’s hook-savvy songwriting and stylish, modern vocals for The Cars fused garage punk, pop, and Avant-rock to create a brash new wave sound that sparked a decade of rock classics. His later work as a producer drew on his innovative spirit and endeared him to new generations of musicians and fans.”
After Ocasek, lead singer and principal songwriter of the group died in September 2019, my friend Steve Bissette linked to a 1980 Rolling Stone interview. “The Cars Take on Their Critics – ‘You can’t be loved by everybody. I know that, and I’ve really come to accept it. That denial of love, in fact, eases my mind,’ says Ric Ocasek.” That seems to have been a very useful attitude to develop.
Last year, I rooted for Chicago, Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, The Spinners, and Yes. Chicago, which won the fan vote last year made it into the Hall, though popularity there did not assure induction. Los Lobos and the Spinners are not even on the ballot this year.
The 2017 Nominees are:
Bad Brains– heard of, but only barely. Hardcore punk band of the 1970s and beyond. Chaka Khan – for both her music with Rufus and her solo material. And we share the same birth month. Chic -I’ve said three years running that “its sound still relevant, though if Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards got in as non-performers (songwriter/producer), I could accept that.” Depeche Mode – I like their moody electronic sound. Eventually, I say. Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) – the group’s been around for a long time, back to 1970. I could vote for them, though if Jeff Lynne got noted for writer/producer, that’d be sweet, too
The J. Geils Band – another band that’s been around longer than I realized; Peter Wolf is seven years to the day older than I, so you’d THINK that would move my needle of support, but it did not Jane’s Addiction – a group I’ve heard of, and have a couple of songs on compilations. But they started in 1985, and they can wait. Janet Jackson – nominated last year, possibly one of the most worthy. Yet, because she’s relatively young, I think she’ll get in eventually. *Joan Baez – an odd choice. She’s not a real rock person. I mean I LOVE Joan. An early album of hers was massively important to me. But though she was a contemporary of Dylan, I still would peg her musically more like an early influence, in the same category as Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie. But I’m voting for her anyway. Joe Tex – I know who the late Joe Tex was. I saw his album covers on the inner sleeves of those Sam & Dave and Aretha Franklin albums my sister and I bought in the 1960s. But I never owned his music.
Journey – for a time in the early 1980s, they were ubiquitous, and not in a good way Kraftwerk – their influence is reportedly legendary, yet I have none of their music MC5 – They put out one of their albums that was huge for me. They were a legendary live band. Pearl Jam – I have three of their albums. Still, they’re too recent for me to even consider. Naturally, they’ll get in on their first year of eligibility. Steppenwolf – that first Steppenwolf album I listened to constantly
The Cars – I found their music incredibly catchy. They were third in the public voting last time out. The Zombies – I like their hits quite a bit, and they put out one legendary album, essentially after they broke up. They’re worthy, but when I have five to pick out of 19, I haven’t picked them Tupac Shakur – another artist I know by name, and reputation, and how he died in 1996, but not really his music Yes – inexplicably, they weren’t even nominated until last year, when they came in second in the public voting. The dearth of progressive rock in the Hall is quite astounding. Now that Yes mainstay Chris Squire, unfortunately, passed away this past year, maybe THAT will sway the voters.
I’ve been voting consistently for Chaka Khan, Joan Baez – can’t have too many women in a sometimes boys club – The Cars, and, of course, Yes. My fifth vote, I scattered between MC 5 and Steppenwolf, before deciding on ELO.
I STILL would like to see:
Estelle Axton to be selected in the non-performer award, now known as the Ahmet Ertegun Award. Her brother Jim Stewart, the co-founder of STAX records with her, was inducted way back in 2002!
Billy Preston to be selected in the sideman category, now known as the Award for Musical Excellence. They got Leon Russell and Ringo Starr in under that mantle. Also in that designation, put in the members of the Wrecking Crew not already in there, including Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, and Tommy Tedesco.