The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will add exactly one woman to its ranks in the class of 2020 inductees: Whitney Houston. Unfortunately, despite Houston’s well-deserved acceptance to the institution, this means the overall percentage of women in the Rock Hall will slip even lower from an already paltry less than 8%.
Houston joins Nine Inch Nails, Notorious B.I.G., Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, and T. Rex as this year's inductees. Pat Benatar and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan were the only other women nominated for consideration in 2020. It was Benatar’s first nomination and Chaka Khan’s sixth — it seems the predominantly male voting body for the Rock Hall really does not intend to induct her, no matter how many times, or in how many ways, the nominating body presents her for consideration.
The voting body also ignored the pleas of the two women inducted in 2019, Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks, who both took time from in their speeches to ask the Hall to include more women. In a piece ahead of the 2019 inductions, Evelyn McDonell crunched the numbers in a piece for Longform and discovered that of the Rock Hall’s inducted artists, only 7.7% are women. While people of colour make up 32% of the body of inductees, women of colour are still sorely underrepresented.
A day before this year’s induction announcement, a former member of the Rock Hall nominating committee, music writer Craig Werner spoke to NPR to explain how artists get nominated for the Rock Hall. "Well, I'm just going to say it: I think that the electorate makes dumb decisions on a regular basis,” Werner said. It is a laughable statement at best. Even if the voting body, which is predominately made up of men who are in the bands who have been inducted, were to vote for all three of the women put before them this year, women would still be massively underrepresented overall. Knowing that the voting body usually only inducts one woman per year, why has the nominating committee never put forth a ballot of only women artists? Why not present them with nine entirely deserving and thus far unrecognized women?
If the committee could use some help figuring out which women to put forward, here is an abbreviated list of women in music who have not been added to the hall — and in the majority of cases, have never been nominated.
Carole King (who is in with her husband for her songwriting but not alone for her career as a performer), Carly Simon, Pat Benatar, the Runaways, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton (legendary country artists like Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins have previously been inducted), Big Mama Thornton, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Annie Lennox, Emmylou Harris, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Björk, Debbie Harry (in for her work with Blondie but not as a solo artist), Kate Bush, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Aaliyah
Maybe next year Rock Hall voters can take a big swing (for them) and induct three women, that is if the nominating committee manages to see their way clear to recognizing three women who are deserving of the honour.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be on May 2. It will be broadcast live, for the first time, on HBO at 8 p.m. ET.