The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ignored the annual backlash it receives for honoring non-rock acts when it announced Nina Simone, LL Cool J and other genre-crossing musicians of color as 2018 nominees today (October 5).
The Cleveland-based music history institution named 19 solo artists and bands as prospective 2018 inductees. Their canons span nearly eight decades and several generations of popular music’s evolution. Four of them—three who are Black and one who is Native American—are solo artists. One is an all-Black band, and two other groups prominently featured artists of color. Here’s a list of those nominees of color, including quotes from their biographies on the Hall of Fame’s website:
- Nina Simone: “Simone’s groundbreaking compositions like ‘Mississippi Goddam‘ and ‘Four Women‘ defined a songwriting voice that was proudly, defiantly Black and female. Her radical rearrangements of other songs have been covered by everyone from George Michael to the Animals, Whitney Houston to Jeff Buckley. An icon whose tortured life was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, Nina Simone was a unique creative force. ‘She was an overwhelming artist, piano player and singer,’ said Bob Dylan. ‘Very outspoken and dynamite to see perform…the kind of artist that I loved and admired.’”
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “If she had not been there as a model and inspiration, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock originators would have had different careers. No one deserves more to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sister Rosetta became famous in 1938 with a record called ‘Rock Me.’ She was a star through the 1940s, a Black woman singing gospel music to the accompaniment of her own driving electric guitar—howling and stamping. Her 1945 recording, ‘Strange Things Happening Every Day,’ has been credited as the first gospel song to cross over to the ‘race’ (later called ‘R&B’) charts—reaching number two and becoming an early model for rock and roll.”
- Link Wray: “Legions of rock guitarists on every continent testify that the biggest bang of all was the first time they heard ‘Rumble‘ by Link Wray, a dangerous slab of reverberating power chords and raw distortion laid down in 1958. In the summer of ‘Purple People Eater,’ ’Witch Doctor’ and ‘Patricia,’ the rebellious sonic onslaught of ‘Rumble’ cut through Top 40 radio like a steamroller. This was more than a decade before power chords even had a name; a decade after that, in the heat of the punk era, Wray’s collaboration with Robert Gordon left every retro-rockabilly guitarslinger in the dust.”
- LL Cool J: “LL was only 17 in 1985 when he recorded ‘Rock The Bells,’ which included the following couplet: ‘It ain’t the glory days with Bruce Springsteen/I’m not a virgin so I know I’ll make Madonna scream.’ A year earlier, LL had made his debut on Def Jam, which was also the debut of the label itself. …The stylish aggression built into [this song] influenced no less a figure than Michael Jackson, who cut ‘Bad’ after meeting LL in person—and after LL himself cut ‘I’m Bad.’ The love songs may have been even more influential and popular. When ‘I Need Love’ went to number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart in 1987, it was the first rap recording ever to reach that summit.”
- The Meters: “The Meters were not only the leading instrumental unit to emerge from the great musical gumbo of New Orleans, they were also one of the tightest and hardest-grooving ensembles R&B has ever seen. …The Meters first came to local prominence as the house band for Allen Toussaint’s record label, Sansu. In 1969, the band went on its own and released a string of definitive, irresistibly slamming singles—’Sophisticated Cissy,‘ ’Cissy Strut,’ ’Look-Ka Py Py‘ and ‘Chicken Strut.’ In the years that followed, the band became one of the hottest session groups in the world, working with Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer and LaBelle.”
- Chaka Khan (vocals), Andre Fischer (drums), Tony Maiden (guitar), Bobby Watson (bass) and Willie Weeks (bass) of Rufus featuring Chaka Khan: “First formed by Black and White members of the ’60s rock band, the American Breed, Rufus acquired a secret weapon in Chaka Khan, whose voice of liquid fire and sweet incense carried a carnality as ferocious as it was distinctly feminine. Stevie Wonder, an early fan, crafted the breakthrough hit, ‘Tell Me Something Good,’ which Rufus and Khan made an unabashed simulation of sex without uttering a single naughty word.”
- Zach de la Rocha (vocals) and Tom Morello (guitar) of Rage Against the Machine: “Above all, although plenty of ’90s rock bands espoused social justice issues, Rage Against the Machine’s rebellious politics stood out. Onstage and off, the band members gave a voice to the powerless, calling out local and global inequalities, and railing against censorship, corporate cronyism and government overreach. Their lyrics were smart and pointed—for example, ‘Freedom‘ highlighted the plight of Leonard Peltier, an imprisoned Native American leader, while ‘People Of The Sun’ showed solidarity with tyrannized Mexican citizens—and tapped into timely issues.”
CNN reports that fans can cast votes for their favorite nominees at RockHall.com until December 5. The five artists with the most ballots will then be considered by the organization’s voting board, alongside votes from 900 music industry constituents, to determine inductees. The Hall of Fame will announce the inductees in December, and they will perform and be inaugurated during a ceremony at the Cleveland museum on April 14, 2018.
Read the full list of nominees at RockHall.com.