Handicapping the 2019 Rock Hall Nominees!

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Every rock fan’s favorite parlor game is to complain about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: which artists deserve to be inducted and which don’t. Each year, the Hall announces its latest nominees and the outcries explode immediately: Why isn’t (fill in the blank) in there?!

This year the HoF nominated 15 artists spanning various musical eras and genres, fewer than the last couple of years. Every fan should find at least a few artists they desperately want to see inducted and probably just as many that trigger a head-scratching: Who is that person and why are they even on this list?

From the annual list of nominees, traditionally the Hall chooses around five to seven new inductees, depending on the percentage of votes the artist receives. (The nominations are made by a committee of a few dozen music industry folks, artists and critics; a ballot is then sent out to several hundred voters, also involved in the music biz.)

What that means is that some of these people are going to be in the Hall of Fame’s class of 2019, and many more won’t be. But which ones will make it and which ones will be shunned?

Your guess is as good as ours (it really is—we have no spies inside the Hall), but each year we like to look at the overall list and try to determine who we think will be celebrating and who will be bummed.

Please don’t shoot the messenger: This article doesn’t reflect which artists we personally like or don’t like or think should/shouldn’t be inducted. It’s all about who we think the voters will choose, based on our knowledge of how they usually vote.

Related: 100 crucial Rock Hall omissions

The winners will be announced in mid-December. We’ll return to this list after the announcement and see how we fared.

We welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree.

As before, we’ve divided the 2019 nominees (listed alphabetically) into three categories: “Welcome to the Hall!,” “Soon, But Not This Time” and “Not a Chance.” 

The Cure
They arrived during the post-punk era and have long survived it. It’s not so much that they moved toward the mainstream as the mainstream caught up with them. Frontman Robert Smith is a compelling songwriter and performer and their songs are both edgy and catchy. They’ve also been a visual treat since day one. But…we don’t think enough voters are still in love with them, at least not this year. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Def Leppard
They arose out of the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and became massively successful as they moved further into mainstream rock. Still quite popular, although not exactly in any sort of vanguard these days, we think they’re custom-made for Hall-dom. Besides, they have no competition this year when it comes to good old arena-rock. Welcome to the Hall!

They came up in the post-punk era with their flower pot hats and quirky rhythms, tossed in some performance art elements and more than a bit of camp and silliness, and wrapped it up in a faux-losophy they called “de-evolution” (as it turns out, they were on to something). Songs like “Whip it” and their cover of “Satisfaction” are still fun to listen to, and Mark Mothersbaugh has had a prolific film and TV music career but he’s not the one being considered. We’re guessing that most voters will not be in any hurry to induct them. Odds: Not a Chance.

Janet Jackson
We’ve previously placed her in the “Soon, But Not This Time” column and the “Welcome to the Hall!” list. So far she hasn’t made the cut but we think she will this time. When the 2015 nominations were announced, her Unbreakable album was only a week old. It debuted at #1, received glowing reviews, and made dozens of “best of 2015” lists, reminding us that she’s always been much more than just Michael’s little sis. She’s been on fire since her 1986 Control album hit #1 (the first of several to do so). That album alone produced five Top 5 singles and she’s had more than 25 others since. Janet Jackson deserves her own spot. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

These German electro-pioneers are a good example of what often causes divisiveness among fans. Let’s see, they had one top 5 album, their debut, then never came near the top again, and the closest they came to a hit single was the #25 title track from that first album. If you’re going by chart performance alone, then, Kraftwerk might elicit a big “Huh?” from you. But there’s no way around it—their influence has been enormous; it’s impossible to imagine where synth-pop/electronica would have gone without them leading the way. We previously had them in the “Welcome” column but voters have shown an indifference, so we’re downgrading them. Odds: Not a Chance

Related: 100 more crucial Rock Hall omissions

LL Cool J
Let’s put aside, for now, the argument over whether rap artists “belong” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We know that a lot of rock fans don’t think so, but that’s a debate for another time. Accepting that the Hall recognizes hip-hop, and has already inducted several rappers, the question at hand is whether LL Cool J deserves to be the next one. Our feeling is that while he’s become something of a mainstream artist over the years, very visible on mainstream TV, and will get the nod one of these days, this year there are too many others that stand a better chance. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

These Detroit wildmen came about as close as any rock band could to being real revolutionaries. It was built into their music, which itself went against the prevailing peace-and-love grain of the day. They’ve been tremendously influential, beloved by punks, especially. But even today, they’re more rock critics’ darlings than fan favorites. We wonder how many of the Hall’s voters even own an MC5 album. They deserve to get in due to their impact alone, but we’re not so sure that’ll happen too quickly. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Stevie Nicks
Would she be on this list if she hadn’t already been a superstar via Fleetwood Mac? Good question, and our answer is an emphatic yes. Nicks is one of those unique characters who would have been a star no matter what she did. So many are so intrigued by her, and love her songs, her persona—her twirling, everything about her! We see no way that she doesn’t make the cut the first time. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

