The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Is Not Rock and Roll

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Is Not Rock and Roll

Written by Tom Methans

The full telecast of the November 5, 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHoF) induction ceremony is now available on HBO – all four hours of it. Although I attended the event live back in 2019, I avoid it most years just because of the frustrating mixture of joy, confusion, and annoyance it brings. In case you skipped the RRHoF for the same reason, I watched for you and have listed this year’s inductees in order. I will do my best to reserve my complaints until the end.

Duran Duran

This band supplied the soundtrack to my early teens. Unfortunately, guitarist Andy Taylor was not present due to health issues. I was a casual fan with more of a penchant for Adam Ant, but my female classmates l-o-v-e-d Duran Duran, and so I spent hours playing their hits when I DJ’d school dances. The videos were enormously entertaining with Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor (not from Queen), and Simon Le Bon all looking otherworldly in high hair, headbands, and makeup. They grew on me, especially the Rio album of 1982. If you like solid bass lines, check out John Taylor’s work on that record. By the way, none of the Taylors are related.

Duran Duran. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Duran Duran. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam

This songwriting and production team catapulted Janet Jackson to stardom with her 1985 album Control. They have also worked with Michael Jackson, Human League, George Michael, and Mariah Carey.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

Before hitting it big, Pat Benatar sang between comedians’ sets at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star in New York. When she was signed to Chrysalis, the company paired her with Neil Giraldo to make her first album, In the Heat of the Night (1979). Neil became her main collaborator and then husband, and they’ve been together ever since. I saw Benatar at Madison Square Garden in the early 1980s on a whim –that’s when you didn’t need a bank loan to buy a cheap ticket. Benatar was fantastic, but as the sole guitarist in the band, Giraldo really stood out. He’s woefully underrated.

Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar. Courtesy of Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar. Courtesy of Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Jimmy Iovine

Engineer, super producer, and media mogul Iovine has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Joan Jett, John Lennon, U2, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Gwen Stefani, and Eminem among others. One of the first acts he signed when he started Interscope Records in 1990 was Gerardo of “Rico Suave” fame.

Elizabeth Cotten (1893 – 1987)

Cotten was there way before rock and roll. Born in North Carolina about 30 years after the Civil War ended, she wrote her first song, “Freight Train” in 1905 at the age of 12. The song influenced skiffle players, folk artists, country musicians, and rockers alike. Her talents were rediscovered when she was working as a maid for Pete Seeger’s relatives, who witnessed her playing an upside-down, right-hand guitar as a lefty. Her technique was so unique that the style was coined “Cotten picking” for the way she played the bass strings in the reverse position. She is in the pantheon next to Ma Rainey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Bessie Smith.

Elizabeth Cotten. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Elizabeth Cotten. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Judas Priest

Finally, actual rock music. I have been a fan since Screaming for Vengeance (1982) and have seen them regularly ever since, despite all the personnel changes, including the period when Tim “Ripper” Owens took the microphone during Rob Halford’s hiatus. I was thrilled that K.K. Downing was present, the other original member along with bassist Ian Hill. Downing departed in 2011 over differences with the management and band and was replaced by Richie Faulkner. Metalheads love Priest for their double guitar attack as Downing and Glenn Tipton alternated lead and rhythm parts. Original drummer Les Binks was inducted alongside current drummer Scott Travis.

Sylvia Robinson (1935 – 2011)

Robinson is credited with being the first executive to commit rap music to record. Sugar Hill Records produced The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) as well as the “The Message” (1982), performed by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The Mother of Hip Hop introduced the world to a local art form from New York City and gave commercial birth to a whole new genre.

Carly Simon

Simon has been performing since 1963 and is a legend for her memorable catalog of soft rock. She did not attend, but Sara Bareilles performed “Nobody Does it Better” and Olivia Rodrigo sang “You’re So Vain.” Both singers were good but neither did it better than Carly.

Allen Grubman

In 1983, Grubman is part of the team that conceived the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Ahmet Ertegun, Jann Wenner, and Seymour Stein. He is a dealmaker for acts like U2, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Madonna, and Mariah Carey, and his firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks represents major talent across all media. Grubman is also the first entertainment lawyer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s exciting, right? I can’t wait to see who wins the lawyer slot in 2023.

