Let the ceremonies begin! It's what you've all been waiting for! A self-elected panel will now decide which musical artists have gained the coveted status of being regarded as noteworthy enough to be given a reward for their already noteworthy careers!!!
What'd I miss? Isn't the fact that an artist has achieved success in the way of selling millions of records and having worldwide recognition and years of critical and commercial acclaim enough to verify his or her relevance? It isn't like this organization is bringing attention to unknown artists. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards is akin to giving an award to the person who has won the most awards. It's pointless.
But the disdain I feel for this poser protocol goes deeper than the superficiality it doesn't even attempt to conceal. I find the notion of art of any kind being in competition a bit egregious. It isn't an Olympic event. Would the Metropolitan Museum of Art hold a contest to see who gets this years "Best Modern Impressionist" title? (Maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas).
One may argue that even the intent of the Baseball Hall of Fame is ambiguous. Is it meant to recognize talent through achievement or is it an arbitrary assembly of preferred players? Pete Rose was banned for illegal behavior, but that doesn't discount his achievements on the field. They might as well call it "The Baseball Guys We Like Building." History should not exclude information based on partial judgment.
Yet in the case of music, there are no statistics that need acknowledgment. People are either moved by it or not. No one cares if a group sold millions of albums if their music doesn't hit them. Music, like any art, has a purpose and a priority in that it can enlighten, educate or entertain. That in itself validates its need and its merit. Whether or not it received a trophy seems, in the least, inconsequential and at best, inane.
In many ways, rock and roll defies categorization in that it is a bastard art, born of a hybrid of blues, country, and minstrel music. It was the sound of the street, not of the schools. It didn't flourish in the conservatory, it bred in the bar rooms. It gave youth a voice never before heard. It was raucous. It was rebellious. And it was loud. And got louder.
It was the perfect combination of elements to boldly display passion, protest, spirit and sexuality. Over the years it went from folk art to high art, constantly breaking boundaries that became the soundtrack for each ensuing generation. Most significantly, the best of the best have always been the outcasts -- from Lennon to Hendrix to Cobain, to everyone in-between who had limited resources other than their grit and their creativity. Rock and Rollers have always been the proletarians, the idealists, the iconoclasts, the trouble makers. The raconteur troubadours of teen-year angst. The ever-uncompromising cry against conformity.
So tell me -- how is it that a bunch of label executives have become the arbiters of who's worthy of honor and who isn't? It's the very antithesis of Rock and Roll!
Personally, I don't care who wins and who doesn't. I don't need some suits telling me who is musically or culturally viable or not. I think David Bowie refusing to accept his award was probably the most sincere statement that's ever occurred at these ceremonies.
Although I don't pay attention to who wins or not, I was recently struck by what I feel is the ultimate irony. Grand Funk Railroad is what I consider the epitome of what Rock and Roll is supposed to be -- a three piece garage band that went on to be one of the most popular groups in the world. They were simple and they were crude and they rocked with a vengeance without pretense or apology. Their live show was 100% energy. It was raw and it was real. They were the only band except for the Beatles to sell out Shea Stadium, and when guitarist Mark Farner stepped on stage in front of 60,000 screaming fans he held up his guitar and said:
"You see this? The critics say I can't play it. But it got me here!"
That is rock and roll.
Grand Funk Railroad has consistently been turned down as nominees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What does that tell you?
I hope they're never inducted. I wouldn't want to give the academy the satisfaction.
Let's call the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame what it really is -- a testament to the fact that the music of the masses has been sold out to Madison Ave.
Still, I know that somewhere, right now, there's a kid with a chip on his shoulder and a guitar and a burning desire to someday change the world. And that is something that will never change.