John Prine
Truly a gifted singer-songwriter, whether he’s digging deep into his soul to relate the most personal of tales or telling us about the times in which we live. He’s still turning out excellent material after more than four decades and is considered a father of Americana, but we’re skeptical—do most voters even know who he is? Odds: Not a Chance

What to make of Radiohead. On one hand, they’re the ultimate critics’ band. Indisputably inventive from the start (their first hit, “Creep,” has since become a standard, even covered by a slew of jazz artists), they have continued to grow since their early days without losing their edge or becoming mired in cliché or bombast. They’re one of the few modern rock bands that can claim a ton of baby boomer fans as well as younger ones. What makes them a Hall-worthy phenomenon is that they’re the rare contemporary act that is not only uncompromisingly original but also extremely popular, with #1 albums and Grammys galore. Yes, it’s true that there are still many, many artists of previous decades left out in the cold, but Radiohead is proof that creative new rock music is far from dead. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Rage Against the Machine
We’re going to do some politicizing here. Rage Against the Machine is an impressive, potent modern rock band. They fused elements of metal, punk, hip-hop and more, former frontman/lyricist Zack de la Rocha was a commanding presence and guitarist Tom Morello, especially, is a monster musician and songwriter. One of his biggest fans, in fact, is Bruce Springsteen, who has basically made him a member of the E Street Band in recent years. Which is where our “politics” comment comes in. We’re going to presume (and we could be wrong, of course) that some folks on the nominating committee have a special place in their hearts for Rage because of that Boss association, hence their nomination. But will enough fans agree that they’re a good fit? Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Roxy Music
Remember Roxy Music? Those that loved them back in the day still do—the suave frontman Bryan Ferry and the artsy fellows that comprised the band (including, in its early days, future super-producer Brian Eno) were tremendously influential. But since their heyday they’ve sort of fall under the radar, and we wonder how many younger voters know anything about them. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan has been nominated as a solo, and Rufus has been nominated as a band—as if anyone knows any members of Rufus other than her. Either way, we’re still not convinced. As we wrote about Chaka before, “Long career? Check. Sales galore? Some 70 million. Awards? Ten Grammys. Crossover appeal? From the start. Household name? Your mom probably digs her. And when it comes to influence, we can’t blame Chaka for all the over-singers who followed.” But, compared to the other acts on the list this year, we just don’t think she’s going to get enough love. Sorry, Chaka. Oh yeah, and Rufus too. Odds: Not a Chance

Todd Rundgren
Every time Best Classic Bands runs an article about potential Hall of Famers we get complaints from readers about those who’ve been snubbed. Todd has repeatedly been near the top of that list. How is he not in already?! A beloved innovator since his early days, he should have been inducted long ago, for his production work (Grand Funk, Meat Loaf, New York dolls, etc.) alone. Now that everyone agrees about that, we can safely predict he will be a first-year inductee. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

The Zombies
Truly one of the greatest bands to emerge during the British Invasion, and as good today as they ever were. Singer Colin Blunstone’s voice is a thing of beauty, and keyboardist Rod Argent is a gifted musician and songwriter. Even if just for their three big hits—“She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season”—they deserve the nod. And their album Odessey and Oracle (from which “Season” was pulled as a single) remains one of the most perfect albums ever created. This is their fourth nomination and we think the voters may finally be ready to agree that they are worthy Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

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12 Comments so far

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  1. Bradoman
    #1 Bradoman 10 October, 2018, 02:12

    The Zombies are a perfect example of getting in the hall based on three songs, and famous members. So why aren’t Poco and Loggins and Messina not in. They’ve had several hits sold a ton more records than alot of people in the hall. And Dan Fogelberg should have gotten in, with tons of top ten albums and lots of hits

    Reply this comment
  2. Yvette
    #2 Yvette 10 October, 2018, 03:56

    ROCK and ROLL HALL of FAME 2019:

    INDUCTEES Should Include….

    Def Leppard, Devo, Stevie Nicks, Zombies, Boz Scaggs, Doobie Brothers, Jim Croce, and Others Who Have Made Rock History Over The Years…

    Reply this comment
  3. lmwilliamsjr
    #3 lmwilliamsjr 10 October, 2018, 12:17

    It just blows me away that Warren Zevon is not in the HOF. Are his contributions just not up to snuff, i.e. their rigorous (?) criteria?

