The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Audit, pt. 2: 1991 – 1995

Continuing from Part 1 my folly to audit the selections made thus far by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this bite of the elephant covers the inductees from 1991 to 1995. With 37 inductees during this five-year period, as opposed to 43 during the previous five-year period, and the window of eligibility extending to acts that released their first recording through the 1960s, the Hall made some fairly sage inductions during this period.

In Part 1 of this series, I outlined the baselines and process I used to conduct this audit. These included classifying inductees as Yes, Borderline Yes, and No with respect to their justification for the Hall of Fame, with five Defining Factors—Innovation, Influence, Popularity, Crossover Appeal, and Legacy—the criteria to determine their classification.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame As History

Implicit in the auditing process, but a point that I want to make explicit now, is the relationship to the history of the music—and, much more importantly, to the history of humanity in general—that the artist holds. I suspect that many, if not most, of us have this in the backs of our minds when we assess which musical act might or might not be Hall-worthy. But as I approached this audit, and as I began to conduct it, that thought moved into the front of my mind.

The first book I ever read on rock music was called The Illustrated History of Rock. It was compiled by two writers/editors of Britain's New Musical Express magazine, Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, and it was first published in 1977. The fact that this large trade paperback manages to be surprisingly comprehensive in its 256 pages speaks to how popular music of the Rock Era has grown enormously in the 35 years since it was first published.

On the back, among the testimonial blurbs, is this one from the Boston Herald-American describing The Illustrated History of Rock as "a metaphorical history of our times." That description has always stuck with me, for, you see, I am a student of history and have been since I was a boy. The idea that music and how we relate to it is a metaphor for the times in which we live, and that it thus leaves a legacy, is central to my interest in pop culture in general. Pop culture really only interests me as a reflection of the social, political, economic, philosophical and artistic dynamics of our civilization.

That isn't as high-falutin' as it sounds. Music of the Rock Era has intersected with larger social concerns right from its inception. The mere wedding of "race music"—the various styles of black music including blues, gospel, and rhythm and blues—to a popular form was scandalous to begin with, especially as it inflamed the youth of America before beginning its spread across the world. The sexual suggestiveness of blues and R&B manifested itself in rock music to the shock and horror of parents and community leaders; Elvis Presley, once nicknamed "the Pelvis" for his energetic gyrations, made explicit this manifestation with his landmark first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the vaunted variety show that proved to have a lasting influence on popular culture. (Mythology holds that Presley was only shot from the waist up to eliminate any "pelvic gyrations," but in truth his entire body was filmed and broadcast at least during his first appearance on the show.) Presley not only inspired countless performers, he made sexuality an enduring component of rock and soul music.

As the Rock Era progressed into the 1960s, the social and political upheavals of the decade became reflected in popular music. Folk music had long been a conduit for social commentary—Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, two well-known examples, had both found themselves blacklisted for it in the 1950s—and Guthrie's greatest disciple, Bob Dylan, was instrumental in introducing social consciousness into what became known as folk rock, and it soon spread throughout rock and soul in general in the 1960s. Acts from the Impressions to Country Joe and the Fish made explicit social expressions that both reflected and perpetuated the social and political awareness of the time.

Popular music continued to become politicized throughout the 1970s even as the tenor of struggle and protest changed from the previous decade. Ex-Beatle George Harrison organized a benefit concert in 1971 to generate support for the people of Bangladesh, suffering from both the effects of the recent war for liberation and a recent cyclone. Benefit concerts then became commonplace, from the 1979 No Nukes concert to the 1985 Live Aid extravaganza to benefit starvation in Ethiopia, which also launched the series of Farm Aid concerts to benefit American farmers. By the 1980s social and political comment had been woven into the fabric of rock and soul, in the underground and alternative musical scenes, in hip-hop, and, to a less-emphatic extent, in the mainstream. This awareness continues to permeate popular music today.

All of this underlines a central point: Musical history is a part of human history, and the artists enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are themselves part of the history of the Rock Era both from a musical perspective and from a larger social perspective. This is embodied in the "Legacy" Defining Factor, although it is not limited exclusively to it. By the same token, a musical act does not have to have been overtly or inherently "political" in order to be historically significant.

But if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in essence a museum that memorializes the history of the Rock Era, one that bestows the honor of induction upon those artists who have been deemed the most significant, then it is that sense of historical importance that perhaps becomes the overriding criterion. The realization of this historical sense has made me reconsider the qualifications of at least two artists I did not previously think belonged in the Hall; they will be identified in a later installment in this series.

To reiterate, though: The sense of history and the artist's place in that history is primarily the musical history of the Rock Era. However, that musical history is itself only a part of human history; an artist cannot be divorced from that human history only because that artist is only human. Similarly, this writer is only human, and as such has provided his ultimately subjective and limited assessment of the artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame between 1991 and 1995 below.

1991: The Second Tier of Blues, R&B, and Soul

7 Inductees: LaVern Baker, the Byrds, John Lee Hooker, the Impressions, Wilson Pickett, Jimmy Reed, Ike and Tina Turner

Yes: The Byrds, John Lee Hooker, the Impressions

Borderline Yes: LaVern Baker, Jimmy Reed, Ike and Tina Turner

No: Wilson Pickett

Leaving aside the Byrds, calling any of these artists "second tier" is not meant as an insult, but only to emphasize that, with perhaps one or two exceptions, these artists are not the first to spring to mind when these musical forms are mentioned. On the other hand, and again with one or two exceptions, there is a reason why their names don't spring to mind—the more prominent artists have already been inducted. The odd birds here are the Byrds, the only white act among six black acts.

Of the Class of 1991, folk-rockers the Byrds, bluesman John Lee Hooker and soul group the Impressions carry the greatest weight. R&B and early-rock singer LaVern Baker (along with Ruth Brown, more on whom below), bluesman Jimmy Reed, and soul and rock duo Ike and Tina Turner exerted influence significant enough to merit inclusion in the Hall. But while Wilson Pickett was a significant name in 1960s soul, I think his talent and influence fall just shy of enshrinement.

Janglers, the Boogie Man and the Crooners: The Byrds, John Lee Hooker and the Impressions

Among the Class of 1991, the Byrds, John Lee Hooker, and the Impressions have the strongest Defining Factors, to which anyone who has heard the Animals, the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers can attest. Their inductions should hardly be controversial.

