This Friday a new class of musicians will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And while the ceremony is in New York this year, there’s still plenty buzzing around Cleveland about it. We asked a handful of Cleveland musicians to tell us why they think certain artist from this class deserve a place in the Rock Hall. Spoiler alert, we just couldn’t find anyone to write about Journey!
Garrett Komyati of The Modern Electric on Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra is giant. There is no aspect of the band that can’t be considered epic. Their monstrous reach across the timeline of music combines the classical sounds of a distant past with the otherworldly synth sounds of the future. Their lyrics range from the interpersonal (“Telephone Line”) to the intergalactic (“Mission”). Their colossal instrumentation has as many symphonic layers as… well, an orchestra. What really gets me is that, in their grandiosity, they always manage to deliver pop perfection. Take their juggernaut double-album “Out Of The Blue”, there isn’t a track on it that lacks the hooks and production value to be a classic in the rock pantheon. I am more ambitious because of the ambitions of ELO and I strive for perfection because of their achievements.
Archie Green on Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur represented many things. He was a revolutionary. He was a thug. He was a poet. He was a prophet. He was an artist. Pac’s legacy lives on two decades after his death because of the conviction in his music. On the one hand, Pac could be seen as controversial and petty in songs like the infamous “Hit Em’ Up” aimed at rival Notorious B.I.G. On the other hand, Pac could be heartfelt and loving on his anthemic “Dear Mama,” singing praises to his mother and all single mothers raising a black baby in a world where he’s seen as a threat. Love him or hate him, there’s no in-between. Tupac will live on forever and his footprints have been cemented not only in Hip-Hop music but all genres of music primarily because he knew that he represented a community that was often overlooked. He represented the impoverished, drug riddled, often misunderstood black youth of America. That community remains today, and the baton has been passed on to some of Pac’s lyrical children such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. He understood that a man in his position had to say something, like he did in “Changes,” and to fight til the end in “Me Against The World.” For these reasons, I believe it’s beyond fitting that Tupac Shakur be inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Megan Zurkey on Joan Baez
Several years ago someone told me my voice reminded them of Joan Baez. I immediately needed to listen to her entire catalog. I started to think this listener of mine related me to Joan because of what sounds to be a classically trained voice. To me, Joan is a mix of Folk, Rock, and Classical music. Her soaring notes and vibrato can catch you off guard – something that may confuse a new listener. I can picture her on the stage fronting a choir at Carnegie Hall. This brilliant artist never kept herself at an arms length. You knew what mattered to her through her words, passionate vocals and active place in love, faith, Civil Rights and other humanist causes. It wouldn’t be easy to put a (hit) song out there and admit it was about her relationship with Bob Dylan, but Joan could do that. If she’s taught me anything, it’s how to be true to yourself as an artist. I’m just a singer/songwriter from Cleveland, OH but Joan’s always had my vote to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A great addition to the family, indeed.
Ray Flanagan on Yes
I was really into Yes in high school. Close to the Edge changed the way I thought about music. I look back on a lot of their music now as overblown and corny, but if you can manage to get yourself into their headspace, they really did some pretty special stuff. Steve Howe is a badass. I have a lot of his work committed to permanent memory. Bob Stinson from The Replacements loved Steve Howe, and that’s about as cool cred as you can get. Prog bands are the opposite of punk bands, but I still admire the way they tried to push convention, even if they fall flat sometimes. When it lines up, it’s undeniable. “Roundabout” alone is Rock Hall worthy material.
Justin Markert on Pearl Jam
For some reason, many of my peers just don’t like Pearl Jam. I think they often get tossed into the mix with bands like Creed and Staind because of Eddie Vedder’s voice. And whenever you mention Pearl Jam there’s always some joker who sings “Jeremy-spoke-in” in a very Adam Sandler-esque voice. There was always this Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam debate. And some how Nirvana won with the cool kids. But when it comes to integrity and punk rock ethics, Pearl Jam definitely had the upper hand (Pearl Jam shied away from the press while Kurt posed for every magazine cover he could). And let’s not forget for every Creed and Staind that Eddie Vedder accidentally created, there’s a Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd right there standing behind Kurt. Just like there’s a Travis for every Radiohead and a Coolio for every Tupac. So let’s not go blaming artists for record labels that desperately latched on to copycat artists to cash in. If you look at the inner circle of Pearl Jam, who they bring on tour with them (Iggy Pop, My Morning Jacket, Sleater Kinney, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, X), who they record with (Glen Hansard, Cat Power, Joseph Arthur), who they’ve signed (Queens of the Stone Age), who they have perform with them on stage (REM, Bruce Springsteen, St. Vincent, Rob Pollard, The Ramones, Neil Young, The Who) they’re clearly among company with much more cred than the chin-rock they get lumped in with by those that don’t know better. And why don’t they know better? Probably because they stopped listening to the band after the hits and music videos went away. Because if you take the time to listen to the bands catalog, they left the slow-sludgy-mid-tempo-aggression rock behind with their first album Ten. The music has evolved steadily to a straight ahead rock and sometimes old-school-punkish sound even. While Ten is admittedly sometimes excruciatingly dated, as the band has stood the test of time, there music has become timeless as well. Marathon 3-hour plus shows with different set lists every night, selling out baseball stadiums and soccer stadiums all over the world even now, treating their fans with respect by keeping ticket prices low, releasing every show they play for download, and backing a ton of causes and donating/raising millions for charity are just a few more reasons why this band is Rock Hall worthy.
Show me another rock band that can still pull a crowd like this on their own:
And another just for fun…