The nominees for the 2020 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced.
The big names include Dave Matthews Band, Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode.
And there’s one local hero on the list in Upper Darby’s own Todd Rundgren, who got his start in Philadelphia with Woody’s Truck Stop and the Nazz before going on to an illustrious career as a solo artist.
The Delco native is known for albums like 1973′s A Wizard, A True Star and hits such as “Hello, It’s Me,” “We Gotta Get You A Woman,” and “Bang On The Drum All Day.” His production credits are prodigious, including Hall & Oates, Meatloaf, XTC, and Patti Smith.
All told, 16 performers are nominated. The motley crew includes Pat Benatar, the Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, the MC5, Rufus feat. Chaka Khan, Kraftwerk, the Doobie Brothers, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy. (But not Motley Crue, despite the best efforts of the 1980s metal band’s fans.)
Last year, when Rundgren was nominated for the first time and denied entry, seven of the nominees got in. (That’s not a fixed number, though: It was six the year before.)
Every year, the list of potential inductees induces grumbling because many of the artists could not by any objective measure be considered makers of “rock-and-roll.” True enough: The Notorious B.I.G. was a rapper and Whitney Houston a pop/R&B singer. And does the Dave Matthews Band rock? No.
But that train has long since left the station. Plenty of non-“rock” acts have been inducted already, from Tupac Shakur to Joan Baez to, this year, Janet Jackson. So any of the 2020 nominees could go in without breaking historical precedent.
A more legitimate beef is the inarguably great acts who have longer been eligible but can’t seem to get a whiff of interest. Why is Warren Zevon not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Or Los Lobos?
Bands become eligible after being active for 25 years. Among the acts that qualified for the first time this year but were ignored were the late singer songwriter Elliott Smith and R&B singer Aaliyah, punk trio Sleater-Kinney and Wilco, the Jeff Tweedy-led Dad Rock band, which would have been a safe and sound choice.
The decision on who gets in is made by more than 1,000 music industry insiders. Internet fan voting exists, but is essentially meaningless. The results of all votes cast by fans put together count as just one ballot in the final tabulation. (Though one suspects that the Rock Hall voters watch the fan totals carefully to make sure their own ballots aren’t too out of step with the masses.)
So will Todd get in this time? It’s a good sign that he’s been nominated two years in a row, but he’s up against popular and tough competition. Houston, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell all died this decade, so the Rock Hall has given itself the opportunity to honor several beloved, recently deceased artists.
In some ways, the time seems right for Rundgren: He’s a massive influence on a new generation of psychedelic artists like Kevin Parker of Australia’s Tame Impala, and has ardent advocates like Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, who were inducted in 2014.
But he’s also in the running against similarly influential acts like electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Irish rockers Thin Lizzy. Rundgren will get in, but it’s not a certainty that 2020 will be his year.
Fan can vote at RockHall.com. The inductees will be announced in late January, with the ceremony to be held in Cleveland on May 2.