This week we are going to deviate from the norm, where I introduce you to new music, and talk about the women nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are three women on the ballot for the 2018 class and two mixed-gender groups, which is one of the largest selection of women nominated that I can remember, out of 19 total nominees. All of them are very deserving, with four earning their first nominations ever.
The Rock Hall has a history of ignoring women, giving the impression that they are downplaying their accomplishments, and of not nominating them at all. All of this has caused women to be vastly underrepresented in the Rock Hall, which makes it seem like women have a lesser role in the history of music.
Before we get into who the nominees are, let's clear up the idea that the Rock Hall is only for rock artists. It isn't, and it hasn't been for quite some time. The criteria for performer nominees is "demonstrate musical excellence," and "influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills." How hard you rock is irrelevant; how hard you rock the standards is everything.
Below is a look at the nominees, with a track you should know from each.
Nina Simone "To Be Young, Gifted and Black"
Simone is a genre-defying genius. Her interpretation of various Broadway and jazz songbooks was second to none. Her mastery of the piano was the result of a lifelong study of classical training, including time at Julliard, mixed with her uncommon style. And her original songs have became reference points for a generation. She provided the template for the future of political and thoughtful composition of lyrics and music in folk, hip hop, R&B, soul rap, and pop music — which has influenced and changed rock and country music, in turn. The reach and influence of the High Priestess of Soul cannot be overstated. There are so many areas in which Simone is exceptional, but her live performances are the stuff of legend — not only because she was a mesmerizing and erratic performer, but because she used the stage to address issues of gender and race discrimination, head-on.
Odds she will be inducted: very high. It would be a huge slight if Simone were passed over. It is already a massive slight that she hasn't been nominated previously.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe "That's All"
Tharpe is a nominee from the roots and history that built rock. She was playing what, at the time, were called "race records." That was the blues and R&B music that would influence the birth of rock. Her guitar playing skills, style, and the invention of riffs are things that many a classic rock artist owe a debt to — because she created them while those guys were still in diapers. Tharpe has never gotten her due.
Odds she will be inducted: She's on the bubble. She should be inducted without a vote for helping build the house that is rock music, but there are a lot of newer male artists (like Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine) who are likely to take her spot in this year's class.
Kate Bush "This Woman's Work"
Bush is a truly original artist. She writes and produces her own work, which was considered not just unusual but unheard of when she made her debut in the late '70s. The emotional force in her songs is part of what makes them great, but her esoteric, utterly unique presentation of the music in videos and her very few live shows lift them to another level. Creatively, the things about which she sings and the way she presents them is reason enough for her nomination. Her singular vision, which lives so far left of center that it's off the map entirely, has been an inspiration to artists over the last 30 years.
Odds she will be inducted: it breaks my heart to say this, because she is one of my favorite artists, but it is unlikely she will be inducted this time. I suspect many more nominations are in Bush's future before she is added to the Rock Hall.
Rufus and Chaka Khan "Tell Me Something Good"
When people in a recording studio talk about putting some stank on it, they're talking about this Stevie Wonder-penned song. Rufus, the band, brought some memorable funk grooves to the masses, but most importantly they brought us Chaka Khan. Khan was the group's singer from the early '70s, until her solo career took off with her first album in '78. This nomination is as much about her as it is about them. Lest you forget, Khan is 70-million selling artist who has been nominated to the Rock Hall twice as a solo artist. It is her second nomination with Rufus.
Odds they will be inducted: It's not looking great through no fault of their own. Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues will likely edge them out of the competition this year.
Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
The '80s duo act, made up of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, was formed after a bad experience the two had in a punk band. They bonded over a synthesizer and became songwriters together. "Sweet Dreams" was their breakthrough single, propelling Lennox into iconic status for her untouchable vocals and intriguing, gender nonconforming style. Make no mistake, Lennox will be nominated on her own for her solo work in the future, but the Eurythmics need to be inducted first. Their influence on mainstream electronic music and the way pop music is produced now is their legacy as much as their matchless creativity when it came to presentation.
Odds they will be inducted: they are on the bubble. Historically, the people who vote on the Rock Hall nominees, which includes all previous inductees, do not appreciate synthesizers and new wave music. Very few artists from the '80s have been inducted — but I can't underestimate the respect that all musicians have for the exceptional Annie Lennox.
After my first job MTV working as a music programmer, I can't stop trying to matchmake people with music they might like. So, I wrote a book called Record Collecting for Girls and started interviewing musicians. The Music Concierge is a column where I share music I'm listening to that you might enjoy, with a little context. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave me a comment below and tell me what you're listening to this week.
Correction: This article originally stated that Sister Rosetta Tharpe sang "Hound Dog." She did not, that was Big Mama Thornton.
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