The Byrds: With Jim/Roger McGuinn's 12-string guitar and their engaging close harmonies leading the way, the Byrds were the proto-jangle-poppers of the Rock Era, but what clinches this 1960s West Coast band's place in the Hall is its pioneering explorations of folk-rock, psychedelia, and country-rock. Initially, David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman helped McGuinn to carry the singing and songwriting duties ("Eight Miles High," "So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star") although the Byrds became perhaps the best interpreters of Bob Dylan's material ("Mr. Tambourine Man," "All I Really Wanna Do"). Later in the 1960s, Gram Parson joined for a brief but seminal spell as Sweetheart of the Rodeo ushered in the birth of country-rock. Only the original members were inducted, slighting Parsons and later stalwart Clarence White, but that original lineup was the definitive one.

John Lee Hooker: Bridging the gap between Mississippi Delta blues and Northern electric blues, singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker had a rough-hewn yet accessible style that proved to be influential on British Invasion bands (the Animals being perhaps the biggest adherents) as well as on domestic acts, with ZZ Top's "La Grange" thus begetting Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" to form a clear continuum of Hooker's stamp on rock. Hooker's brash electric guitar, gravelly vocals, and eccentric rhythms became the bedrock for the boogie style perpetuated by any number of roots-rock acts. Hooker himself was hardly averse to playing with rock musicians from Canned Heat to Bonnie Raitt over his long career, thus forging an unequivocal link between blues and rock.

The Impressions: Beginning in the late 1950s with Jerry Butler as their lead vocalist, the Impressions soon became the vehicle for singer, guitarist, and songwriter Curtis Mayfield, whose socially conscious lyrics, couched in the upbeat, crooning, gospel- and R&B-influenced vehicles he wrote for the group, led to the development of more hard-hitting black styles in the 1970s, including Mayfield's own landmark soundtrack for the blaxploitation film Superfly. Yet the Impressions always remained appealing whether singing about love ("Gypsy Woman," "I'm So Proud," later covered by Jeff Beck), spirituality ("People Get Ready," also covered by Beck), or more secular concerns ("Keep on Pushing," "We're a Winner"), becoming an influence on the Staple Singers, among others.

Influence Just below the Surface: LaVern Baker, Jimmy Reed, Ike and Tina Turner

The impact and influence of these three inductees are not immediately apparent, at least to contemporary listeners, and this is particularly true in the case of LaVern Baker. However, both Baker and Jimmy Reed were formative influences at the inception of the Rock Era, and as a duo, Ike and Tina Turner helped to erode the barrier between rock and soul music. These accomplishments have earned all three acts a place in the Hall, although it does bear repeating their qualifications.

LaVern Baker: An early name perhaps lost to younger listeners, LaVern Baker, along with Ruth Brown (more on whom later), was one of the great pioneer rock and roll singers, an irony considering that at first she wasn't considered to be a rock and roll singer, and that Baker herself only sang rock-oriented material in the 1950s because Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler persuaded her to record it. However, Baker had a glorious voice, huge and powerful but ultimately supple and intimately capable of nuance and tenderness, and she could sing in just about any style—her vocals on "Play It Fair" suggest that she could sing Patsy Cline-styled country if she had so chosen to do. Baker had the blues in her background—her aunt was blueswoman Memphis Minnie, whose "When the Levee Breaks" was (in)famously expropriated by Led Zeppelin—and her rock-oriented material ("Jim Dandy" and its swaggering follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married," "Tra La La," and "Tweedlee-Dee") influenced singers from Etta James to Janis Joplin and beyond.

Jimmy Reed: Proof that less is more? Jimmy Reed's laconic, easy-going, but ultimately unremarkable blues style had a disproportionate influence on rock and soul. There is nothing exceptional about Reed's singing, guitar- or harmonica playing, or songwriting, but it is that simplicity that made them so appealing to aspiring rock musicians, particularly to British Invasion acts, and to a lesser extent soul musicians: The relative ease with which you can pick up such Reed standards as "Bright Lights, Big City," "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," "Big Boss Man," and "Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby" made the blues form both accessible and adaptable, which made Reed influential on much of the early Rock Era.

Ike and Tina Turner: It is tempting to break this duo into their two components for evaluation. Tina's story is of course worthy of a biopic, as indeed one was made from her autobiography (I, Tina, co-authored with Kurt Loder) with Angela Bassett starring as Tina in What's Love Got to Do with It, which documented her rise to stardom with older Ike Turner, the domestic abuse she suffered with him, and the tremendous comeback she engineered in the early 1980s as a solo artist (one that she did not fully capitalize upon, strangely enough). Although he was (justifiably) cast as the villain in this saga, Ike's story is just as noteworthy: As a talent scout, he was instrumental in introducing many artists to larger audiences (Howlin' Wolf, for instance) while serving as a bandleader for various artists at the inception of the Rock Era before forming his own band with his young wife Annie Mae Bullens, better known to us as Tina Turner, and forging a bridge between rock and soul.

But this evaluation concentrates on their performances together as Ike and Tina Turner. From the Chitlin Circuit to opening for the Rolling Stones, the Turners split the difference between R&B and soul and straight-ahead rock as, for example, they almost made "Proud Mary" their own. One ambitious attempt, regarded as a failure at the time but looked at more charitably in later years, was a collaboration with producer Phil Spector on the album River Deep—Mountain High, which paired Spector's famous Wall of Sound production approach with the Turners' stripped-down delivery, exemplified by the title single and its fascinating train-wreck of the two styles. Then, as their personal and professional relationships deteriorated, the Turners descended almost into parody as Ike, so memorably described by critic Dave Marsh, turned Tina into "a slavering advertisement for a hot fuck." Yet among these pitfalls is enough evidence of the Turners' claim to fame: "A Fool in Love," "It's Gonna Work out Fine" (in hindsight a wildly optimistic prognosis), Tina's hometown reflection "Nutbush City Limits," later covered by Bob Seger, and even their soul-revue rendition of the Who's "Acid Queen" sketch Ike and Tina Turner as rock and soul synthesists significant enough for the Hall of Fame.

