Breaking Down the Walls of the Rock Hall: Class of 1996

1996 might be considered the first year where the Rock Hall starts to inducting 70s acts. Although those 70s acts started in the later 60s, they had their peak during the 70s and pretty much defined that decade.

And one of the artists who really defined not just the 70s, but the whole landscape of music is David Bowie. This was Bowie’s 4th year of eligibility and he should’ve been inducted on his first year of eligibility. The only logical explanation for this is that he was eligible on the same year as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Even though voters might focus those two, at least vote for him the year after he was eligible. Still, better late than never.

Even though he isn’t that well known outside of the 50s and oldies circuit, Little Willie John is a major influential figure in both Rock and R&B. Known for his high timbre range, Little Willie John has influenced a number of musicians including Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Sam Cooke. His song “Fever” is probably the best version of the people who covered the song.

If they want to induct a major 60s band, Jefferson Airplane is a good one to induct. Even though there are other major Rock bands who have legitimate claims of defining the psychedelic sound, Jefferson Airplane is the one who laid the template thanks to their album Surrealistic Pillow and the song “White Rabbit”. Also, it’s better for the Hall to induct just “Jefferson Airplane” instead of their later iterations (Jefferson Starship and Starship).

Besides the Jackson Five, Gladys Knight & The Pips is probably the last major top tier Motown act to get inducted. Even though their started earlier, Gladys Knight & The Pips were probably the first ones who started the “Smooth Soul” sub-genre that was also popular in the 70s at that time. Plus, you wouldn’t have a Hall of Fame without inducting Gladys Knight.

You can make the claim that Garage bands were the first ones who started Punk, but it was The Velvet Underground who deserve the title of inventing Punk. While most bands during the late 1960s were talking about peace and love with a psychedelic sound, The Velvet Underground were doing songs about life on the streets with experimentation of their sound; all thanks to members Lou Reed and John Cale. The band’s career maybe short, but they have left a major legacy that many artists look up to (including fellow inductee David Bowie).

If there was one band who historians claim to be the best act during the pre-Beatles/Beach Boys time of the 60s, The Shirelles is probably the best one of the lot. Mixed with their harmonies and Brill Building songwriting, The Shirelles’ song aged well than the ones during a time when novelty songs dominated that time of the 60s. Not only do they have an influence on R&B, but also on Rock and Roll as well; particularly the Beatles. And honestly, like Bowie, The Shirelles should’ve been inducted earlier.

If there is one Prog act who deserves to be inducted first, Pink Floyd is probably the one who deserves it. Alongside fellow Prog rockers King Crimson, Pink Floyd’s songs are all about the dark side of society instead of the sci-fi and fantasy themes most Prog acts have been doing. Also, Pink Floyd relied their musical influence on Jazz instead of Classical music. Besides their commercial success with albums like The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, what I mentioned above is probably why critics and voters find Pink Floyd palatable than any of their Prog contemporaries.

The two other inductees outside the Performers category is great as well. On the Early Influence category there’s Folk legend Pete Seeger. There’s nothing else to say about the deserve induction of Pete Seeger other than it’s funny that he accepts this induction when it allegedly known that he tried to cut off the “Electric Dylan” set. On the non-performers category, there’s Tom Donohue, a radio DJ who was one the firsts to make FM radio a thing.

Artists Who Were Nominated, But Didn’t Get Inducted That Year

Nine other artists were on the ballot that year, but didn’t made the cut. Since most of the nominees are the ones that I talked about before or will in future articles, here is the nominees list:

  • The Bee Gees
  • The Flamingos
  • The Jackson Five
  • King Curtis
  • Lloyd Price
  • The Moonglows
  • Parliament-Funkadelic
  • The (Young) Rascals
  • Solomon Burke

Final Thoughts

This is the type of induction class that would’ve been played in Tom Donohue’s playlist. I really love ceremonies where the inductees are a mix of artists from three different decades. And the 1996 ceremony is one of them. I wish the Rock Hall would do something like this more often.

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

  • David Bowie
  • Parliament-Funkadelic
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Shirelles
  • The Velvet Underground