Monday, April 15, 2013

The R&B Hall and how it might affect the R&R Hall

In the much too long hiatus at the beginning of the year, a lot of drama has unfolded regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, even as recent as this past week.  Among the biggest pieces of news, but not so fully explored, was the announcement of the departure of key people at the Rock And Hall Of Fame Foundation, including some members of the Nominating Committee.  Supposedly, these people left to focus on the development and execution of the new R&B Hall Of Fame.  The R&B Hall Of Fame announced its inaugural class shortly after the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced its Class Of 2013.  Looking at the people behind and the charter inductees of this new establishment, it raises some questions and concerns about the direction of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Some of the questions looming nigh deserve serious discussion.

First off, why the split in the first place?  It really does seem pointless for a couple reasons.  For starters, how much extra time and energy does it take to be a part of two halls of fame?  Admittedly, perhaps ignorance on the subject matter is coming through, but given how many years the Rock Hall existed without even having a museum, and given that NomCom members only meet to decide nominees, decide inductees in the categories outside of Performer, and to actually attend the ceremonies; it doesn’t seem like a heavy extra commitment on top of their regular jobs already, all of which are at the very least tangentially connected to the recording industry anyway.  Planning the ceremonies themselves are really the only seriously strenuous part of being involved in the process, outside of trying to convince other committee members that a certain nominee belongs on the ballot, even if at the expense of another candidate who may also be deserving.  Taking part in another hall of fame shouldn’t be that demanding.

Maybe this is being done in recognition of the changing of demographics in the United States.  As political pundits loved to repeatedly point out upon announcing Barack Obama’s re-election, Caucasians are rapidly, if not already, losing status as a majority, and may in fact soon not even comprise a plurality.  Shouldn’t there be a Hall Of Fame for a musical style that hasn’t been skewing more and more White over time (which is another blog entry itself for the future), to reflect that?  But if that were the case, why not also make plans to begin a Latin Music Hall Of Fame in the States, since that is the most rapidly growing demographic?  Or maybe it’s being done to reflect the extreme dominance of R&B and rap in the Pop charts and the programming of Contemporary Hits Radio stations.  Again, this is insufficient because it leaves danceable pop out of the picture, which has carved out its own strong presence with the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, etc.  Changing demographics as an explanation only raises more questions than it answers. 

On top of that, hasn’t the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame pretty much acted like an R&B Hall Of Fame?  Not per se, but in the first eight years, at least half of the inducted Performers were African-Americans, none of who were renowned for playing rock and roll that leaned more heavily on the folk or country side.  And there have been only three years where none of the Performer inductees chosen from the ballot were Black, and one of those years had a blue-eyed soul act while another had a trio of White rappers (although one year did have a jazz artist in lieu of an R&B artist, and two more had reggae, which while still derived from R&B isn’t part of the traditional connotation of “R&B”).  Even as recent as 2008, Jann S. Wenner reminded the room how rock and roll is rooted in the “music of the Black man”, i.e. blues, jazz, gospel, and R&B.  There’s pretty much been representation of R&B of some sort in every year of inductions in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Which again begs the question, why the impetus to cut bait now?  While the language of the resignations has all been very pleasant, one really need only look at what they’re creating upon leaving to get at potential ulterior motives.  On the surface, it would appear that the people who’ve split feel that R&B has been getting less than adequate representation, which as mentioned above is an odd attitude to take given the continual presence in the annual selections.  Even more incredible given the littering of lists one can find online of the most snubbed artists.  Most are either classic rock, metal, or early alternative scene acts, none of which appeal heavily in the R&B scene.  Still, a look at the artists who’ve been repeatedly nominated but have failed to get in reveals at present the likes of Chic, Chuck Willis, and Joe Tex as the top three, with 18 nominations between the three of them.

Looking even closer at what they’re creating, the inductees themselves also reveal another side to this split.  Some of the no-brainers are there, such as Aretha, Ray, Sam, James, and Berry Jr.  There are even a couple awesome surprises for charter induction like Johnnie Taylor and Martha And The Vandellas.  But what ultimately is telltale is the inclusion of inductees like the Spinners, the Marvelettes, Whitney Houston, and Don Cornelius.  No one is saying that these choices are less than deserving, but the Spinners missed out on the Class Of 2012, the Marvelettes on the Class Of 2013, Whitney Houston from nomination for the Class Of 2013, when many thought it was a certainty, and Don Cornelius not receiving a posthumous Ahmet Ertegun Award induction this year either.  Though these are but four of the forty-eight inductees, the fact that these four are noteworthy snubs from the past two years of Rock Hall inductions.indicates possible bitterness about these people getting snubbed, and possibly other artists they want to see nominated, but can’t make any headway in the process.  Mere speculation, but not to be entirely ruled out either.