Influence Falling Just Short: Wilson Pickett

Southern soul's second banana to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett certainly enjoyed a 1960s heyday as the strutting, swaggering sex-god counterpart to Redding's more vulnerable lover-man persona, and the best of Pickett's hit singles—"Mustang Sally," "Funky Broadway," "Land of a 1000 Dances" (Pickett's is probably the best-known—and best—version of Chris Kenner's enduring chestnut), and his signature song, "In the Midnight Hour"—are as memorable as any of the era. But ballads like "I'm in Love" found Pickett out of his métier of fronting a propulsive soul-funk band, and this one-dimensionality, coupled by his strong but limited voice, keeps Pickett from immortality.

1992: Expanding Horizons

7 Inductees: Bobby "Blue" Bland, Booker T. and the MGs, Johnny Cash, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave, the Yardbirds

Yes: Booker T. and the MGs, Johnny Cash, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Yardbirds

Borderline Yes: Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave

With seven inductees in its seventh year of inductions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reflected the expanding nature of the Rock Era in the 1960s. Along with more soul acts came the first stirrings of hard rock and psychedelia as well as acknowledgement of an icon who, identified typically as a country performer, almost transcended categorization: Johnny Cash. Three acts—Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Isley Brothers, and Sam and Dave—are on the margins of inclusion, but the other four are sure bets.

Groundbreakers: Booker T. and the MGs, Johnny Cash, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Yardbirds

Each of these four no-doubt inductees broke new ground during the Rock Era. Booker T. and the MGs are the least-known of the four, at least by name—however, classic-rock and -soul fans instantly recognize their sound. The other three probably don't need introductions, but they are nevertheless provided below.

Booker T. and the MGs: As an independent unit, this Southern soul instrumental quartet scored a huge hit in 1962 with the spare, swinging "Green Onions," and that along with its other instrumentals ("Time Is Tight," "Hang 'em High") have weaved their way into movie and television soundtracks over the decades. Booker T. and the MGs do present a dilemma: As a primarily backing band for numerous acts from Otis Redding on down, should they have been inducted as sidemen instead? The band did sustain a recording career, which by itself would not have merited inclusion, but it still managed to establish an identity that distinguished the band from all other backing units. Combining that recording career with its primary distinction as the sound for Stax and Atlantic in the 1960s would make the absence of Booker T. and the MGs—as performers in their own right—from the Hall noticeable indeed. The trademark sound of organist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn (who replaced Lewis Steinberg, present on "Green Onions"), and drummer Al Jackson is an integral part of the Rock Era.

Johnny Cash: Beginning his recording career at Sun Studios around the same time as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash was initially considered to be an early rocker before becoming categorized as a country artist, but his restless exploration of American music in general quickly defined him as a singular voice. For a half-century, Cash pursued various streams, grounded in a sense of American history expressed in music, with results that could be highly uneven, with failures following successes as he forged his own course. Notably, Cash never wooed rock, which by the 1970s had pushed country into a corner even as rock expropriated country trappings, thus forcing country to adopt a pop sheen by the 1980s, which it has retained ever since. Instead, Cash incorporated rock into his overall vision, which remained rooted in country but was ever-flexible, with parallels to another musical titan, Bob Dylan, and it was no coincidence that the two developed a mutual admiration. Over the decades, Cash established several signature tunes ("I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire," "The Man in Black," "Folsom Prison Blues") whose attitudes became reflected in rock even as they gave country a brisk shot in the arm. In the Rock Era, there is no other voice like Johnny Cash's, and its absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be deafening.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: If Jimi Hendrix were merely a guitar god, one who essentially redefined the instrument for not only his contemporaries but for all others to follow, he would be justly recognized as a genius worthy of enshrinement. But Hendrix was much more than that—he was a complete musical artist whose vision and scope is still influential today. Remarkably, he established his legacy in just a few short years, and his 1970 accidental death is arguably the greatest might-have-been of the Rock Era. The three albums he released with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, collectively the Jimi Hendrix Experience—Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland—defined their era and remain touchstones today despite a sound that is rooted in the psychedelic period. Their songs are much more than vehicles for Hendrix's virtuosity (for that, see: Jeff Beck); they express an overall musical voice that combines innovation with acknowledgement of influences while remaining (even on the sprawling Electric Ladyland) accessible. Hendrix's post-Experience work before his death found him exploring funk and jazz-rock, merely hinting at the directions he would have pursued. The only quibbles here are whether Redding and Mitchell, serviceable sidemen not at Hendrix's level (who would be?), slide into the Hall strictly by association, and whether that association slights Hendrix's overall instrumental, compositional, and record-making genius. They are minor ones.

The Yardbirds: Best known for launching the careers of the band's last three lead guitarists—Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, who formed Led Zeppelin from the band's dying ashes—the Yardbirds covered a lot of territory during their relatively brief 1960s existence. Clapton's tenure found them among the British blues boom, with the Yardies favoring an instrumental "rave-up" approach ("Smokestack Lightning") that prefigured blues-rock's extended jamming. As the band explored other sounds, Clapton, the blues purist, left, with Beck then signing on. Here the Yardbirds were in their prime with hard-hitting, experimental psychedelia ("Shapes of Things," "Heart Full of Soul") capped by Beck's innovative fretboard pyrotechnics ("The Train Kept A-Rollin'"). Page then joined, and when the mercurial Beck quit, Page was left to soldier on before forming Led Zeppelin, which in time displayed the Eastern musical trappings the Yardbirds had essayed years before ("Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"). The Yardbirds were truly a building block of the hard rock/heavy metal and progressive rock soon to follow them, and bolstered by their prestigious alumni, their place in Cleveland is secure.

Crowding the Margins: Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave

All three of these acts test the threshold of Hall of Fame eligibility, which, again, is not meant as a slur. For small-Hall proponents, Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Isley Brothers, and Sam and Dave all force a strong assessment of their credentials. Why? Because all three have made key contributions that have been overlooked or underappreciated, but those contributions are, I think, strong enough to justify their admission.

Bobby "Blue" Bland: This smooth-crooning bluesman has been described as the "black Sinatra," although that is overstating Bobby "Blue" Bland's talents if only because Sinatra's shoes are (understandably) very hard to fill. But the engaging Bland has made the blues more accessible with his seemingly effortless singing style and winsome, even vulnerable manner, traits that have proved to be quite adaptable to other forms and genres. Bland's standards—including "Farther on up the Road," "I Pity the Fool," "Stormy Monday," and "Lead Me On"—are staples of classic rock and soul, and much of Bland's prime material, particularly the many superlative sides he recorded for Duke, is a delightful blending of blues, soul, and R&B that exerted a subtle yet unmistakable influence. Perhaps too subtle, because Bland never attained the same crossover audience that B.B. King has, an apt comparison as they've toured and recorded together (and Bland was once King's valet). But Bobby Bland has the credibility and résumé for the Hall.

