I figure you will recognize some of these inductees but not others. If you already know the artist, you probably don’t need a whole lot more information. If you don’t know them, you probably don’t want a whole lot of information. The actual induction ceremony will take place in April.
Special thanks to my coworker and potential budding bloggist Bob Lindsay who contributed the write-ups for Public Enemy and Heart (hence the very thorough nature of the information for those artists as opposed to, say, Lou Adler).
Public Enemy – Public Enemy, or PE (as their hardcore fans refer to them), will be the fourth hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Carlton Ridenhour, better known as Chuck D, and William Jonathan Drayton Jr., better known as Flavor Flav, met while attending Adelphi University in Long Island circa 1980. Their friendship eventually led to the birth of Public Enemy in 1986. Their debut album, “Yo! Bum Rush The Show in 1987”, was a commercial disappointment according to industry standards with only roughly 300,000 copies sold. However, PE’s second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”, in 1988, was widely praised by critics and eventually went Platinum selling over a million copies. As several albums soon followed, PE proved they would become an influential and dominant force in the hip hop genre. Despite many setbacks along the way, mostly caused by Flavor Flav’s erratic behavior and battles with drug addiction, PE continues to tour and even released two albums in 2012. I recently attended a PE show in Chicago and was astounded by their high-energy live performance. It appears they have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Fun fact: Flavor Flav began playing the piano at age 5 and is self-taught. He sang in the youth choir at his church and mastered the piano, drums, and guitar at an early age. He eventually became proficient in 15 instruments.
Randy Newman – While you and I might know Randy Newman mostly for his Disney movie theme songs (all Toy Story movies, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Cars), he actually began his career primarily as a successful songwriter, providing material for Judy Collins, Three Dog Night and The O’Jays. His songs are known for their political flavor and often satirical tone (listen to “A Few Words In Defense of Our Country” and you’ll see what I mean). Newman credits Ray Charles as being his greatest influence growing up, saying that he loved his music “to excess”- solid choice, Randy! Fun fact: Newman appeared as the musical guest on the second ever episode of Saturday Night Live back in 1975. The show’s host for that episode: Paul Simon.
Heart –Heart’s roots go back to the 1960’s when bassist Steve Fossen formed The Army along with Roger Fisher on guitar. There were two other men in the group, but their tenure with the group was short- lived. The group played for several years in the Bothell, Washington area, which is northeast of Seattle. Ann Wilson, upon graduating from high school in 1968, decided to devote herself to music full-time. She responded to a newspaper ad from a band called Heart which was looking for a lead singer. Fossen and Fisher were very impressed with Ann’s vocal abilities and immediately brought her into the band. Fisher’s older brother, Mike, would become the manager for the band. Mike was living in Vancouver at the time as a “draft dodger” and snuck across the border into the U.S. to see Heart perform. Ann Wilson quickly fell in love with him and convinced her bandmates to relocate to Vancouver. Nancy Wilson, Ann’s sister, joined the band in 1974. At that point, Heart consisted of Ann, Nancy, Roger, Steve, John Hannah (keyboards), and Brian Johnstone (drums).
Heart played many shows in their new home of Vancouver. John Hannah and Brian Johnstone were quickly replaced by Howard Leese (keyboards) and Michael DeRosier (drums). The new team recorded the debut album, “Dreamboat Annie”, in Vancouver. The album was soon released in 1976 in the U.S. With the help of hit singles “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man”, the album eventually sold over one million copies. Heart’s second album, “Little Queen”, eventually sold over one million copies, as well.
Many albums and many line-up changes would follow throughout the years. The only constant members of Heart would be Ann and Nancy Wilson. Heart continues to tour (I saw them at RibFest in 2009) and record to this day, releasing “Fanatic” just a few months ago. Fun fact: Nancy Wilson made cameo appearances in the films “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) and “The Wild Life” (1984). Both of these films were written by Cameron Crowe, who Nancy married in June 1986. They got divorced in 2010. By Hollywood standards, their marriage was successful.
Donna Summer – One of music’s greatest mysteries is why anyone would leave a cake out in the rain as described in “Macarthur Park”. It literally makes no sense why anyone would be so careless with their baked goods. That aside, Donna Summer was crowned The Queen of Disco, and since disco is long dead, she is unlikely to be dethroned. Despite the fact that disco is the butt of many jokes, Summer’s accomplishments are impressive: she had a string of #1 hits in the seventies and was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one, a feat even more impressive when considering how looong those double albums were. That’s a lot of disco! Sadly, Donna’s career accomplishment of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be done posthumously as she succumbed to lung cancer last summer. Fun fact: Donna spent many years living in Europe where she met her Austrian husband, Helmuth Sommer, and adopted the English version of his surname permanently. They divorced as a result of her affair with a German artist. Oops!
Albert King – I don’t know much about Albert King except that he is a blues guitarist (I’m not a super bluesy gal) who had a big influence on artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. He spent some time moving from one Midwestern City to another (St. Louis, Chicago, Gary- all the hot spots). You might recognize his biggest hit, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” also covered by Cream. Like Ms. Summer, King has also passed on (20 years ago). Despite knowing next to nothing about him, I was able to gather a plethora of fun facts about him. #1. He was born in the same small Mississippi town (Indianola) as B.B. King. #2. He was a big guy: at least 6’4” and about 250 pounds, earning him the nickname The Velvet Bulldozer.
Rush – This Canadian hard rock band was founded in the year of my birth, 1968 (OMG- they must be ancient!), although they didn’t release their first album until six years later. I feel like they hit their peak back in the eighties, so I was shocked to find that they released a new album just this past summer. It seems so long ago that as a young Music Teen I bought the “Signals” album (cassette) thinking that I was quite badass (I most assuredly was not). The bio on the Hall of Fame website acknowledges that the band has never received the critical respect they “so richly deserve”, so perhaps this nod is a makeup call of sorts. Fun fact: A few years ago, Rolling Stone magazine said that “Rush fans are the Trekkies/trekkers of rock” due to the loyalty of their fans. (Eh, not that fun)
Lou Adler – Adler was a songwriter, producer and record company founder, so his name might not be all that familiar to you (although he was born in Chicago- ask your elders if they knew him!). He can be credited with signing such diverse talents as The Mama & The Papas, Carole King and Cheech and Chong (???). Fun facts: he directed Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke” (a true classic right up there with “It’s a Wonderful Life”), and he owns the famous Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. Also, he is married to Darryl Hannah’s younger sister. (sorry, more fun facts than music facts on this one- suffice it to say he’s had a long and successful career, but I still can’t find much out about him)
Quincy Jones – Another Chicago native! Quincy’s career began as a trumpeter and “song arranger” back in the fifties, although he also had an extremely successful career as a songwriter and producer. The list of artists with whom he has worked is too long to list, but it includes Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, and he has been nominated for a record 79 Grammys (winning 27). With those accomplishments it’s interesting that it took so long for him to be inducted. Fun fact: Quincy’s brother is a federal district court judge in Seattle and has presided over some high profile cases. Talented family! Also, he has been married five times. Yikes!
Filed under: Music News