Breaking Down the Walls of the Rock Hall: Class of 2009

2009 was pretty much an important year for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not only does it celebrate it’s 25th anniversary of the Foundation’s founding, but it was also the first year where they have their induction ceremonies open to the public. And what better way to have this first of occasion than to have it in Cleveland for the first time in 12 years and to have a class worthy of a first public ceremony.

First off, there’s really no denying that Metallica belongs in the Hall of Fame. Even though their latest outputs doesn’t live up to it’s former standards (looking at you St. Anger and Lulu), their classic albums are still great. And unlike most Metal acts, they got in right away (and before you ask, I’m still borderline on calling Led Zeppelin an official “Metal” band). Part of the reason why I think they got in right away where most Metal bands are still waiting, or those who are in have to wait long, is that Metallica is often scene as “Metal music for everyone”. Still, Metallica are too big to ignore and are probably one of the few artists who dreams of being in the Hall of Fame.

Another big act that got inducted that year is the Hip Hop act Run-DMC. They were the second Rap act to be inducted at that point and unlike Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, everyone knows who Run-DMC are and know that they belong into the Hall on their first year of eligibility. Plus most of Run-DMC’s songs have Rock aesthetics in them so you can’t say that they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame because they aren’t “Rock”.

If you have seen the ballot back before the 2009 inductees were officially announced, you have a gut feeling that Little Anthony & the Imperials are gonna be inducted right away. While they weren’t as well known as The Drifters or The Platters, Little Anthony & The Imperials were innovative in that they blend the stylings of Doo-Wop and R&B. Plus, it was good way bridging the generations of the 50s and the 80s in this particular ceremony.

I’m probably mixed on whether or not the solo career of Jeff Beck deserves induction. On one hand, Jeff Beck is very influential and innovative Guitar player of all time. But on the other hand, most of his discography are kinda hit and miss after the Jeff Beck Group disbanded, and it feels like a Hall of Fame move because they were thinking, “Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page got inducted at least twice after The Yardbirds so why not Jeff Beck”.

During 2009, it was really a surprising that Bobby Womack got in right away. Part of the reasons why is that not a lot of people don’t know much about Womack besides R&B fans and Womack has gotten a notorious reputation in R&B circles when he married Sam Cooke’s widow just 3 months after Cooke was killed. Despite all these obstacles, Bobby Womack deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the most influential non-Motown/Philly Soul artist of the 1970s in the same way as Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes. It’s also fitting that the ceremony Womack was being inducted happened to be in Cleveland because he’s from Cleveland.

This year was also the year where the Hall started screwing up with the Early Influence category. After leaving it doormat for nine years, the Hall’s first Early Influence inductee for a long time was Wanda Jackson. Inducting Wanda Jackson at the Early Influence category feels wrong because Jackson’s career happened during the Rock & Roll years. She’s a contemporary to Elvis and has the title of “Queen of Rock & Roll”. Wanda Jackson was also nominated on this year’s ballot so not inducting her in the main Performer category feels like an insult to the artists who was one of the first female artist to play Rock and Roll.

The other inductees in the Sidemen category are very deserving and are in their right categories. Keyboard player and songwriter Spooner Oldham is well known as a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section who contributed on songs like Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” and Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally”, and is also a frequent member of Neil Young’s backing band. With Scotty Moore already inducted it’s fitting and deserving that Hall induct the remaining members of Elvis’ original backing band, bass player Bill Black and drummer DJ Fontana, as well.

Artists Who Were Nominated But Weren’t Inducted that Year

There 9 artists nominated on the ballot, but 6 made the final cut.

Ever since playing a memorable performance on the ceremony a year before, everyone thought that this was going to be The Stooges time. But sadly, The Stooges have to wait one more year get finally inducted. As I already mentioned, Chic didn’t get inducted because voters still hates Disco. Afro/Latino Funk band War should’ve feel like a slam dunk to induct right away because a lot of people know their songs and can name more than one song besides “Low Rider”.

Final Thoughts

The 2009 inductees are a perfect mix of populist acts and critic’s favorites It was also a perfect of mixing the old artists with the then newer artists as well. I just wish the public ceremonies were more like this instead of the majority of the inductees being the guitar driven classic rock radio staples.

Artists Who I Would’ve Voted For If I Had a Real Ballot:

  • Wanda Jackson
  • Little Anthony & The Imperials
  • Metallica
  • Run-DMC
  • The Stooges

(War and Bobby Womack were my final cuts)