Ah, the moment you've been waiting for...finally. It's always such a confusing time of year- not because you're trying to sort through Suzy's list to Santa, but because you're trying to decipher how the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were determined. Well, I do not have an answer for you, even though I've visited the website and learned the following:
To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence.
We shall consider factors such as an artist's musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.
That may (but probably will not) explain some of the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, I will at least attempt to briefly outline their accomplishments so you feel more educated about who is being inducted. At the very least, you will seem incredibly interesting if you happen to mention at your next holiday party that it's about time Cosimo Matassa was voted in (Who? Right, that's why you need to keep reading).
And now here are some very high level facts about your Class of 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees- go to Wikipedia if you want detail:
Guns N' Roses - Guns N' Roses boasts the all-time highest selling debut album in the US: "Appetite for Destruction". The band was initially compared to the Rolling Stones, but with only six studio albums in 24 years (including no new albums between 1993 - 2008), they may not live up to that comparison. Aside from lead lead vocalist Axl Rose, the other band members have come and gone; several original band members have offered to rejoin Axl, but he is committed to keeping a new lineup. No telling who will join him for the induction ceremony. Fun fact #1 - Slash replaced original lead guitarist Tracii Guns (who may well be irritated not to have remained with the band, especially since it includes his name). Fun fact #2 - The band's biggest song, "Sweet Child O' Mine", was co-written by Axl Rose to his then girlfriend and is reportedly Slash's least favorite song ever written by Axl. Sorry, Slash!
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes the Chili Peppers as "one of the most flamboyant, commercially successful and musically influential bands of rock's last quarter century." The four founding band members, including Anthony Kiedis and Flea (Michael Balzary) met in high school. They have a unique sound that has been described in various ways, including a combination of punk and rap, and has covered very personal topics, such as addiction (they lost a band member to a heroin overdose). They released a new album ("I'm With You") in August and are currently enjoying radio exposure with "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie". Fun fact: the original band name was Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. Wacky!
Donovan - I had to check iTunes to see which songs were Donovan's as it turns out most of his notable career was during the sixties and I was born toward the end of that decade. You will definitely recognize his psychadelic hit "Sunshine Superman". He started the trend of British musicans being arrested for drugs in 1966, with the Beatles and Rolling Stones being mere copycats of Donovan. His other influences included teaching John Lennon and Paul McCartney the finger picking style of guitar (I say that as if I know what it is). He has fought the label "Dylan clone" for much of his career. Fun fact: he walks with a limp as a result of childhood polio (okay, maybe that's not so fun necessarily).
Laura Nyro - Yikes on this one- at least I've heard of Donovan, but I'm not sure how familiar I even am with the name Laura Nyro. I found out why when I learned that she had more success with other artists recording her songs than the ones she recorded herself (The 5th Dimension, Blood Sweat and Tears, Peter Paul & Mary, and Three Dog Night). Numerous performers also credit her with having a strong influence on their work, including Bette Midler, Suzanne Vega, Todd Rundgren and Sandra Bernhard. She cut her teeth singing with friends during high school in subway stations and on street corners in her native New York City. Sadly, she died of ovarian cancer in 1997 at the age of 50. Fun fact: she briefly dated Jackson Browne in the early seventies.
Small Faces/Faces - This is either two groups or one group with two names, depending on your perspective. The original group was Small Faces. At some point they lost several key members and were joined by Ron Wood and Rod Stewart to become simply Faces. They are credited with being a very influential "Britpop" and "mod" group, particularly in the sixties. Many other bands, ironically including fellow inductees Guns N' Roses, have acknowledged [Small] Faces for influencing their paths. Most popular song on iTunes: "Itchycoo Park". Fun fact: the original group was called Small Faces primarily because the band members were short. Once some taller members came on board, they found it misleading to keep the "Small", so it was dropped to just become "Faces".
Beastie Boys - The Beastie Boys are commonly thought to have introduced rap and hip hop to a mainstream audience. If "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" was released today, it would probably be as successful as it became back in the eighties (when I was starting college- how appropos!). The Beastie Boys are still active, recently releasing a new album that landed at #14 on Rolling Stone's list of Best Albums of 2011. Fun fact: after the Beastie Boys had already named their band, they decided that "Beastie" stood for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence". Wow, that is fun!
Freddie King - Freddie is being inducted in the Early Influence category for his contributions to "modern electric blues". Musicians such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jerry Garcia all claim to have been influenced by him. Unfortunately, he died at the young age of 42 (Music Mom considers that to be VERY young). Those close to him attribute stress and poor diet to his early demise; he was rumored to drink Bloody Marys instead of eating actual food as an efficiency technique (???) when setting up for shows. Fun fact: Freddie King was heavily influenced by nightclubs that he snuck into when his family moved from Texas to the south side of Chicago when he was just a young boy of 6 years old. Smart move, Freddie!
Don Kirshner - Kirshner founded Aldon Music, which signed Bobby Darin (a former classmate) and Neil Diamond in its early days. He is also responsible with providing hits for the Monkees, and in 1973 he began to executive produce and host ABC's "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert", which ran until 1982 (although I don't remember it). Sadly, he died earlier this year, too soon to see his induction. Fun fact: Kirshner was nicknamed "The Man With the Golden Ear".
Cosimo Matassa - The Hall of Fame website describes Matassa as recording "the music that helped give birth to rock and roll." At the age of 18, he opened a recording studio in New Orleans where hits by Fats Domino, Little Richard and Ray Charles were ultimately recorded. Fun fact: Matassa now (at the age of 85!) manages his family's food market in the French Quarter.
Tom Dowd - Dowd worked on the technical side for Atlantic Records. Before you doze off, please note that his technical prowess helped establish the "sounds" of many big artists, including Ray Charles and Bobby Darin. Fun fact: Dowd worked on the Manhattan Project.
And there you have it. You have from now until April to gear up for the actual induction ceremony. Enjoy!
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