The Isley Brothers: One of the most enduring acts of the Rock Era, the Isley Brothers began with a raucous R&B approach in the late 1950s (with "Shout" and "Twist and Shout" becoming legendary) before adopting Motown soul ("This Old Heart of Mine") in the 1960s. Then, keeping with the times, they gamely became 1970s funksters ("That Lady," "Fight the Power") before sliding into satin-sheet R&B by the early 1980s. The question is, did the Isleys ever distinguish themselves in any period, or is it their adaptability that makes them Hall-worthy? One suspects it is the latter, which in a sense makes them the musical equivalent of a "stat compiler": not a distinguished act but a durable one able to stay in the game. This isn't a ringing endorsement in the conventional sense, but if durability and adaptability are virtues, then the Isley Brothers certainly qualify, landing memorable songs in their first three incarnations at least.

Sam and Dave: A Southern soul bargain: Two for the price of one, although Sam Moore was a much better singer than Dave Prater. Nevertheless, Sam and Dave provided a distinctive sound in the mid- to late 1960s spiced with the fact that the two didn't much like each other, giving their verbal sparring a finely serrated edge. Their heyday was brief but memorable, and the best of their hits—"Soul Man," "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," and the terrific "Hold on, I'm Comin'"—rival Otis Redding's offerings as lean but robust soul shots. This is crucial because along with their short glory period, Sam and Dave were not innovators beyond their ability to land squarely on the first note and keep pushing the tune forward. And without acts from ZZ Top ("I Thank You") to the Blues Brothers ("Soul Man") to the Fabulous Thunderbirds ("Wrap It Up") keeping their legacy alive, it would be very easy to deny the duo a Hall pass. You might be inclined to do just that. This is a close call.

1993: Sixties Rock and Fifties Backfilling

8 Inductees: Ruth Brown, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, Etta James, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Van Morrison, Sly and the Family Stone

Yes: Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, Etta James, Van Morrison, Sly and the Family Stone

Borderline Yes: Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

No: Ruth Brown

With the (ahem) cream of the 1960s artists now becoming eligible, the Hall had more easy choices for induction, and 1993 saw several of them gain entrance as this year's ballot also did some discreet backfilling of R&B acts. Of the eight inductees, six were uncontroversial, one needed a push, and one just misses.

A Queen Surrounded by (Mostly) Aces: Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, Etta James, Van Morrison, Sly and the Family Stone

Apart from Etta James, the R&B-soul singer whose career began in the 1950s, the Hall saw its first full flush of signature 1960s acts gain entrance. Apart from Van Morrison, none of those names should look unfamiliar to anyone even remotely aware of classic rock and soul—once their AM debuts passed, they became staples of FM radio for decades. Morrison has name recognition and a slightly intimidating reputation, but only his legions know his material once you get past "Wild Night." Not that anyone is really going to dispute the Hall-worthiness of any of these acts.

Cream: For a band that could stay together for only two years, and whose recorded legacy, particularly its live tracks—upon which its reputation was built—does not hold up too well under close scrutiny, Cream proved to be hugely influential. Hard rock and heavy metal of the 1970s is hardly conceivable without this mid-1960s power trio, which fashioned its psychedelic blues with the bludgeoning power of its accomplished instrumentalists: guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker. Predating Jimi Hendrix, Clapton became the ur-guitar hero of the Rock Era; Bruce forced listeners to take notice of the bassist; and Baker spawned a school of rock drummers. It was actually a mathematical impossibility—the sum of the parts was greater than the whole—but Cream set in motion generations of furious on-stage rock jamming while contributing several classics ("White Room," "Sunshine of Your Love," "Crossroads," "Badge") to the rock canon.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: What's amazing about Creedence Clearwater Revival is not that its songs must have sounded like oldies when they first burst from the speakers, but that they still sound so fresh and vital today. As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, singer, guitarist, and songwriter John Fogerty, the linchpin in the CCR operation, was the swamp-rocking goose who laid the golden eggs—penning a passel of irresistible gems that ran counter to the then-in-vogue psychedelia but that have aged far better than that patchouli meandering. Blending stripped-down roots-rock with his keen, economical eye—oddly focused on the Southern bayous from Berkeley, California—Fogerty and the lean, unerring propulsion of the band simply pumped out one classic after another: "Proud Mary," "Born on the Bayou," "Green River," "Lodi," "Up around the Bend," "Bad Moon Rising," "Fortunate Son," "Lookin' out My Back Door," and many others. Consciously or not, just about every roots-rock band since has taken a leaf from the Creedence songbook.

The Doors: I'll get my snark out of the way first: For years, my standard throwaway about the Doors has been: "I used to love the Doors, but then I grew up." This Jim Morrison-led band can make a big impression on an adolescent, what with Oedipal complexes, beer for breakfast, and brains squirming like toads running through its lounge-organ music. Make no mistake: Morrison was a charismatic figure who made the Doors ideal exemplars of their time—brash, confrontational, pretentious, with a pseudo-profundity that wears off like the "insights" to be had from various recreational substances once those dissipate. In other words, the Doors deserve to be in the Hall because of their historical import—they are very much part of the cultural fabric of the 1960s. And there are moments to be had on much of the band's debut, most of Morrison Hotel, and some of LA Woman. But the odds that, once you get past a certain age, chronological or psychological, you'll get any more from Jimbo and the boys I'd put at, say, "Five to One."

Etta James: One of the founding voices of rock and soul, Etta James (perhaps not-so-) coincidentally enjoyed a career rebirth around the same time as her induction into the Hall of Fame, but even if the first half of her career did not see her realize her full potential, she had still accomplished enough to justify her inclusion. James's first hit, "Roll with Me, Henry," came as a teenager in the 1950s before her tenure at Chess Records, where her touchstone classics, "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind" among them, influenced any number of singers from Diana Ross to Janis Joplin to Amy Winehouse. Struggling with drug addiction for much of her life, which resulted in stretches of inactivity, James nevertheless put her remarkably agile vocal stamp on a range of material—blues, R&B, soul, rock, and, later, jazz—that marks her as one of the most distinctive singers of the Rock Era.