Another possible factor is the rise of rap in the ranks of the Rock Hall.  NomCom member Toure, who is not listed among those splitting, has sworn to only nominate rap artists from here on out.  That may seem counterintuitive, but again, look at the inductees.  Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross are representing the ‘80s, but there are no rap artists, not even Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five.  On the surface, it would seem no conflict should be present.  Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five got in the same year as the Ronettes who, while part of the Spector sound did have R&B in that sound.  Run-D.M.C. was inducted the same year as doo-wop group Little Anthony And The Imperials and “Soul Preacher” Bobby Womack.  This year, Public Enemy is inducted alongside blues guitarist Albert King and disco queen Donna Summer.  Even 2012’s elected Performers were half “blue-eyed” R&B of sorts.  So rap doesn’t seem to be conflicting with other forms of R&B.  Nonetheless, looking to the future, the presence of non-rap R&B candidates may get thinner in terms of soon-to-be eligible, viable candidates.  Whitney Houston herself might still not even be part of the conversation if not for her famous passing away early last year.  Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, Usher, and maybe Mariah Carey are the strongest candidates right now, but what about the likes of Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, or Faith Evans?  Does Bruno Mars have a shot, assuming he maintains his current pace?  Another piece of evidence, though by no means concretely telling, is the Rock Hall Projected project on Future Rock Legends.  Non-rap R&B artists of the ‘80s and beyond are pretty scarce, and those that made it often took multiple nominations.  Again, the opinions of the people on FRL vary quite differently from those of the NonCom and the voting bloc, but the sentiment may not be confined either.  If not, maybe there is a need to branch out after all.

Whether or not these are good reasons is partially moot, since the split has been made already.  Which brings us to the next logical question: how will this shape the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame classes in the future?  One obvious but perhaps erroneous conclusion is that the classes will get a lot more “Rock” oriented, meaning overwhelmingly heavy with guitar bands, a classic rock fan’s utopia.  This seems to be what would happen, since without a strong R&B presence, what’s left?  And the recent nominations of KISS, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, and the recent inductions of the likes of Rush and Alice Cooper seem to point in that direction.  The problem with that logic is, of course, there are still a lot of NomCom members remaining in their seats of power who still don’t like those acts.  KISS and Bon Jovi have yet to return to the ballot, and it may be that Deep Purple will continue that trend. 

Those remaining members, in fact, may even serve to keep the Rock Hall continuing same as usual.  After all, how many members did the NomCom really lose?  Out of how many?  Ultimately future ballots and future classes will not only present the immediate answers, but also hint to the long-range possibilities.  And who knows: perhaps this split will wake up NomCom members and voters alike in favor of some of these overlooked artists?  Will the next time be magic for the Spinners or the Marveletees?  Will the Chi-Lites, Manhattans, and Dramatics finally be noticed for their impeccable smooth soul?  Will Johnnie Taylor, the Bar-Kays, or the Ohio Players serve to open eyes beyond the world of Pop chart sensibilities, and re-orient said eyes towards the R&B chart history?

Whatever happens, one thing seems sadly inevitable: the eventual closing up shop of the R&B Hall Of Fame.  Not to cast signs of doom and gloom, but things are already looking bad on the outset for this new creation.  Here are a few signs that may indicate repatriation to the Rock Hall by those who chose to split:

  1. It seems to be done out of spite.  As stated earlier, some of the inductees seem like choices made to spite the Rock Hall for not getting them in sooner, while they had a chance to prevent any kind of fissure.

  1. The quotas of eras.  Admittedly, not enough research has been done into this one, but offhand, quotas of eras do not bode well.  The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame did the same thing, and folded after a clean decade.  The same thing happened with the UK Music Hall Of Fame, which was even more short-lived and less restrictive than the Vocal Group Hall.  Meanwhile, the Rock And Roll, the Country Music, and the Baseball Halls Of Fame all require a minimum of time passage prior to eligibility.  Definitely more correlation than causation, but it’s still noteworthy.

  1. Ridiculous pace at the outset.  Forty-eight inductees in their first class.  Maybe they’re trying to get things started with a bang, but this is more than twice the number of inductees than the Rock Hall has ever inducted in a single year.  Even if they do start including rap artists, there’s no way they’ll be able to maintain that kind of pace.  Like the Rock Hall has done, they’ll have to slow things way down to ensure long-term durability.

