They've just announced the inductions for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2009, and as always, the list of honorees includes a few no-brainers as well as a few head-scratchers.
The only boilerplate "ground rule" for eligibility in the performer's category is that it must be at least 25 years since your debut recording, and since, unlike say, a sports Hall of Fame where statistical standards can be used to assist voters in their assessments, the Rock Hall voting process is a fairly nebulous one. And I know from personal experience, since I'm among the 600 or so "music professionals" who votes.
The nominees this year, in alphabetical order were: Jeff Beck; Chic; Wanda Jackson; Little Anthony & the Imperials; Metallica; Run D.M.C; the Stooges; War; and Bobby Womack.
Of the nine, five--guitarist Beck, doo-woppers Little Anthony & the Imperials, thrashers Metallica, rappers Run D.M.C. and r'n'ber Womack--have been elected as performers, with rockabilly vocalist Jackson to be inducted in the "Early Influence" category. (Additionally, former Elvis Presley accompanists Bill Black (bass), and D.J. Fontana (drums), along with Southern soul keyboardist Spooner Oldham, are being inducted in the non-voted upon "Sideman" category).
While I'll respectfully keep my own vote private--voters pick five, in order of preference--I will say the only ones I voted for that didn't get in were punk pioneers the Stooges (and let me note that my vote was cast well before the sad news last week that their guitarist Ron Asheton had passed away). But I'm probably most satisfied that Little Anthony & the Imperials finally got in, and that Wanda Jackson is finally being, as it were, "semi"-inducted. That's because, as more time goes by and we get further and further down that 25-year rule slope, more older artists who haven't yet been duly recognized for their achievements in increasingly bygone eras will be less likely to get nominated, let alone elected. And unless the Rock Hall establishes some kind of Veteran's Committee a la the Baseball Hall of Fame, that trend may well continue.
More problematic, of course, are artists like Jeff Beck, who, like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, has now been elected as a solo artist in addition to being inducted as a member of the seminal '60s band the Yardbirds. Plenty of precedence for this, of course: For example, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison went in as Beatles and as solos, Curtis Mayfield as a member of the Impressions and a solo, Neil Young as a Buffalo Springfielder and a solo, and (my favorite) Paul Simon as half of Simon & Garfunkel and by himself. And Eric Clapton, if I'm not mistaken, has the hall of fame record for being voted in three times (Yardbirds, Cream and solo).
Much as I think Jeff Beck is one of the greatest and most influential rock 'n' rollers of all time, it does seem to me that once a musician gets voted in, either as a part of a group or as a solo artist, that should be the end of it. I'm not holding my breath for any big rule change, though. Especially since Halls of Fame of any sort aren't exactly the kinds of places where you check your ego at the door; they're more the places you get them stamped.