Van Morrison: This Irish singer-songwriter's career stretches back to the British Invasion, when his band, Them, added "Here Comes the Night" and the proto-punk classic "Gloria," among others, to the rock canon. That launched Morrison's search for what he dubbed "Caledonia Soul," a rich blending of rock, R&B, folk, soul, and jazz that became increasingly singular by the late 1970s, when he seemed to be making records with little regard for contemporary tastes. By then, though, Morrison had become an inspiration to any number of rockers from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Seger to Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott (a fellow Northern Irishman). Morrison is best-known for his late-1960s and 1970s albums (including Moondance, St. Dominic's Preview, and the gorgeous, category-defying Astral Weeks), but beginning in the early 1980s Morrison had become rock's version of William Blake, a visionary poet whose deepest insights approached metaphysics. And you can still tap your toe to them.

Sly and the Family Stone: Even now it still might be hard to appreciate just how profound was Sly and the Family Stone's influence on rock and soul. For one thing, their ambitious, infectious approach, spearheaded by mastermind Sly Stone, combined the emotional feeling of soul music with the power of hard rock and the air of liberation prevalent during the 1960s to create A Whole New Thing, as their first album called it. That "thing" became in time funk, a powerful 1970s style that remains influential, and while James Brown, for one, was pursuing similar sounds, Sly and the Family Stone did it with a racially and sexually integrated band that played like a tightly-knit band, truly a family. Hits like "Dance to the Music," "Hot Fun in the Summertime," and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)" conveyed unflagging joyousness, as did albums like Stand! ("Everyday People," "I Want to Take You Higher," the title song), that epitomized the optimism of the times, although There's a Riot Goin' On did display Stone's acute pragmatism as well. It is difficult to overstate Sly and the Family Stone's importance to the Rock Era—they nail every Defining Factor: innovation, influence, popularity, crossover appeal, and legacy.

Judgment Call: Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

If Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers had cut only "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" they might still be worthy of the Hall of Fame. The irresistible doo-wop classic, spotlighting Lymon's exquisite vocals, wove its way into pop culture first from the Teenagers' hit version, then through various cover versions, then through its use in film and television soundtracks. During the formative period of rock and soul, "Fools" brought doo-wop from the street corners and into the mainstream, with doo-wop's harmony vocals subsequently influencing vocal ensembles from girl groups to the Beach Boys (who covered "Fools") and even Frank Zappa. Moreover, Lymon's pubescent vocals—all were literally teenagers—inspired any number of tween-to-teen singers to follow, from Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Stacy Lattisaw and Brandy Norwood, though Lymon's winsome, yearning, exhilarated voice was all his own.

But Lymon and the Teenagers did cut quite a number of sides even during their brief tenure, and although none were as transcendent as "Fools," they demonstrated that the vocal group was no mere one-hit wonder, as "I Want You to Be My Girl," "I Promise to Remember," and "The ABCs of Love" kept the Teenagers on the charts in the mid-1950s. But as Lymon's voice changed—he was all of thirteen when "Fools" was released—so did the Teenagers' fortunes, not helped by their label's insistence that Lymon leave for a solo career. But there were bigger problems: Belying the title of their non-hit "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent," Lymon also developed a heroin habit that ultimately killed him at age twenty-five in 1968.

Were the contributions of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers substantial enough to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame? The Hall had already inducted key 1950s vocal groups (the Coasters, the Drifters, the Platters), although none could be classified as doo-wop, an overlooked genre formative to both rock and soul. There were many doo-wop groups, most with a signature song in their short life spans, and although they rated their footnote in the Rock Era, most never rose to the level of lasting legacy deserving of enshrinement (for example, Little Anthony and the Imperials). Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers are important enough to be an exemplar of doo-wop's contribution to rock and soul; it would be foolish to think otherwise.

Another Judgment Call: Ruth Brown

In the early 1950s, Atlantic Records was known as the "House That Ruth Built" and it had nothing to do with bygone Yankee sluggers named Babe. Ruth Brown helped to keep Atlantic afloat as the young label struggled to find its métier. The big-voiced singer also helped to spin rhythm and blues into rock and roll with rollicking, engaging songs like "Mambo Baby," "5-10-15 Hours," "Lucky Lips," and, perhaps her best-known side, "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." Indeed, Brown compares very favorably to label-mate LaVern Baker, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame two years previously. So, why snub Baker?

Admittedly, this is another judgment call, one that underscores both the parsimony of the small-Hall mindset and the ultimately arbitrary nature of this exercise. I found myself wondering for days—in the shower, chopping onions, driving to work—why LaVern Baker and not Ruth Brown? I listened to their songs. And listened to them again. I chopped more onions. Can the Hall have one too many LaVern Bakers? I wondered, wiping the tear from my eye (from the onions, not the dilemma, although it was close).

Then I realized I had my answer: One too many LaVern Bakers. It wasn't just because Baker had been inducted first, although that was a clue. But I was comparing Brown to Baker, not the other way around. That was because Baker was, I thought, the better singer. I still do. Baker had the better voice—more nuanced, more adaptable—and the superior command of song, as well as the superior range of songs. Brown sounded perfectly at home with earthy R&B and rock, but evinced no facility to cross over to other styles as Baker did. I had reached my decision. And "I Cried a Tear." Oops—that's Baker's song, not Brown's. You see?

1994: Casting a Wide Net

8 Inductees: The Animals, the Band, Duane Eddy, the Grateful Dead, Elton John, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Rod Stewart

Yes: the Animals, the Band, Elton John, Rod Stewart

Borderline Yes: The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, Bob Marley

No: Duane Eddy

What is interesting about the Hall's 1994 choices are their eagerness to induct Elton John, John Lennon, and Rod Stewart—all were newly eligible, and their inductions wasted no time. Lennon of course had already been inducted with the Beatles, and technically he had been eligible as a solo artist since the previous year, when his first album with Yoko Ono had been released. Also inducted was Bob Marley, the first reggae artist inducted, and an indication of the expansive stylistic approach the Hall was taking—an approach that continued to prod at the question "just what is 'rock and roll,' anyway?" The Animals, the Band, and the Grateful Dead continued the drive to induct 1960s acts, while ushering in 1950s guitar hero Duane Eddy was needless backfilling.

Superstars and Working Stiffs: The Animals, the Band, Elton John, Rod Stewart

Critical and commercial success are split down the middle with the for-sure picks. The Animals and particularly the Band are the critical darlings while the popularity of Elton John and Rod Stewart needs little elaboration. Even in a small Hall, there is room for all four.

