Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorius B.I.G., and T Rex make up the Rock Hall's 35th class. For Rock & Roll Hall of Fame president and CEO Greg Harris, these inductees reflect the different genres of Rock & Roll.
"You think about the Doobie Brothers with that wind in your face, open-road California sound and compare that to industrial Nine Inch Nails out of Cleveland, synth-pop with Depeche Mode, or Notorious B.I.G. coming out of Brooklyn with pretty hard-hitting hip-hop," Harris said of the 2020 class. "In Whitney Houston, you have the greatest voice of her generation as stated by her peers. Much like Marvin Gaye and Aretha, she had soulful ballads combined with hard-hitting rockers as well as dance music. And then T Rex, they roll in that great crunchy sound and inspire Bowie, Elton John, Guns N' Roses, even Metallica and through to Nirvana. These are very different genres but all under the great canon of Rock & Roll."
Sixteen nominees were considered with ballots sent to more than 1,000 artists including all living inductees, historians, and members of the music industry. A story this week from NPR noted a lack of women in the Rock Hall. Music writer Evelyn McDonnell analyzed every band leader and member of a group and found that only 69 of the 888 inductees are women. That's less than 8 percent. Only one of the three female nominees made the 2020 class, but Harris remains optimistic that will change moving forward.
"The pool of eligible artists continues to grow," Harris said. "But it's a process and getting more women on the ballot is very important. I certainly hope voters weren't thinking about just picking Whitney Houston and not Pat Benatar. You have five votes and can vote for all the women on the ballot if you like. It's not an either/or. So I hope it continues to advance and continues to mature. The statistics that are out there look at every single person that's inducted, which is one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is there are 330 artists that are inducted, so that a band counts as a one. Using that math, we're at about 15 percent, which is low. But in many ways, I think it's a reflection of the amount of music that was made in the 50's and 60's, and I think we get more of an explosion of female performers especially in the 80's and 90's."
Irving Azoff and Jon Landau will receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which honors songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists, and other industry professionals who've had a major influence on Rock & Roll. Special guests and presenters for the class of 2020 will be announced in the coming weeks. The induction ceremony returns to Cleveland May 2 and for the first time will be broadcast live on HBO.
Greg Harris will be featured on an upcoming edition of the Music Journeys podcast.