    Reply this comment
  4. Cat
    #4 Cat 11 October, 2018, 19:05

    I so agree, Best Classic Bands: The Zombies are IN! I’m so stoked I have March 29 circled on the calendar. See you at Barclays!

    Reply this comment
    #5 SARAH REMMEL 11 October, 2018, 20:49

    Def Leopard, is one, of the worst, rock bands, in music. They suck, I ain’t voting, for them. I ‘d vote for, Janet Jackson, Radiohead, Michael Bolton, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Motley Crue, Culture Club, Meatloaf, Poison, Sir Elton
    John, & Neil Diamond, NOT Def Leopard.

    Reply this comment
  6. Peter
    #6 Peter 16 October, 2018, 09:58

    Ten Years After, Alvin Lee, Jethro Tull?……Devo….seriously?!

    Reply this comment
  7. v2787
    #7 v2787 18 October, 2018, 14:12

    And still no Paul Revere and the Raiders, who had more bona fide hits than anybody on this year’s list. PR&R were on television more than any rock band in history, and they pretty much defined American rock in the mid-sixties. Plus, the group remained very active and toured for fifty years. What does that band have to do to be considered for the R&R HOF: cop an attitude, make lousy music, and look like they haven’t bathed in a month?

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  8. geguido
    #8 geguido 31 October, 2018, 21:41

    I guess rock fans see the RRHOF as some sort of shrine to “good music”. Any discussion of the RRHOF pretty quickly comes down to “why is this band that sucks in the HOF and my favorite band isn’t”. It’s largely assumed that the criteria for induction into the RRHOF is some combination of straight up popularity, some measure of how or how much an artist influenced future trends or artists and some sort of nebulous tip of the hat to musicianship or musical quality or integrity or something like that.

    I assume you’ve been to the RRHOF. Besides it being a Hard Rock Cafe on steroids, the thing that struck me was that it had one of everything. Or one of everybody. Somewhere in there I had my “ah-ha” moment. The RRHOF has one of everything. Beyond all of the icons of rock that one would expect, there are one or two – but not too many- artists representative of every musical genre or movement under the “rock” umbrella.

    A few years ago I attended a several day long symposium on blues artist Son House. As part of that there was a speaker from the RRHOF discussing the topic “Why isn’t Son House in the RRHOF?”.

    I don’t know if anyone was really asking that question and the discussion eventually did devolve into “Why is KISS in the RRHOF and not Little Feat?” But before that happened my “ah-ha” moment was confirmed. The speaker from the RRHOF (I can’t remember her name) said that through it’s inductees, it tries to tell the narrative story of rock music. It does so by the induction of artists who fit that narrative. The reason Son House is not in the RRHOF, despite being one of probably 3 or 4 originators of delta blues, and a (the?) major influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters is…Robert Johnson is already there and his story fits the rock and roll historical narrative better. So there’s no reason to have Son House there. There’s one pre-war delta blues guitar player there and that’s all they need.

    So really, RRHOF induction is, to a large part, selecting artists that are representative of a genre and a time and place in rock history. For example…The Smiths were on the short list of nominees this year. But there’s already a band emblematic of that time and place in the RRHOF. How many artists are needed to exemplify any particular style?

    The RRHOF is really like a book on the history of rock. The question is how big is each chapter and what is the depth of coverage for that chapter? If we had a 100 page book…maybe Elvis and the Beatles and Stones get 5 pages each. Early influences – blues, country, r&b maybe all of that gets 5 pages. The early rock era other than Elvis, maybe that gets 5 more pages. Maybe the rest of the British invasion gets 5 pages. Ok, now our book is already 1/3 full. So What does Southern rock get – a page – maybe just Lynyrd Skynyrd? How much space do you devote to surf music…Beach Boys and maybe the Venture and Dick Dale? How much space does 80’s LA punk get? British Mods? 60’s San Francisco Psychedelia? Country Rock?

    Fans like to think that the RRHOF is about recognizing talent or contribution to the culture of rock, and to some extent it is, but an artist has to fit into the narrative. There can’t be too much representation of a genre in relation to it’s overall place in the rock timeline.

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    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 1 November, 2018, 11:53

      The thing that most fans don’t realize is that the actual, physical Rock Hall in Cleveland operates more or less independently of the NYC-based nominating committee. Who gets nominated is not dependent on what is featured at the museum, and who the museum spotlights has little to do with the artists being nominated and inducted.

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  9. Don
    #9 Don 7 December, 2018, 13:48

    Little Feat, Fairport Convention and Poco and so many others. But these nominees do not make it

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