If the Mayans are wrong and we cruise into 2013, we'll all live long enough to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame actually do something right as they induct Canadian trio Rush along with Heart, Public Enemy, composer Randy Newman, Donna Summer and Albert King.
The sun shines on a dog's ass some days. Let me go Stella McCartney and say about fucking time! I've mentioned before I don't count myself among the legion of Rush fans but it's beyond ridiculous it's taken this long to get them on the ballot, so say nothing of -- oh, I don't know -- actually inducting them. I won't get started on all the bands still waiting for their call; that's another day on Donahue. We're going to talk first about the one they got right and then look at the rest of the curious enshrinees.
Rush. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. It's just so obvious I can't even begin to figure out why we're having this conversation. There is a part of me that wants to know what criteria voters were using when they kept the band on the outside looking in but those criteria would be stupid and wrong and therefore don't count. The band belongs, they're going in, and we can cross off one more glaring omission. Congratulations Geddy,Neil , and Alex. Congratulations to the millions of Rush fans. This isn't vindication or validation; it's overdue.
The rest of these inductees? I'm very divided about the different fractals of rock being housed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rock and roll is diverse enough as an idiom that it doesn't need to be watered down to the point of meaningless by including acts and offshoots that have nothing to do with it. A Hall of Fame isn't about inclusiveness. It should by its very definition be exclusive. There should be some acts on the outside looking in.
This isn't about me pissing on acts I don't like or genres that don't connect with me, either. I'm a huge Albert King. He was a forceful, mighty bluesman who recorded some of the most vital music in history. His Born Under A Bad Sign album collects some of the most killer sides ever recorded for the mighty Stax label. His I'll Play The Blues For You is nearly as essential, and that's just the tip of what he and his guitar Lucy did for decades but here's the thing and there's really no getting around it: he's not a rock and roller. He influenced rock and rollers. He inspired with them and probably even toured and collaborated with them. Blues may be rock and roll's mother but it's not the same thing. I'm glad to see his legacy recognized and hope some folks will go find out who he was as a result of this but when they do they'll arrive at the same obvious conclusion: he's not a rock artist.
The same is true of Donna Summer and Public Enemy, artists I have less use for. I don't dig disco. Some people do. Donna Summer was a hit-making machine in the '70s and was probably among the best of a bad genre. She's not rock and roll. Public Enemy is a groundbreaking rap act that helped usher the rap idiom into the mainstream while making a stand and carrying a message. They deserve acclaim and accolades for that. They deserve to be honored and remembered for that. Rap ain't rock, either.
Randy Newman is a brilliant songwriter and a former co-worker of mine is a not-too-distant relative of the Newman family. His incisive lyrics and cutting sense of humor and his keen observational eye are worthy of enshrinement...in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rock and roll? I'm not seeing it.
So where does that leave us? Ambivalent and bemused, while offering a hearty congratulations to the honorees but the fact remains the HoF righted a wrong and muddied the waters of its identity all in the same breath. Nice work, clowns.