The Animals: Rivaling even the Rolling Stones as a raucous act, the Animals, whose name derived from their unruly stage manner, were at the forefront of the British blues boom of the early 1960s, embracing John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley while featuring a singer, Eric Burdon, whose inspiration was Ray Charles. More distinctively, their instrumental attack revolved around organist Alan Price, unusual for the guitar-dominant genre. The Animals' lean, sharp sound reflected the authenticity of their sources, while their rough-and-tumble upbringing in working-class Newcastle gave bite to their signature songs "The House of the Rising Sun," "It's My Life," and "We Gotta Get out of This Place," which also reflected the instinctive social consciousness found in songs like "Inside—Looking Out," a forceful prison song. Indeed, the Animals' best songs seem like soundtracks to British Angry Young Man films of the 1950s and 1960s (for example, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner). Their combustible chemistry forced a break-up by the mid-1960s, with Burdon forming a new, psychedelic Animals, but only the original incarnation is in the Hall, where they belong as an influential classic-rock act.

The Band: One of the most richly talented bands in classic rock, the Band had already helped to define part of rock's early history even before they recorded its first album, Music from Big Pink, in 1968. Beginning as the Hawks in late-1950s Canada, they backed early rocker Ronnie Hawkins for several years before hooking up with Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s as Dylan was going electric, to the chagrin of his folk audience; their often contentious gigs, notably in Britain, were an early baptism of fire. They holed up with Dylan in Woodstock, cut the legendary Basement Tapes with him, then released Big Pink and The Band, two landmark albums. Stuffed with superlative songs, both albums were paradoxically revolutionary and retrospective, embracing an encyclopedia of musical styles—folk, bluegrass, country and western, rhythm and blues, and rock 'n' roll—for their inspiration, which in turn inspired their contemporaries. Unwilling or unable to capitalize on their tremendous implications, the Band floundered until the mid-1970s, when they decided to disband and got Martin Scorsese to film their farewell concert (The Last Waltz). The guest list attests to the Band's influence and stature: Dylan, Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, and Muddy Waters were among the performers. It was like an All-Star game stocked with future Hall of Famers. Casual listeners know "The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and maybe a couple more; knowledgeable fans and critics rave about all the others. The Band is the Charlie Gehringer of rock and roll—you probably don't know who he is, but when you look up his record, you realize why he's in the Hall. He belongs there.

Elton John: The biggest pop star of the 1970s, Elton John epitomized the Me Decade—he was a larger-than-life diva whose style was more evident than his substance. Indeed, one might even question why he is a shoo-in for the Hall. Again, legacy becomes the final arbiter: In many senses, Elton John is the Seventies. As that decade licked its wounds inflicted by the previous tumultuous decade, a pop sheen began to form over those wounds, a turn to distraction and superficial sentiment to salve the memories. John was ideal for the times, a professional, flamboyant entertainer whose passion, expressed in sometimes inscrutable lyrics by Bernie Taupin, seldom cut below the surface but sounded convincing in AM-radio bursts. And while ballads and light rock remained John's forte, he gamely sampled other styles such as hard rock ("Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting") in his quest for supremacy. Perhaps it's unfair to paint John in seemingly unflattering colors because many of his biggest hits, and a number of his lesser hits ("Tiny Dancer" and especially "Levon"), still hold up today. And he did sustain more than a nostalgia career after his glory days.

Rod Stewart: In the late 1970s, Rod Stewart made an irrevocable break from the performer he had been to the performer he remains as now—the entertainer, whose ability to please the audience overshadowed, and eventually overwhelmed, his desire for artistry. It's tempting to blame disco, but "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" really did prove impossible to recover from as he slithered into cabaret, much more Perry Como than Sam Cooke, his early idol. Before that, though, Stewart was a first-class rock singer (although his voice has never been to my taste), combining folk ("Mandolin Wind") and Motown ("[I Know I'm] Losing You") with the crunchy hard rock he'd helped to invent with Jeff Beck in the late 1960s, then practiced concurrently with the Faces in the first half of the 1970s. "Gasoline Alley," "Maggie May," "You Wear It Well," "Every Picture Tells a Story," and even "Tonight's the Night" mark one of classic rock's premier talents, enough to admit him into the Hall despite knowing that "Tonight I'm Yours" will be playing somewhere sometime soon.

Lopsided Legends: The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, Bob Marley

At what point does the legend overshadow the reality? These three acts provide an answer. Have no fear: All three belong even in a small Hall, but their reputations might be overstated.

The Grateful Dead: Is the Grateful Dead the greatest case of grass-roots marketing of the Rock Era? Despite critical derision and almost no airplay throughout its career, the Dead not only persevered, it thrived as a going concern, selling albums and selling out concerts for three decades, until guiding-light guitarist Jerry Garcia died in 1995. The Dead was not the best of the San Francisco hippie bands—the Jefferson Airplane holds that honor—but it was the most emblematic, with an in-concert improvisational technique built on a fairly comprehensive grounding in rock, folk, blues, country, and even jazz that led to a jamming (in)sensibility that persists through bands like Phish and Rusted Root. Musically, the Dead peaked with Workingman's Dead and American Beauty in 1970, then it spent the next quarter-century playing out the string to its hordes of fans. Yes, the Grateful Dead belongs in the Hall because of its historical significance, but you have to mine a lot of material to get to nuggets like "New Speedway Boogie" or even "U.S. Blues"—and if you get mired in an interminable live version of "Dark Star," don't say I didn't warn you.

John Lennon: Bookending John Lennon's solo career are the best albums he ever made—John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Double Fantasy. The former was the literal cathartic scream that announced his severance from the Beatles, and the latter was a mature assessment ("Watching the Wheels" especially) of his life and career at the start of middle age—and, tragically, it became his epitaph as he was murdered three weeks after it was released in 1980. In between came a series of false starts, feints, and follies framed by Lennon's not-so sub rosa battle with American immigration authorities, spurred by his outspoken political views. As legions of fans and interested parties wondered how the Smartest Beatle was going to wow them, Lennon, screamed out from "Cold Turkey" and JL/POB, fed them enticing tidbits ("Imagine," "#9 Dream") but little else until Double Fantasy, and that emerged only after Lennon had gone domestic for a number of years following his eventually successful struggle with the American government. By itself, does this add up to a Hall of Fame career? Probably not. Is there a residual boost from Lennon's prior association with the most important rock band in history? Probably so. Does this "Working Class Hero" belong in the Hall all by himself? "God" only knows. He slips past the velvet rope because he is John Lennon, and that's a tough act for anyone to follow.