4. Significant omissions.  As mentioned earlier, some of the inductees are no-brainers.  Unfortunately, so are some missing names: Michael Jackson, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, etc.  Even worse, they seemed to have forgotten that R&B predates rock ‘n’ roll, as Ray Charles is the only inductee listed whose chart history predates 1955.  Where’s Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five?  The Ink Spots?  The Mills Brothers?  The Ravens?  Just some glaring omissions out of the gate, due possibly to the era quotas they seem to have in place.

  1. Absurdity of some of the inductees.  Making judgment calls on the merits of particular inductees can certainly lead to heated arguments, but there are some questionable calls on this one.  It may not be about hits as much as musical excellence (similar to the Rock Hall’s apparent mission), but a charter class should be about those who are easily and undisputedly among the royalty.  To that end, Enchantment?  They only had a couple significant albums and less than a dozen hits across all the Billboard charts.  Or the Hesitations, a band with even less presence than Enchantment?  It would be an understandable statement to include acts that were huge on the R&B charts but largely unknown on the Pop scene, but they didn’t induct Millie Jackson, Fatback, or Chuck Jackson.  They went for the Hesitations and Enchantment.  Additionally, the inductions of places and record labels seem a bit ludicrous.  Was Motown absolutely pivotal in the evolution of R&B?  Absolutely.  But they’re simultaneously inducting Berry Gordy, Jr. and Motown Records.  Inducting a whole record label just seems ridiculous, especially when it makes more sense just to induct the people who made it monumental (and while the subject’s been broached, where’s Stax-Volt or Jim Stewart?)  Inducting exhibition locations?  Again, no one will downplay the importance of the Apollo, but that’s why exhibits are built spotlighting these locations, or why people petition the local council to name it a historic landmark.  But to induct a club is just a bit out there.  Lastly, Al Sharpton.  Seriously?  Being friend and mentor to James Brown does not merit induction into a music hall of fame.  By that logic, Perry Como should be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because he was friend and source of strength for Elvis Presley during his Las Vegas stint, and helped keep the King going during the depressing post-Priscilla days.  But no one’s seriously mentioned the Man Who Invented Casual as a Rock Hall candidate.  Nor should Sharpton be in the R&B Hall.  The NAACP Hall Of Fame?  Unequivocally.  The R&B Hall Of Fame?  No.  Just no.

In conclusion, the R&B Hall Of Fame seems like a creation curious in its origins.  There is certainly an ample supply of acts to induct and honor, many of whom will likely never even be seriously considered by the Rock Hall’s NomCom, but the approach needs considerable re-alignment before they induct their second class.  Otherwise, it’ll go down as a footnote in the history of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


  1. Philip, The Spinners are listed on their site as 2014 nominees. Under a link 2013 inductees, side of page has list. A post of inductees showed up on the Old School Facebook page. Some bizarre names like the Dazz Band. The legendary names missing puts the whole process into question.
    Last weekend I emailed them for more info and not surprisingly never heard back.Who choose and who votes? Their website is awful. I was going to do a post but I need more info on this place.

  2. So...Philip....Do you think that The Famous Flames deserve inclusion in THIS Hall of Fame ? (since you didn't think that they should have been inducted in that OTHER one ?)

    1. I think the case for them in the R&B Hall is a lot stronger. I didn't say they shouldn't have been inducted... I just think the Performer category may not have been the best call. But we're just repeating the same discussion we've had a few times already.

  3. Philip I don't think the Spinners are being inducted in that frist class. Read my comment above for futher info.
    I've emailed this site twice and no answer. Like I said, the website is a mess, doesn't even list this years inductees yet.

    1. Perhaps another reason to believe in eventual folding? --Philip too lazy to log in right now

  4. The Rock Hall has been leaning heavily toward inducting Rap artists in the last few years. Soul/R&B artists have been the casulties of this. In an effort to be "with it" , the Hall has sacrificed artistic integrity and fairness. Rap is more popular than R&B right now, (thanks to Clear Channel) , and as a result, The H of F has abandoned R&B in favor of more recent Rap acts that would sell more tickets to the ceremony. It's all politics and money. The problem with that is a lot of influential and important R&B artists from the Sixties through the late Seventies have been ignored and bypassed in favor of Eighties rappers who didn't come along till years later. Where are the nominations/inductions for : MARY WELLS, JERRY BUTLER, LOU RAWLS, BARRY WHITE, BEN E. KING, BROOK BENTON, DIONNE WARWICK, THE DELFONICS, THE CHI-LITES, THE DRAMATICS,BETTY EVERETT, BOBBY BYRD, THE DOMINOES, THE BELMONTS,THE SPINNERS, THE MARVELETTES, JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS,JOE TEX, HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES, THE STYLISTICS, GENE CHANDLER, THE WHISPERS, THE MANHATTANS, and numerous others. These people have all had long, distingushed careers....but THEY don't get inducted ....but Eighties Rappers do?

