Monday, February 16, 2015

Rock Hall Musical Excellence Award Candidates

Well let's get it out of the way.  Here's the way the Rock Hall describes the Award for Musical Excellence:

This award honors musicians, songwriters and producers who have spent their life creating important and creative music.  Their originality, impact and influence have  changed the course of music history.  These artists have achieved the highest level of  distinction that transcends time.  

And here's the last 5 recipients:
Leon Russell
Cosimo Matassa
Tom Dowd
Glyn Johns
E Street Band
Ringo Starr

The Hall's description casts a wide net.  Doesn't lean one way or the other.  So, what I see in the 6 names listed above are a combination of Producers, engineers, session players, songwriters and a backing band.  Wide net indeed.

But as with all things Hall, I like to focus on who really deserves induction.  Once Ringo Starr's name was listed as an Musical Excellence inductee it did indeed set off some off-hand comments. Did he deserve it?  And without help from his friends, would he have gotten in?   First, Ringo should thank Paul McCartney for pushing him in.  Much like Elton John did for Leon Russell.  Putting Ringo in meant the Hall ensured a McCartney/Ringo duet on their telecast.  And lots of publicity.  If I had a vote, Ringo wouldn't get in for his post-Beatle career.

Let's move on to more worthy picks.   I'm going to stick with the initial intent of the award, even though the Hall is known to make up rules as they go along.

Let me know some of the names I missed.  Suggestions are welcome.

Nile Rodgers-  He has already said he wouldn't except an award like this without Chic.  But if the Hall wanted to end the yearly circus they are subjecting Nile too they could do just that.  Besides the Chic classics he and Bernard Edwards wrote classics for Sister Sledge and Diana Ross.  As a Producer, Nile had hits with Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, INXS, Stevie Ray & Jimmy Vaughan,  Daft Punk, B-52's, etc.

Jeff Lynne -  ELO, the Move, The Traveling Wilburys.  That should be enough.  But then add his production work with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and others.  Stunning that in 2015, ELO have never even been nominated.

Todd Rundgren - Being a member of Nazz and Utopia notwithstanding, Rundgren's credentials were really boasted by his 70's solo records and his production work.  Among the artists he produced:  Grand Funk, New York Dolls, Meat Loaf, Badfinger, XTC, Hall & Oates, Patti Smith, etc.

Glen Campbell - When you add his session work with The Wrecking Crew, his TV show from 69-72 and his Countrypolitan classics (and he was in True Grit) then Campbell more than fulfills the criteria.

Meters/Neville Brothers - Looks like the Meters will be one of those acts that's going to have trouble getting into the Hall.  Nominated 3 times (last in 2014).  But they qualify for this award based not only on their records from the 70's, but because they were session musicians on many New Orleans artists records, and played on albums by Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer and others.  While the Hall is at it, they might as well induct the Neville Brothers.  Still amazes me that the Neville Brothers have never been nominated. And besides, if the E Street Band qualify as a Musical Excellence artist, so do the Meters.

Billy Preston - Should have been given the same time as Ringo's.  After all he was once referred to as the "fifth Beatle".  Before his 70's solo success, Preston was a top flight session musician.  Not just appearing on Beatles albums, but also on records by Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, etc.

Brian Eno - Once a member of Roxy Music, he's released many critically-acclaimed solo albums.  And as a Producer he's worked on classic albums by Talking Heads, Devo and U2.

Willie Nelson  - A Country artist who has transcended genres to become a cultural icon.  The Outlaw movement that he and Waylon Jennings popularized was influenced by the spirit of Rock and Roll.  But the independence that Willie and the rest exhibited in the early days of the movement?  It doesn't get any more Rock and Roll than that.

Kris Kristofferson -  To be given out the same year as Nelson's, because he was another member of the Outlaw movement that appealed to Rock fans.  The songs Kristofferson influenced future Nashville and Rock songwriters.  He also has had a long career as an actor.

Al Kooper - He discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, was a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, a member of the Blues Project, played the organ on "Like A Rolling Stone".  Also played with Stephen Stills and Michael Bloomfield on the Super Session album.  Many session dates and production work also.

Chips Moman - Founded American Sound Studio where the likes of Wilson Pickett, the Box Tops and others recorded hits.  Produced Elvis Presley's comeback album, From Elvis In Memphis.  Has written and played on numerous Soul and Country classics.
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