Bob Marley: The most recognizable reggae star belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Or does he? Just how influential has reggae been on rock and soul? That might be the wrong question to ask, but by asking it, we are forced to examine what is meant by the "rock and roll" in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even though he died relatively young, Bob Marley, often with his band the Wailers, established a significant, influential career and, more importantly, became the first Third-World pop star of the Rock Era, introducing reggae (and its attendant religion, Rastafarianism) to international audiences, by itself an inspiration to other Third-World musicians, and that is not an insignificant achievement. That Marley was probably the best reggae artist ever (only Toots and the Maytals and maybe Jimmy Cliff can approach his influence) is beside the point to the challenge his rightful induction poses: What exactly do we mean by "rock and roll"?

Too Much Twang for Posterity: Duane Eddy

Although Chuck Berry established the guitar as the dominant instrument in rock, Duane Eddy will forever be known as rock's first guitar hero. Berry's songs featured prominent guitar, and many of his licks, a huge influence on generations of rock guitarists, are instantly recognizable. But Berry's occasional instrumentals pale in comparison to his vocal numbers—his métier—and don't make the case for Berry the guitar virtuoso.

By contrast, Duane Eddy thrived on the instrumental, which in the 1950s and into the 1960s was an integral part of hit radio (think: "Tequila" or "Walk—Don't Run"). Eddy's thick, low-register vibrato, bent by a whammy bar and couched in reverb that emphasized his trademark "twangy" sound, is similarly an instantly recognizable sound of the era. Moreover, Eddy constructed tunes that were more than simple vehicles for his guitar—their melody and timbre, often supplied by saxophone rather than guitar, sustained listening interest.

So why shouldn't Duane Eddy be in the Hall of Fame? Collectively, those instrumentals don't add up to a lasting influence. They might have exhibited innovative craftsmanship but were hardly revolutionary, and the twang lost its novelty by the time 1960s musicians began developing their sounds. Link Wray, Eddy's contemporary, developed a heavy guitar sound that proved to be more lasting, a primordial influence on hard rock and punk, but Wray's approach to songcraft paled in comparison to Eddy's. Sometimes being the first is not being the best or the most lasting. Duane Eddy's biggest twangs ("Rebel 'Rouser," "Forty Miles of Bad Road") are emblematic of an era, but do not add up to a Hall of Fame career.

1995: Peeking into the Seventies

7 Inductees: The Allman Brothers Band, Al Green, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Martha and the Vandellas, Neil Young, Frank Zappa

Yes: The Allman Brothers Band, Al Green, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Frank Zappa

Borderline Yes: Martha and the Vandellas

Hall of Fame inductions in 1995 contain names instantly familiar to classic rock and soul fans, and it's hard to deny that any of the seven inductees belong in the Hall. Frank Zappa probably got his Hall pass on reputation rather than recognition, and Janis Joplin gets more weight as a pioneer than for her recorded legacy, while Martha and the Vandellas, essentially Sixties soul backfilling by the Hall, deserve a closer look to confirm that their place is really justified. But it is hard to argue with this year's class.

Seventies Superstars (More or Less): The Allman Brothers Band, Al Green, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Frank Zappa

With the exception of Frank Zappa, every one of these artists has been a fixture on classic rock and soul radio for decades. As the only soul artist, Al Green seems to be the odd man out, not that that would lessen his own qualifications.

The Allman Brothers Band: What makes the Allman Brothers Band so distinctive isn't that it practically invented Southern rock but that it immediately transcended its two main permutations—hard-rock boogie ("Whipping Post") and country-flavored rock ("Midnight Rider")—in its search for a singular approach. The Allmans combined a variety of styles—rock, blues, country—with jazz and even classical flourishes into an overarching sound laced with virtuosity and grandeur. Led initially by Duane Allman, already a world-class session guitarist in his early twenties, the Allmans exhibited a restless ambition on their early material, and Allman's death could have been a fatal blow to the band. But they persevered despite more upheavals, becoming a signature live band in the process, an archetypal "jam band" still influential today. Ironically, Lynyrd Skynyrd is the definitive Southern rock band, but that is because the Allman Brothers Band defies that simple categorization.

Al Green: Although Prince and Madonna are credited with mixing religious and sexual imagery in their songs, we forget that Southern soul singer Al Green combined those two during his heyday of the 1970s. Green was the inheritor of the crown worn by Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, a supple, compelling singer with an instantly engaging manner that updated the spare, driving arrangements of Sixties soul with a smooth romanticism that gave "Call Me," "Let's Stay Together," "Tired of Being Alone," and "I'm Still in Love with You," among other hits, their enduring appeal. Green had no problem sliding into a lover-man persona, but he underscored that persona with gospel-inspired passion; as the 1970s wore on he literally became an ordained minister, eventually abandoning secular music by the 1980s. (Giving credit where it is due, let us recall that Little Richard had already blazed that trail.) As one of the signature voices of the 1970s, Al Green is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Janis Joplin: It is true that, upon reflection, Janis Joplin's recorded legacy suggests more potential than actual results, exemplified by her posthumous album Pearl, which hints at her true talents more than the energetic but sloppy efforts with Big Brother and the Holding Company, the 1960s hippie band with whom she made her bones before leaving for a solo career. And that a song like "Piece of My Heart" displays both the power and the bombast inherent in her huge, lusty voice. But Joplin did die young, and even her brief career single-handedly gave women, for the first time, a voice in rock as more than just a subordinate figure. That alone makes her a crucial figure not just in the development of the music, but in the struggle of women to gain equal footing with men. Joplin herself evinced no overt political agenda, so it might be unfair to attribute her with anything beyond a desire to be a rock star. She did attain that, and as the key tracks on Pearl demonstrate ("Move Over," "Cry Baby," and especially "A Woman Left Lonely"), she was primed to perpetuate that career before her 1970 overdose death. Nevertheless, Janis Joplin altered the course of the Rock Era during the short time she was here. That's Hall-worthy.