    Or why it took THE MIRACLES , one of the most influential and important groups in music history, 26 YEARS (not to mention the deaths of two of their original members) to FINALLY get inducted ??

    ...And you wonder just WHY people are leaving the Rock and Roll Hall for the new R&B Hall of Fame ? And just WHY there is a NEED for one ?

    Get your head out of the sand . The Rock Hall has FAILED to represent ALL genres of Rock and Roll Music....and it's failure to honor R&B and Progressive Rock artists is just PART of the reason why it is simply NO LONGER RELEVANT.

    It has become just a private little club....where it's members just vote in their favorites...and then pat themselves on the back for doing so.

  5. ...and , while I'm at more additional point: Don't be too surprised if, from this point on, the RRHOF uses the new R&B Hall of Fame as an excuse NOT to induct deserving R&B artists in the future...After all...if they get inducted into THAT hall...what's the point in inducting them into the ROCK HALL ??? The Result: Rappers and Rockers win, while classic R&B acts get the shaft .Don't say that it's not gonna fact, with the omission of The Marvelettes, the Spinners, Joe Tex, Mary Wells, etc. IT'S ALREADY STARTED !!!!

  6. Your posts have some serious errors. For starters, the R&R HoF has inducted most of the powerhouse acts from Motown from the '60s. Of the powerhouses, only the Marvelettes, Jr. Walker & The All-Stars, and Mary Wells remain. They've also inducted Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Bland, Booker T. & the MG's, and in more recent years, Little Anthony And The Imperials, Bobby Womack, the O'Jays (who were inducted the first year GF&tFF were nominated). So no, the R&R HoF has not failed to represent R&B, or even '60s R&B. Prog has slowly been making ground with the inductions of Pink Floyd and Genesis.

    Secondly, you commit what is perhaps the most common logical fallacy of Rock Hall debate (and one we're all guilty of, including myself): the classic "No X Before Y" argument. Let me put it bluntly: merit for induction into a HoF is NOT like money in a bank: it doesn't compound interest over the years. An artist's merit does not increase over the years simply because they have been eligible longer. Nirvana is a lock for next year, and as a first year eligible, they will be more deserving of induction than the Whispers. And staying together longer isn't a metric either, necessarily. Naturally, you have to stay together longer to make more music, but when an act is out there on the casino circuit rehashing the favorites night after night, staying together stops being a factor of any kind.

    I agree with most of your snubs, some I think are hard sells, and a couple that I'm sorry, but I do not agree with. And while it's definitely better to get inducted while still alive, the fact that people die before they get inducted does not factor into deciding whether the Hall is a success or failure.

    Private club? I think there's some truth to that, especially in light of NomCom member Roy Trakin's latest entry. In my humble opinion, it's also partially because they made it so exclusive. A NomCom member picks three to bring to the table, a list of 15 or so is made, and a class of 5-6 plus other categories is inducted. So if you only get to pick three, you want to make 'em count, and that requires elimination, and unfortunately, taste becomes a factor. It pretty much confirms what I've said all along: a real solution is to induct more acts each year. Sure it'll affect the induction ceremonies, but hell, I think it'd be worth it. I'd tune in to watch all of it.

    As for your appendix post, it could go either way, and I addressed that, please reread where I mentioned that. I think for smoother soul artists, who aren't best known for upbeat jams, that's a very strong possibility. The Chi-Lites, Stylistics, Manhattans, and Delfonics certainly do seem doomed to this fate. But given that the names between the two institutions are still friendly people amongst each other, I think there's a good chance that they'll encourage and remind each other of some good names for future inductions. I think this will be the case with the Spinners and the Marvelettes if we can get them back on the ballot soon. Joe Tex never gets nominated with any consistency, so I think that hurts him. Mary Wells, unfortunately, hasn't been nominated since the '80s, so I don't know who resigned from the NomCom that had been championing her. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is an honor to be just nominated or even considered, because that means you haven't been forgotten, and once you're a part of the discussion, your chances actually get much better of eventual induction.

