The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame announced its 2013 inductees today — Rush, Heart, Randy Newman, Albert King, Lou Adler, Quincy Jones, Public Enemy, and Donna Summer.
Rush and Heart are easy choices, and Adler and Jones have the bona fides as executives and producers. Newman seems a marginal choice, a performer much more famous for his Pixar soundtracks than his rock records. King is one of those blues artists whose career crossed over, thanks to rock guitar gods who embraced him, like Hendrix and Clapton.
That leaves Public Enemy and Donna Summer, who do not fit the definition of rock and roll. I don’t know any rock station that has ever played a Public Enemy song. Donna Summer was once the Queen Of Disco, with several songs being played to death on Top 40 radio, but none of the Album-Oriented Rock stations I worked for at the beginning of my career even considered her for their playlists, and no current rock station (think KSHE) has any of her hits in their library. If there were still record stores around, you wouldn’t find either of these acts filed in the Rock And Roll section, either.
I’m as baffled by these inductions as I was about Bob Marley, whose music was always described as reggae, not rock. The same goes for previous inductees like jazz legend Miles Davis, or country legend Johnny Cash, or rap pioneers like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash and the Beastie Boys. You won’t find Led Zeppelin in the Country Music Hall of Fame, or Loretta Lynn in the Motown Hall Of Fame. There’s no denying that all of them, like Summer and Public Enemy, have been both successful and influential, but this isn’t a generic music hall of fame — it’s supposed to be about rock and roll.