Led Zeppelin: Because generations of hard-rock fans have in essence deified this pioneering British heavy metal institution, it bears repeating that Led Zeppelin really does belong at the top of the heap. Arising from the ashes of the Yardbirds, Led Zep tempered 1960s blues-rock with a bigger, louder wallop while leavening the assault with folk and Eastern flourishes, and in the process it spawned heavy metal as we know it today. What distinguishes the band is intelligent songcraft, lyrically and musically, buttressed by largely effective execution. Closer examination shows the band to have plundered the blues catalog and claimed it as its own without attribution, with that powered by an overrated drummer, but by then Zeppelin had inspired the next generation of hard rockers, and its reputation as the post-pubescent musical crush from here to Kashmir was cast in glowing heavy metal. In terms of influence and popularity, Led Zeppelin is one of the most important rock bands in history, and I'm not squeezing your lemon.

Neil Young: Neil Young is the epitome of the untutored genius. Throughout a career that began in the mid-1960s, first with Buffalo Springfield before going solo, Young has dived headlong into diverse projects with little discipline, yielding uneven results—sometimes wildly so. That instinctive, emotional approach has also made Young the most fascinating 1960s musician still performing, imbuing many of his efforts with a freshness seldom heard by any artist. Along the way, Young did produce enough lasting and influential material to make his Hall of Fame induction obligatory—even if you have to pick through his extensive catalog to collect it all: For instance, one of his greatest songs, "Like a Hurricane," first appeared on a mediocre album (American Stars 'n' Bars) flanked by two dreadful tracks ("Will to Love" and "Homegrown"). Yet Young's core instincts, rooted both in country and folk and in hard rock, have influenced singer-songwriters of the 1970s and grunge and alternative rockers of the 1990s. Neil Young is truly a unique talent of the Rock Era. Long may he run.

Frank Zappa: Early in Frank Zappa's career, with the 1960s Mothers of Invention, he received his verdict from the music industry: his music had "no commercial potential." Undeterred, Zappa constructed not only the musical universe in which he expressed his prodigious compositional imagination, but he ultimately developed the recording and distribution infrastructure that enabled him to express that imagination independently of the industry that declared him unworthy of interest. Along the way, Zappa gained as much notoriety, usually for his admittedly sophomoric "comedy music," as he did as much admiration for his rich, brilliant works that combined rock, soul, R&B, blues, jazz, doo-wop, classical, and experimental music into an utterly distinctive sound. Furthermore, Zappa's ever-changing bands attracted the cream of rock and jazz musicians across two generations, many of whom honed their skills in Zappa's workshops before they forged their own careers. Casual listeners might know "Valley Girl" and other novelty songs, but knowledgeable listeners—and Zappa's peers—know Frank Zappa as one of the most important musicians and composers of the Rock Era.

Dancing in the Margin: Martha and the Vandellas

Berry Gordy's dream was to make Motown "the sound of Young America," and the peerless array of acts that recorded for the label, from the Supremes and Stevie Wonder to Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, damn near made that a reality. Martha and the Vandellas were no less a voice during that 1960s heyday with their signature songs "Dancing in the Street" and "(Your Love Is Like a) Heat Wave," although another hit, "Nowhere to Run," while overtly a love song, contained a hint of the social dynamics of the time. Even better, Martha Reeves and her backing group had the bluesiest approach of any major Motown act, which gave them a toughness unrivaled by many of the label's male or female acts.

By the turn of the decade, though, Martha and the Vandellas had faded away, and Reeves, a strong and engaging singer, could not sustain a solo career as her talent couldn't carry her beyond the support she had gotten with the Vandellas and Motown's incomparable producers, arrangers, and backing musicians. And despite its residual presence on oldies radio, her erstwhile group looked to be a footnote in 1960s pop history. You could make the argument, particularly if you are a small-Hall proponent, that Motown acts are amply represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that Martha and the Vandellas might not have risen to the level of Motown's biggest stars.

But Martha and the Vandellas went deeper than their still-substantial better-known songs such as "Come and Get These Memories" and "Jimmy Mack." For example, running counter to the sprightly orchestration, "Honey Child" delves into bluesy you-done-me-wrong-but-I-can't-quit-you confession with Reeves delivering one of her most impassioned vocals. Similarly, the surging "Wild One" hints at the social circumstances that ultimately color personal relationships, while "Bless You" presages the approach the Jackson Five would take in the early 1970s. More than the sum of their greatest hits, Martha and the Vandellas were an important voice in the 1960s, important enough—if just barely—to belong in the Hall of Fame.

1991 – 1995: Coda

In its second five years of selecting inductees, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted 37 artists. The table below shows those 37 categorized as noted previously: Yes, Borderline Yes, and No.

Breakdown of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, 1991 – 1995
Year Yes Borderline Yes No Total Inductees
1991 3 3 1 7
1992 4 3 7
1993 6 1 1 8
1994 4 3 1 8
1995 6 1 7
Totals 23 11 3 37
Pct. of Total 62.2% 29.7% 8.1% 100%
In the expansive scenario, that the Borderline Yeses are justified, the Hall looks outstanding: 91.9% of its inductees are worthy of induction, with only 3 of 37 total inductees, or 1 out of 12, not worthy of the Hall. Of the three Nos, only Duane Eddy seems to be a real misstep, so for this period, the Hall seems to have exercised excellent judgment in selecting inductees.

In the exclusive scenario, that the Borderline Yeses are not justified, the Hall really suffers because those Borderline Yeses are nearly one-third of the overall inductees. Thus, only 62.2 percent of its inductees are worthy of induction, with 14 of 37 inductees, or roughly 2 out of 5, not worthy of the Hall. This illustrates just how critical the borderline inductions are—they test what we consider to be Hall-worthy and force us to sharpen our evaluation and application of the criteria we use to make that decision. And as I've pointed out previously, these criteria are ultimately overwhelmingly subjective.

In this audit, I've made explicit one Defining Factor—legacy—as being paramount to regarding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a historical repository of the Rock Era. Those artists I've categorized as a Borderline Yes are ones I believe have earned their historical significance and thus belong in Hall. This emphasis on legacy was certainly present during the previous audit, but I felt that it bears stressing here.

As subsequent years find the pool of eligible candidates widening in proportion to the expanding varieties of rock and soul music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would find more opportunities for inclusion—and for greater snubs and missteps. During the 1991–1995 period, though, the Hall seemed to be quite judicious in its inductions. Would this sound judgment continue? To find out, stay tuned for Part 3 of the audit!
Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:47

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