Rock and Roll Eating the World

“What about ‘9 to 5’?”

And so it began.

Let’s face it: Not doing this would be a heck of a lot easier than doing this.

Even Sir Isaac Newton’s laws open with: “An object at rest stays at rest.”

There is something to be said for inertia.

There is a tendency for us not to do things.

To stay at rest.

There was no way that I was going to pay any attention to the announcement of the 2022 nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The list includes: Pat Benatar, Kate Bush, DEVO, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Judas Priest, Fela Kuti, MC5, New York Dolls, Dolly Parton, Rage Against The Machine, Lionel Richie, Carly Simon, A Tribe Called Quest, and Dionne Warwick.

And yes, the Melrosian taunting or goading, for that’s what it was, came from the inclusion of Dolly Parton in the accumulated nominations for the honor, if that’s precisely what it is.

First, let me say that I respect Dolly Parton both as a musician and as a decent human being. As for the latter, know that in April 2020, only about a month after COVID-19 became something that wasn’t just a curiosity out of Wuhan, China, she donated $1-million to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center for vaccine research, research that helped develop the Moderna vaccine. You would be hard pressed to find anyone else in the entertainment community who did something of that magnitude. Parton is listed by The New England Journal of Medicine as one of the sponsors for the vaccine. Parton had announced her contribution on her Instagram page writing, “My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements toward research of the coronavirus for a cure.” Imagine: an entertainer listening to a bona-fide medical practitioner; Dr. Abumrad is John L. Sawyers Chair in Surgical Sciences, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Surgery, and Professor of Surgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Probably not a proponent of ivermectin for things other than, as the FDA explains, “intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. In addition, some topical forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea.” She heard about the research. She made that donation.

Think of others who listen to (and promulgate) the messages of certified quacks and who have boodles of bucks in the bank that stay there.

Parton, who is also Miley Cyrus’s godmother, has racked up a tremendous number of honors during her recording career that started at age 13. She is now 76.

But here’s the thing. Generally these are in the “Country Music” category.

As in 25 number-ones on the Billboard country music chart. Forty-four top-10 country albums. Ten Country Music Awards. Five Academy of Country Music Awards.

In 1999 Dolly Parton entered the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But now she is in a group of musicians that includes the MC5. (If I had a vote, that is where it would go, though I wonder if the members of the band that I saw in Rouge Park in Detroit ripping out “Motor City Is Burning” (and, yes, the famous song with the famous opening among other tunes) would, at least at that point in time, wanted to be in some institution.)

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination.”

Shouldn’t another factor for eligibility be that the artist or band ought to be recognized in the musical genre?

Some people might make the argument that rock and roll is inclusive, that it is based on many types of music from blues to jazz to, yes, country.

But consider, for example, the Rolling Stones (R&RHoF inductees, 1988). Throughout its existence the band has performed the blues and country. If you were to draw a Venn diagram with the categories being Rock, Blues and Country, which do you think—hell, which do you know—the biggest section would be?

This is not to raise an eyebrow at Parton’s expense. Far from it.

The inclusion of Lionel Richie and Dionne Warwick are possibly even more bizarre. Let’s face it: Warwick’s career was pretty much built on the music of Burt Bacharach, a writer and musician who has not only put out 40 albums but won a Grammy in 1998 with Elvis Costello (inducted with the Attractions in 2003) for “I Still Have That Other Girl,” which appears on Painted from Memory, an album the two released in ’98. Bacharach is not in the R&RHoF. What gives?

Richie may be inducted but the Commodores haven’t been?

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If you go to the “Mission” page of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame you’ll find this after directly below that word:

“THE ROCK HALL’S MISSION TO ENGAGE, TEACH AND INSPIRE THROUGH THE POWER OF ROCK & ROLL IS IMPORTANT. LEARN ABOUT OUR HISTORY, BUILDING, ECONOMIC IMPACT AND MORE.”

No, there isn’t a typo there. Nor are there hotlinks attached to the words history, building and economic impact. That’s simply a statement. Odds are, whoever wrote that won’t be inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame. Wait, there isn’t one. This could be a revenue-generating opportunity for someone. Isn’t bank the real reason for things like that? Yes, there are plaques and photos and vitrines: pay your $30 and enjoy.

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When Hilly Kristal set up a bar in the Bowery in December 1973, the musical acts that would be booked were to be in the genres of country, blue grass and blues: CBGB. That didn’t work out so well, so by February 1974 it became the venue that gave rise to performers including Patti Smith (R&RHoF, 2007), Blondie (2006), The Ramones (2002), and Talking Heads (2002).

Country, Blue Grass and Blues. Guess being on Broadway in Nashville or Beale Street in Memphis is where you need to be.

The other acronym on the CBGS marque: OMFUG: Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers. The other music won; it consumed everything else.

Certainly, rock musicians have incorporated country blue grass and the blues through the years. Sometimes the results are magnificent. Sometimes they’re well-forgotten.

And sometimes, I get the sense that in some cases there is something that can be considered a money-grabbing co-option going on going on of genres, a l-o-n-g reach. Like, perhaps, in Cleveland.

If Dolly or Lionel or Dionne get inducted, good for them and congratulations for their musical work.

And maybe that will result in the R&FHoF getting more people to buy tickets so they can hire someone who can tune up the text on their webpages:

“MISSION TO ENGAGE
Walking through our exhibition halls, you’re up close and personal with an artist’s history, and your own. The real value of the rock & roll artifacts we preserve and care for is measured in the impactful connections they make with fans from around the world.”

Huh? Should have stuck with the inertia.

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