Thursday, March 10, 2016

R&B Artists & The Rock Hall (Updated 2017 Inductees)

In the last 6 years, the Rock Hall has inducted 3 R&B oriented acts. Bill Withers in 2015.  Donna Summer in 2013 and Darlene Love in 2011.  In those 5 years the NomCom has put forth 14 names on the ballot:  Chantels, Chic, Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson, J.B.'s, Darlene Love,  Marvelettes, Meters, Spinners, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, War, Bill Withers, Chuck Willis.  Summer got in the year after she passed away.  Love was put in after 3 tries.  And Nile Rodgers was given the Musical Excellence Award in 2017. The list of R&B names that have been left out in the cold is pretty impressive.  To their credit, the NomCom is at least trying. Most ballots average 3 to 4 R&B acts.   Below are a list of names that deserve more attention from the NomCom and voters.

Suggestions welcome:

Ashford & Simpson - Could also be considered in the Songwriter category.  One big Pop hit on their own, but a string of excellent albums in the late 70's/early 80's.  Recording career underrated.  But it's as songwriters where they were remembered most.  

Brook Benton - Benton was a chart presence from the late 50's to early 70's with a bunch of memorable hits that often crossed over to the Pop charts.  Somewhat overlooked by Rock historians, but his music still gets plenty of airplay.   7

Jerry Butler - Here's an interesting one.  Butler is in with the Impressions. His time there was brief.   His solo career was more distinctive.   Definitely one of the kings of Chicago Soul.   7

Chantels - One of the first Girl Groups, most likely hurt because they only had 4 Top 40 Pop hits.  But they have been nominated twice before.  The last in 2010.   6

Chi-Lites - Eugene Record might be the most overlooked R&B name of the 70's.  He Produced and either wrote or co-wrote their greatest records.  And Chicago Soul is an overlooked genre anyway.  4

Clovers - First record came out in 1951, so they could be an Early Influence inductee.  A group I think most thought were already in.  Charted before label-mates the Drifters, and had just as many great hits.  8

John Coltrane - Miles Davis' induction got a lot of people talking about how he had nothing to do with "Rock and Roll".  Coltrane's would do it even more.  Miles at least incorporated some Rock elements, yet Coltrane's last records were just as experimental.  6

Commodores/Lionel Richie - They skirted the Funk category before Lionel steered them toward  hit ballads.  Lionel's solo career alone is worth a nod, but the Commodores (along with Earth, Wind & Fire) were the biggest crossover R&B group of the 70's.  Both:  8

Roy Brown-  His "Good Rocking Tonight" was covered by Elvis and you can here his vocals picked up by the likes of Jackie Wilson, B.B. King and other a in the the 50's.  Early Influence. 8

Gap Band - Charlie Wilson might be the most exciting lead singer in an R&B band you will ever see.  And their hits were great too.  Big influence on Hip-Hop, but voters might think they didn't have enough Pop hits.  6

Herbie Hancock - Will we ever see another Jazz artist inducted.  Miles Davis was the last one.  But Hancock's own career saw him also stradling the line between Jazz/R&B and some Rock.  7

Billy Preston -  Not just for his own hits, but for his session work. Having played with almost every current Hall of Famer, he'd be a strong first or 2nd ballot inductee.  9

Gil Scott-Heron -
An influence on Hip-Hop artists even though his own records never became big sellers.  But a well-loved name in the R&B/Rap field.  7

Whitney Houston - The most influential and biggest Pop stars ever, she might be considered too Pop for some backward-thinking voters.  But there's no denying her legacy.  Just ask Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys or any other female R&B singer that came after her.  9

Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes/ Teddy Pendergrass - Outside of the O'Jays, Melvin were the 2nd biggest act on Philly International.  With just enough crossover hits that voters could get behind.  Pendergrass' solo career was even more spectacular.  Until his auto accident he was the biggest male R&B act.  Hall & Oates are right.  The Rock Hall is lacking in Philly Sound artists.  Both:  7

Janet Jackson - One of the  biggest female Pop stars from the mid-80's/mid-90's.  Might suffer from voters thinking she was only as good as her producers (Jam/Lewis on most songs).  Nominated in 2016.  9

Rick James - Until Prince came along, James was the craziest R&B star on the planet.  His R&B/Funk mixed with Rock made for some powerful moments.  He faded in the mid-80's though before coming back near his death in 2004. But a key influence on Hip-Hop.     6

J.B.'s - Surprise nominees in 2016, more famous as James Brown's backing band in the early 70's then for their own funk records.   7

Ben E. King -  King, who died in 2015, is already in as a member of the Drifters.  But he had a good solo career as well.  Charting from the early 60's to mid-70's.  9

Kool & The Gang - Started out as a pioneering Funk band before charting numerous Pop hits in the 80's.  Such a long-running presence that it's amazing they've never received a nomination.  8

Patti LaBelle -  Not enough Pop hits, but with her group Labelle she had a magical one.  First started charting in the 60's.  And let's face it, there's no other female R&B singer as exciting to watch as her.  8

Nina Simone - Although mostly thought of as a Jazz singer, she cut plenty of R&B tracks, even Blues ones.  Her status has grown since she passed away in 2003.   9

Marvelletes - You know that old joke about the Hall:  eventually every Motown and Atlantic act will get inducted.  But there's a reason for that, they were all great.  Here's another one whose only problem may have been that they were somewhat anonymous. But I think they were one of the all-time great Girl Groups. And the magic of Motown could get them in.   Nominated in 2013/2014.   8

