Maybe the third time will be the charm for Todd Rundgren.
For the second year in row, the Upper Darby songwriter known and loved for hits like “Hello, It’s Me,” “Can We Still Be Friends?” and “Bang the Drum All Day” has been denied entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Like last year, the Delco native, whose long list of credits as a producer includes the Patti Smith Group, Meat Loaf, XTC, and the New York Dolls, was on the short list of Rock Hall nominees, but failed to make the final cut.
Who did get in? It’s the not the RRHOF’s most illustrious class. The inductees, announced Wednesday morning, are 1980s electronic band Depeche Mode, 1970s rock band the Doobie Brothers, pop-R&B star Whitney Houston, industrial rock pioneers Nine Inch Nails, 1990s rapper the Notorious B.I.G., and 1970s glam-rockers T-Rex.
Dual winners of the Ahmet Ertegun Award, given to individuals “who have had a major influence on rock and roll,” are power players Irving Azoff and Jon Landau.
The latter is Bruce Springsteen’s manager, thus ensuring that the Boss will make an appearance at the induction ceremony, to be broadcast live from Cleveland for the first time on HBO on May 2.
Rundgren, a Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame member who inducted the Hooters when the band received that honor last fall, was not the only one snubbed by the Rock Hall.
Indeed, it often seems that the principal objective of the selection process is to get band fan bases agitated about the arbitrary unfairness of the entire enterprise.
That’s become increasingly true as the Hall of Fame has broadened its scope to become, in effect, a Pop Music Hall of Fame — perhaps inevitably so, as rock’s role at the center of pop culture has slipped away.
Every year now, popular and influential acts like Houston and the Notorious B.I.G. (the rapper born Christopher Wallace) are inducted. That makes sense as the Hall aims to reward music that was relevant in its own time, just as rock and roll was when it was a dominant cultural force.
But it’s also confusing to music fans, since neither Houston, nor Biggie, nor, say, 2017 inductee Joan Baez have much musical connection to any strict definition of “rock and roll." Meanwhile, important rock trailblazers like guitarist Link Wray continue to be ignored.
Along with Rundgren, the nominees who were at least nominated this year, if ultimately shut out, span musical genres. They included: Detroit political rock mavericks the MC5, funk-soul greats Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, rock vocalist Pat Benatar, German electro band Kraftwerk, and metal bands Motorhead and Judas Priest.
But the most surprising act to have the door slammed in its face is the Dave Matthews Band — not because the middle-of-the-road jam band is particularly deserving, but because it’s so popular.
Since 2012, the Rock Hall has encouraged fans to vote online for their favorite nominees. The votes mean next to nothing in the election process: The top five fan finishers count as one ballot among more than 1,000 total voters.
But in every previous year, the fan ballot winner has gotten in. Not this time! The Dave Matthews Band ran away with the popular vote but, like Rundgren, will have to wait until at least 2021 to get in.