Monday, May 27, 2019

Something light-hearted: fun with a serious topic.

One of the things that elated so many people with this latest class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was the second induction of Stevie Nicks.  Adding onto that was the induction of Janet Jackson, making this the first time in quite awhile that there were two living female acts inducted in the Performer category.  In their acceptance speeches, both Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson made the plea for the Hall to induct more women.  Around the same time as the induction ceremony, an excellent piece on the pervasive atmosphere of misogyny surrounding the Hall was published, with the subheading insisting that the Class Of 2020 be absent of the Y-Chromosome.  Since then, there have been a lot of comments and speculations about what it could take to get an all-female class, and what it might look like.  I'm not big on jumping on bandwagons.  I'm not keen to make a list of greatest snubs, nor have I taken to ranking songs by inductees in terms of significance.  But this one I like.  People have enjoyed making lists of all-female acts or female-led groups that they'd like to see make the ballot.  So I thought I'd do this too.  What kind of ballot would I like to see if it was comprised of only female acts?  Well, those who know me know this list will skew very heavily toward the early years, but really, there are deserving women in every period.  This is just a list that reflects my personal bent.  I'd love to see your list in the Comments section.  Keeping civil tongues and having fun with this, in my opinion, is the best way to show just how easy it is to do this and how hard it would be to go wrong--even with the knowledge that a ballot of fifteen to nineteen nominees will yield a class of at most seven inductees.  So if I were the entire Nominating Committee, dedicated to the cause, this might be the ballot.

The Marvelettes:  While I've never made any attempt to make a ranked list of snubs, I can say that if I made such a list, the Marvelettes would be in the top three, definitely behind Chubby Checker, and level-peggy against Kraftwerk (the Germans have the edge in my "I-5", but the number of years the Marvlettes have been snubbed whittle that advantage down to a coin flip).  An absolute must for the Hall at some point.

The Go-Go's and The Bangles:  While I would love to give each entry their own paragraph, my reasons for both of these are the same, so I'm lumping them together.  Michelle Bourg of the Iconic Rock Talk Show pointed it out wonderfully: since inductees automatically become members of the voting bloc, to help give women a larger say, the most obvious way would be to induct more living women to become members of the Hall and said voting bloc.  These two groups would do that, and their musical accomplishments more than make them deserving candidates.

The Crystals:  The disparity of inducted men to inducted women is staggering, and no one act can make up the difference, but if they'd induct all the members of all three eras that were credited as "the Crystals," it'd probably be the single biggest move the Hall could make to close that gap.  If they're REALLY generous and want to include every woman who was a member of the Blossoms, whether or not they were on any records subsequently credited to "the Crystals," you could theoretically have a group of eighteen women inducted in one fell swoop, one of them a dual inductee.  Insisting that they have been on a Crystals' record, it'd maximally be about ten women, but that's still probably the biggest gain a single inductee could make.

The Chantels and The Shangri-Las:  Both of these girl groups got the ultimate shaft by having records of theirs "honored" in the Singles category this year.  Let's rectify that slight and simultaneously obsolesce that odious side project in the process by pushing for these two groups to get into the Hall.

Carole King, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross:  Admittedly, I'm not as enthusiastic about inducting Diana Ross solo as the other two, but with Stevie Nicks blazing the trail this past year, these three would all be fantastic candidates to stampede through in Nicks' wake.  It'd be awesome to have happen.

Cher and Chaka Khan:  Another two women I would enthusiastically cheer for being inducted twice.  Admittedly, inducting them as soloists would probably inhibit the efforts to induct their ensemble incarnations, whereas inducting the ensembles first would hopefully springboard the solo efforts to follow.  Still, two more powerhouse names that you wouldn't be wrong to put on the ballot.

Whitney Houston:  How is this woman not in already?  Even the most narrow-minded "rockist" lists of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame snubs concede that Whitney Houston should be in.  I can't make it any plainer than that.

Pat Benatar:  I initially balked at including Pat Benatar on my list, simply for the fact that her candidacy caters to that aforementioned narrow-minded "rockist" crowd that can't see beyond a post-British Invasion definition of "rock."  However, her resume is too strong to ignore.

Salt-N-Pepa:  Let's not let the crusade to induct more women obscure the importance of recognizing hip-hop and rap as part of the rock and roll family.  This outfit were a formidable force of rap and strong femininity, and it'd be great to acknowledge that.

Patsy Cline:  Country artists have a tough time being seen as important to the rockscape, but Patsy Cline is one of the easier sells on this front.

Lesley Gore:  Despite arriving after Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee, Lesley Gore is seen as the original "Teen Queen" for her powerful pop catalog that spoke so strongly to the teen market during the '60's.  So many great, catchy songs, so many hits.  It's just wrong to keep her out.

Connie Francis:  Like Brenda Lee, her career as a rock and roller is usually met with skepticism because it was also rife with softer ballads, not to mention she later went in a decidedly different direction by the early-to-mid '60's.  But it shouldn't negate those records or her importance.

Carly Simon:  Another act of prominence from the '70's with a solid catalog to warrant serious consideration.

Yoko Ono:  I can hear the hissing and obscenities flying right now.  But really stop and think about it: is there any performer you can think of who would more succinctly address multiple fronts of marginalization going on with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and within the music industry at large?  I don't think I can.  Vilified for breaking up the Beatles, despite every testimony by the Liverpool lads themselves to the contrary; her aural avant-garde art reviled because it was misunderstood; her music denounced because she isn't the greatest singer by Western conventional standards of music; albums that spoke for abused women everywhere; a political force with her art as well as her music; re-recordings and remixes of early material for the EDM scene (a musical scene heavily underrepresented in the Hall)--re-recordings and remixes that not only strongly aligned her with the (and I apologize if I'm forgetting initials) LGBTQ+ community, but further sought to politically charge the music of EDM from a passive subculture to an active counterculture--there are very few acts that both pushed the rock and roll envelope the way she has, and suffered so undeserved and unwelcome a reputation for doing so, especially to the extent that she has.  She might be the ultimate choice to represent the movement to have an all-female ballot, possibly part of the reason the musically and masculinely fragile loathe her.

That's just nineteen names thrown out, and I didn't even get to Mariah Carey, Bikini Kill, or reviving attempts to induct Mary Wells or Esther Phillips, and the last name to not make the cut was LaBelle.  Whichever five to seven Performer inductees you got from this hypothetical ballot, the inducted class should also include an inductee in the other three major categories:

Estelle Axton:  She really should have been inducted with Jim Stewart in 2002.  Let's rectify that oversight and induct her in the Non-Performer category (Ahmet Ertegun Award, if you prefer, but that's another can of worms).

Ella Fitzgerald:  There's some debate as to whether Big Mama Thornton should be inducted as a Performer or as an Early Influence.  While you're trying to make up your mind about that, let's induct this jazz icon in the Early Influence category.

Carol Kaye:  There are so many great session musicians from so many great house bands not inducted, that they really should pick up that crusade again.  And what better musician to resume that effort with than this ubiquitous bassist?

As I said, there are so many names that I didn't include, simply because nineteen's the largest ballot we've seen in recent years, including names that are probably on your lists.  So have fun and weigh in.  It most likely won't happen, but every name added just shows how important it is for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame to heed the plea of Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson and induct more women.

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