Percy Mayfield - He wrote "Hit The Road Jack" and "Please Send Me Someone To Love". Had hits of his own in the 50's and has had his songs covered decades later.  An overlooked Early Influence.  7

Meters/Neville Brothers/Aaron Neville - The Meters have been nominated 3 times.  Last in 2014.  They could just as well go in as a backing band.  Not having enough Pop hits has probably hurt them.  The Neville Brothers have never even been nominated, which is a NomCom travesty.  Like Dr.John they are a New Orleans institution that would go in first-time on the ballot. I doubt it will happen, but they could just nominate Aaron as a solo act, if they skip the Brothers.   How have they slipped under the NomCom's nose?   (Meters) 8  (Aaron)  9  (Neville Brothers) 9

Ohio Players - The best funk band of the mid-70's.  Had 2 #1 Pop hits, but may have faded out too soon for voters to remember their peak years.   4

Lou Rawls - Rawls made a great comeback in late 70's thanks to Gamble & Huff.  And it's those years that made him a household name.  But his first hits were in the mid-60's.  Could be his records are a little to jazzy for some.   7

Rufus with Chaka Khan - The best, if not most powerful female R&B singer of the late 70's/mid-80's, Chaka is the star of the show.   Nominated once in 2012.  And solo in 2016.    8

Sade - No doubt she took the Quiet Storm format to another level when she broke through in the 80's.  Could be a tough sell though, since R&B female singers have a tough time getting in.  6

Spaniels - Funny how everyone thinks Doo-Wop has enough names already inducted.  But here's one that slipped by everyone.  They had a unique lead singer in James "Pookie" Hudson and their records were widely influential as the years went on.  First records came out in 1953, so another Early Influence possibility.  6

Spinners - They didn't record for Gamble & Huff, but thanks to the genius of Thom Bell their sound was pure Philly Soul.  First started making records in the 60's, but it wasn't until Phillipe Wynne joined in the early 70's that they hit their stride.  The greatest R&B group of the early 70's.  Nominated in 2012/2013/2016.  8

Stylistics - Like the Spinners, the Stylistics made their greatest records in the early 70's with Thom Bell.  Russell Thompkins Jr.'s falsetto was a force of nature, and the groups best songs were as smooth a Philly Soul as any other act of that time was producing.  7

Joe Tex - Already nominated 4 times.  Anytime he gets on the ballot their are smarmy remarks by people who don't know how great he was.  He had crossover hits and his talk-singing was wholly unique when couple with his best hits.  Underrated, and I give the NomCom credit for bringing his name up every few years.  8

Rufus Thomas - A legend in Memphis as a DJ and his local records, he finally hit the national charts in the 60's when he signed with Stax. One of the most-liked figures in R&B history. 8

Luther Vandross - The biggest R&B singer of the 80's.  Vandross' main selling point was his incredible voice.  Had some crossover hits, but maybe too much a presence on the R&B chart for some voters to remember them by.  7

Jr. Walker & The All Stars - Another Motown artist, but at least Walker's records weren't too coated in Pop.  "Shotgun" itself typified what Walker was trying to get too with his records. Bonus points for the sax solo on Foreigner's "Urgent".  4

War - Nominated thrice, the last in 2014.  Put on a War record and you were bound to hear a mix of everything:  R&B, Funk, Rock, Latin.  They were one of the biggest bands in the mid-70's.  And in Latino and Hip-Hop circles, quite influential.   7

Billy Ward & The Dominoes -  Could be Early Influence as first records were in 1951. Once nominated in 1997 (as the Dominoes).  Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson were once part of the Dominoes and their records had crossover appeal, long before the big Rock and Roll boom of 1956.  But would be puzzler to most voters today.   9

Wynonie Harris - Another Early Influence name.  He first record was in 1945.  Harris made some of the most rocking R&B of the pre-Rock era.  Elvis covered "Good Rockin' Tonight".   Definitely an "unsung hero of Rock and Roll."    9

Dionne Warwick - I've heard it said that if she had stopped making records in 1970 she would be inducted already.  But she didn't and it's those Pop hits in the late 70's/early 80's that have made her seem too Pop for some.  But those Bacharach/David hits in the 60's are her recorded legacy.  8

Mary Wells - Nominated twice, but way back at the dawn of the Rock Hall in the 1986 and '87.  Wells has been hurt because her chart time was too brief that not even her Motown years has helped get her back on the ballot.   7

Diana Ross - She may not stand a chance getting in as a solo act, because the Supremes were so iconic, but she had a spectacular run on her own.  Factor in her Oscar-nominated performance in Lady Sings The Blues, her many Pop Top 40 hits and Diana turned out to be one of the biggest Pop stars of the 70's.   6

Barry White -  Some of the most lush, smooth dance records of the 70's came from White.  He crossed over with just about every record he put out during his peak years.  Often gets labeled as a Disco artist which is unfair.  He influenced that genre.  But his orchestral arrangements also reached many a R&B act in later years.   8

Chuck Willis - Nominated 6 times, the last in 2011 (after being left off the ballot since 1990).  Before he died in 1958, made some classic sides for Atlantic.  First records in 1951, so should be an Early Influence candidate. The NomCom keeps bringing him up, but voters don't know anything about him.   8

Johnnie Taylor - One of the signature voices during Stax's heyday.  Taylor had a long career (over 40 years) singing Gospel, Deep Soul, Disco and then in the 80's until his death, Chitlin' Circuit Soul.  Kind of underrated, but had the hits and longevity to make a good case for induction.  7

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