Lionel Richie

My stomach sank a bit. I’ve always appreciated the funk of the Commodores, but Richie went on to write very non-funk hits like “Lady” for Kenny Rogers, “Endless Love” for Diana Ross, and co-wrote “We Are the World.” I certainly had no interest in “All Night Long,” “Hello,” Say You, Say Me,” and “Dancing on the Ceiling.” I’m still wondering why Richie is getting into the Hall of Fame before the legendary Barry White. Thankfully, Richie performed “Easy” with Dave Grohl doing the famous guitar solo. I don’t know when Grohl was elected rock’s official elder statesman, ambassador, and all-round authority, but there he is in every interview, documentary, and gala. Grohl really seems to love music and its history. I suppose we could do worse.


This power duo brought an artsy, serious, European sobriety to MTV with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (1983). This song never appealed to my sensibilities, but I liked “Would I Lie to You?” (1985) and “Here Comes the Rain Again” (1984).

Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Harry Belafonte

Born in Harlem, NY, in 1927, Belafonte picked up the Island sound while living with his grandmother in Jamaica as a child. His soothing personality, graceful style, and smooth voice were used not only for entertainment but for a life of activism. The world will always need artists like him.


Marshal Mathers aka Eminem was inducted by Dr. Dre, who reminded us that this white, blue-eyed kid from Detroit is the biggest selling hip-hop artist in history. “My Name is” (1999) was a groundbreaking rap tune, but I’m an old school guy and I loved the part of his acceptance speech when he read a list of 100 rap influences dating back to its earliest days. He gave shout outs to some of my favorites like 3rd Base, Roxanne Shanté, and De La Soul. However, I believe he left out DJ Kool Herc. Jamaican-born Herc (Clive Campbell) moved to the Bronx with his family at age 12 and a few years later in the early 1970s started throwing block parties evocative of the dance halls back in Kingston. Playing funk records on two turntables and talking over the instrumental breaks like a reggae DJ, Herc brought the foundations for hip hop.

Eminem. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Eminem. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


In Memoriam

After the in memoriam portion of the Hall of Fame broadcast, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Shaffer, and the Zac Brown Band performed “Great Balls of Fire” in honor of Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away in October 2022. Lewis was born in 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana, just about 300 miles south of Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis was born in the same year. There’s no denying Southern artists’ place in rock and roll.

Dolly Parton

The final inductee was Dolly Parton, who is not a rock and roller, never claimed to be one, or was ever categorized as anything beyond pop. Her price of entry was a new “rock” song with acknowledgements of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Elvis, and Jerry Lee. She has been performing since I was born and is a member of several Halls of Fame, and her influence on other women in show business runs deep – not to mention her philanthropy and activism in childhood literacy. She is a genuine country girl from eastern Tennessee with roots in Appalachia and ties to the immigrants from the British Isles who brought their songs and provided building blocks for early country music. The 2022 Hall of Fame finished with jam of Parton’s “Jolene” featuring Brandi Carlisle, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Annie Lennox, Pat Benatar, and Simon Le Bon. The most endearing moment was Rob Halford singing with Dolly.

It was a night of unity, community, diversity, powerful women, and inclusivity. Leather-clad metal god Rob Halford introduced himself as the “gay one.” John Mellencamp delivered a timely message denouncing anti-Semitism when he inducted Allen Grubman, and Dr. Dre was on stage with the most successful rapper of all time, who happened to be white. Music should help to “build bridges, not boundaries” as Annie Lennox said. Therefore, it is time to change the name of the RRHoF. Let’s get rid of the current moniker and call it America’s Music Hall of Fame or something similar. Rock and roll cannot be everything or else it becomes nothing. Genres are not interchangeable. That’s why record stores have different sections.

In his speech, Lionel Richie said that “rock and roll is a not a color, it’s a vibe.” I agree partially. It’s not about color, geography, or ethnicity, but it is a sound, tempo, and style. There’s no mistaking Judas Priest for Richie, Parton, or Eminem. Clearly, only one is rock and roll. If we want to fully acknowledge that all American music grew out of folk, country, and blues with its African roots, then we must include more jazz. It makes no sense that Madonna is in the RRHoF and John Coltrane is not; Donna Summer is in but Max Roach is not. So, let’s induct artists from all musical traditions under their respective genres. Otherwise, I think it’s only fair that the Country Music Hall of Fame include Judas Priest. Priest has plenty of “vibe” and as much country credibility as Dolly has in rock music. Dave Grohl, if you’re reading this, please talk to the people in high places and make it all happen.


Judas Priest. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Judas Priest. Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

We know the RRHoF will never change, but here’s my list of acts that should have been inducted way ahead of Parton: Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, The Descendents, MC5, The Misfits, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Melvins, Bad Brains, Kathleen Hanna, Chick Corea, New York Dolls, Johnny Ace, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, The Meters, Scott Joplin, and Link Wray. See you next year.


Header image of Dolly Parton courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Back to Copper home page