Rage against the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Michael Friedman’s black-and-white photos of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones and Todd Rundgren are framed in white to stand boldly against the jet black wall. Iconic outfits worn by the Beatles as well as guitars played by the Doors and Kurt Cobain are displayed throughout the rooms. Pictures of the greats in music history cover the walls of the museum along with priceless artifacts that have the die-hard music fans in awe.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020 inductees were announced on Jan. 15 and, like every other year of inductees, received praise as well as criticism. 

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Hall of Fame started inducting members into its first class of 1986, which included rock ’n’ roll legends like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and even Mississippi blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

The Hall of Fame has since branched out to include members of genres besides rock, including Janet Jackson in 2019 and 2020 inductee Whitney Houston. One of the most notable names for the class of 2020 is The Notorious B.I.G. who is the seventh hip-hop artist to be inducted in almost 35 years. 

Many have pointed out that the number of artists of color inducted into the Hall of Fame has decreased significantly since the class of 1986, going from over 50% in the 1980s to 32.7% currently. The number of female artists to be inducted has increased; still, only 7.7% of the inductees are women. 

In her criticism of the Hall of Fame’s preference for white, male artists, Evelyn McDonnell of Billboard magazine noted that it is not acceptable for the Hall to overlook female artists.

“The fact is, women were there for the birth of rock ’n’ roll and at every stage since; the Hall has just ignored them,” McDonnell wrote.

Criticism has also arisen from rock fans as they see the Hall of Fame continue to induct more artists who do not perform in the rock genre. 

Graham Hartmann of Loudwire commented on the historical snubbing of metal artists from the induction as many metal artists have been nominated several times without ever being inducted. Specific examples include Judas Priest, Motorhead and Soundgarden did not receive an induction.

“The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class represents, once again, a complete distaste for heavy metal by an inept voting body, and an outright failure to recognize the genre as historically important,” Hartmann wrote.  

Music fans have much to say when their beloved artists are not included in such a prestigious group, but many look to the future with the hope that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will become more inclusive to female artists, artists of color and different genres.

Although the Hall of Fame may not be so “rock ’n’ roll” anymore, Travis Buffkin for the San Antonio Current makes an important point about inclusivity: 

“That is kind of rock ‘n’ roll in itself; the absolute shedding and co-opting of closely held beliefs and commitments, even if they belong to the ‘true’ rock ’n’ rollers.”