Even though many actual musicians had made sure that Eliot Spitzer and Torture Guy and FISA Guy would dominate the mainstream press and we'd probably never heard about it, the Rock AND Roll Hall of Fame inducted more big capriciously-chosen names to its bloating popularity contest, WalMart-best-selling, and easy to recognize ranks last night.
I am not a fan of any organization that counts record release dates, poster or T-shirt sales as criteria for membership, and then has a big splashy party to celebrate their members' ability to throw big splashy parties. (Did you know that for $250, you too can be an inductee? Well, "Family Inductee," and they give you a card and free passes and free parking and a 10% discount on purchases.) The Hall >is a
nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as its educational programs. From free events and programs to fun educational opportunities for students and teachers...
So last night, Madonna gets in. You remember: She rolled around on the floor in a wedding dress singing about whatever, and made that big overpriced over-produced naked craptography book, and did a couple of awful movies, all in the guise of "reinventing herself" or"stretching the boundaries of Pop" or some malarkey? The press loved her, she was an instant icon, the people loved her, the press hated her, the people ignored her, and now she's ... In the Rock AND Roll Hall of Fame. At least she dragged Iggy Pop to the show, but he's still not a member. (Full disclosure: Madonna made me money, when some whitecap at the bar kept slipping me fives to get a look at the cover of what he called "That Madonner" and for me to play "Holiday." So, sure: Hall of Fame material.)
Why do we have to wait the arbitrary 25 years after their "first recording" to induct musicians into the Hall? I mean, twenty-five years ago was, um, 1983. Looking down 1983 in Music on Wikipedia (as if that's a valid source): What about Bananarama? Ministry? Metallica! Suicidal Tendencies! Violent Femmes! Warren Zevon! (Who should've been in ten years ago. Sign the petition here.)
But, hey, the NYTimes goes on to mention (after gushing about that "blonde")
John Mellencamp, the Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen, the instrumental band the Ventures, from Tacoma, Wash., and the British Invasion band the Dave Clark Five, whose lead singer, Mike Smith, died on Feb. 28. The Louisiana-born blues harmonica player Little Walter, a major figure in Chicago blues, was inducted as an influence on rock ’n’ roll. The songwriters and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, whose Philadelphia International label was a 1970s soul powerhouse, were named as nonperformers...
I'm not sure why "nonperformer" is the title of an actual category, because I can think of plenty of rockers who've been "nonperforming" since 1983. And isn't naming a producer "nonperformer" kind of redundant? But, Hall of Fame lists Allen Touissant as "nonperformer," so let's just stop the speculation now. Just watch:
You've seen him perform, and he should have a lot more respect, Cleveland. But, we should all get some kind of credit. Speaking of credit: The Ventures are more than "an instrumental band," they're an instrumental band.
On the other hand, there's Leonard Cohen. I can't say more about my respect for this man, his poetry, his voice, his music, his spiritual life. Rock AND Roll? Maybe in the same way Barry White is. Transcendent, affecting, influential and made of the stuff that is truly Rock and Roll: indisputable, effective, and manifestly self-styled.
Gee, maybe I should look at that paragraph about Madonna again.
Or maybe we should just relish in Leonard Cohen's very Rock'n'Roll statement about his induction, full of Cohen's trademark sly irony: