On Tuesday, the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame announced its 2017 inductees, with Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur leading the way in a class of a half-dozen that also included Joan Baez, Journey, ELO and Yes. Nile Rodgers of Chic also will receive a special Award for Musical Excellence.
Do all those artists belong in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? No.
Pearl Jam and Tupac are the no-brainers. Even if you prefer Nirvana as the greatest band of the Seattle grunge era, as discerning people do, the quarter-century career in which Eddie Vedder and crew have continued to fill arenas demands respect.
And Tupac's career, brief as it was before he was gunned down on the Las Vegas Strip at age 25, is a genuinely iconic, tragic story of a bountifully talented hip-hop poet who lived and died by the thug life. He's the first rap solo artist to be inducted. (The Notorious B.I.G. should be next.) Both he and Pearl Jam go in deservedly in their first year of eligibility.
After that, it gets iffy.
Yes have been knocking on the door for years. The Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe-led band — always massively popular in Philadelphia thanks in part to classic rock deejays like the late Ed Sciaky — are the prototypical Brit early-70s prog-rock virtuosic noodlers. As I was reminded during the recently completed WXPN-FM (88.5) marathon, there are bad rock lyrics, and then there are Yes lyrics. "Mountains come out of the sky, they STAND THERE!"
Joan Baez is a folk singer, of course. But as she pointed out in a statement, "as part of the folk music boom which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the '60s, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon." For me, she's always fit into that category of artists who are easier to admire than listen to — her too-pretty, trilling vocals are a taste I've never acquired. But sure, for a remarkably enduring career, she's worthy of induction.
One more note: Awarding Rodgers with a musical excellence award while not inducting his band Chic is a strangely perverse move that doesn't make any sense. Chic has been nominated a staggering 11 times, so the tastemakers who guide the Hall clearly know that the "Le Freak" funk band is deserving.
But when the band was not voted in again this year, the Rock Hall awarded Rodgers — who went on to produce Duran Duran, INXS, Madonna and David Bowie, as an individual. "I'm a little perplexed because even though I'm quite flattered they believed I was worthy, my band Chic didn't win," he told Rolling Stone. "They plucked me out of the band and said 'You're better than Chic.' That's wacky to me."