    1. I am a support of the R&F Music Hall Of Fame. My question to you Philip, Why wasn't THE OHIO PLAYERS inducted in to the R&R Hall? And, Have their been any Dayton Funk Group/Band considered induction to the R&R Hall? Example: OHIO PLAYERS, Roger and ZAPP, Heatwave, SLAVE, Dayton, just to name a few!

    2. Yeah, sorry, but the Ohio Players are one of those acts that I just cannot support. They don't belong. Seriously, if "Name a song by the Ohio Players" was a Family Feud question there might be only two answers on the board from a survey of a hundred people. And even if there were more, they'd get the top two, and strikes the rest of the way. And of those two, "Fire" is the only one that's any good. "Love Rollercoaster" is only really remembered for the stupid urban legend about it. Roger/Zapp? No. Heatwave, I like but too minor. Sorry that your love of Dayton has gone invalidated, but no to the Players.

  7. I am going to say this--I SUPPORT the R& B Hall of Fame--they are honoring folks that other wise would NEVER be honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now check this out--The RRHOF had the public vote--for their 2013 Inductees--the Marvelettes and Chic among others were on that list. I for one was voting. The graphs NEVER moved except for a few choice inductees. So it is all politics----there was no way that Public Enemy should have gotten in over the Marvelettes or Chic or any other group that has been in the buisness longer...the Miracles should have been inducted the same time Smokey Robinson was--and even HE had to push to get them in there. The RBHOF is not like that. The list was long--but it is not that long now..the artists who are on the list for NEXT year...will probably be toned down as well. The RBHOF is new yes--and just like when the RRHOF was formed they had to go through some glitches too before they got it right. So what is the problem? Are your toes being stepped on or something? There is room for EVERYBODY.

    1. How is it politics? If you mean the optimal allocation of finite resources, then perhaps yes, since you only got to choose for five. But I don't think that's what you mean.

      Glitches... I'll give you that one. That's definitely one that only time can tell on. Though, again... Al Sharpton? I'm trying hard not to laugh.

      And no, my toes aren't being stepped on. Supposedly people from the Rock Hall Foundation were working on this project, which makes it related to the Rock Hall, and I think it'll be interesting to see what the impact will be.

  8. So WHAT if the Induction list is long on the RBHOF. You seem to forget--that we are losing our musical legends just about EVERY DAY--We have lost not one but TWO Temptations within days of each other--then we lost a Miracle and a Staples--all before the month is out. It is better to honor the legends who are still with the R and B Hall of Fame is honoring one of the greatest singers of all times--Little Jimmy Scott--but the Rock probably wouldn't do that because he is a JAZZ singer..even so--he is still a legend....

    1. Death is irrelevant. Yes, we want to get them in while they're still alive, and we sometimes feel a little remorse for failing to do so. However, if we don't, they don't become any more or less worthy, and there is point in calling out shame or pox upon an establishment for not getting them in during their lifespan.

      Not being a jazz fan, I have to admit to not knowing who Little Jimmy Scott is. I would simply have to ask who in the Rock And Roll world did he influence?

    2. "So WHAT if the Induction list is long on the RBHOF. You seem to forget--that we are losing our musical legends just about EVERY DAY--We have lost not one but TWO Temptations within days of each other--then we lost a Miracle and a Staples--all before the month is out."

      AND Bobby Bennett...the last surviving member of The Famous Flames....ALSO during that SAME time period.

    3. Again, I addressed this. Here is my reply once again:

      Death is irrelevant. Yes, we want to get them in while they're still alive, and we sometimes feel a little remorse for failing to do so. However, if we don't, they don't become any more or less worthy, and there is point in calling out shame or pox upon an establishment for not getting them in during their lifespan.

  9. "Not being a jazz fan, I have to admit to not knowing who Little Jimmy Scott is. I would simply have to ask who in the Rock And Roll world did he influence?"

    2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Little Anthony & the Imperials, for one .

    Ray Charles for another.

    Dinah Washington for a third .

    Lou Reed was so impressed, he did the liner notes for one of his albums.

    that's FOUR RRHOF INDUCTEES influenced by Little Jimmy Scott.

  10. From Wikipedia:

    Little Anthony and the Imperials is a rhythm and blues/soul/doo-wop vocal group from New York, first active in the 1950s. Lead singer Jerome Anthony "Little Anthony" Gourdine was noted for his high-pitched falsetto voice, influenced by Jimmy Scott. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009, 23 years after the group's first year of eligibility for induction.

  11. Can someone let the person that started this page that the R&B Music Hall of Fame had its Inaugural Induction Ceremony Aug 17 to a pack out house on the campus of Cleveland State U. Also let him know that 2nd induction ceremony is going to be June 28,