Bon Jovi leads 2018 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees

More than 1,000 industry figures, including artists and historians, cast ballots
Bon Jovi performs at Meadowlands Stadium in Rutherford, N.J., on May 26, 2010.
Bon Jovi performs at Meadowlands Stadium in Rutherford, N.J., on May 26, 2010.

Can 1 million Bon Jovi fans possibly be wrong?

The formerly huge-haired New Jersey group leads the 2018 class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the organization announced Wednesday, an accomplishment that may have at one time been thought impossible. Long a commercial juggernaut, if scoffed at by music snobs, Bon Jovi also won the Rock Hall’s fan poll, receiving more than 1 million public votes, which counts as a single vote in the overall judging.

Asked about its inclusion, Jon Bon Jovi, the band’s lead singer, stammered a bit.

“Well. I mean … we’re very happy about it,” he said in an interview. “And um, you know. It’s great.”

He paused.

“I really want to say it’s about time,” he added, using a colorful adjective omitted here.

The band will be inducted along with Nina Simone, the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who will receive an Award for Early Influence, at the 33rd induction ceremony April 14 at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland; the show will be broadcast later by HBO and SiriusXM.

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More than 1,000 industry figures, including artists and historians, cast ballots for induction. The Rock Hall takes into account “an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique,” according to the criteria. Artists become eligible for the Rock Hall 25 years after the release of their first recording.

“Am I relieved? Yeah,” said Jon Bon Jovi, whose group has been eligible since 2008. “Am I pleased? Absolutely. But,” he repeated, “It’s about time,” using the same colorful adjective.

Starting with its self-titled debut in 1984, Bon Jovi has released 13 studio albums, including “This House Is Not for Sale,” which topped the Billboard chart last year. The group’s hits like “Runaway,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “It’s My Life” have led to more than 100 million records sold (hence the 2004 box set titled “100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong”).

Still, the band’s place in the pantheon — especially this one — has remained an open question. In “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine,” a juicy new biography by Joe Hagan about the publishing mogul, who also co-founded the Rock Hall, Bon Jovi receives a special kind of scorn.

“I don’t think he’s that important,” Wenner, who remains chairman of the foundation that oversees inductions and was himself inducted in 2004, is quoted as saying in the book. “What does Bon Jovi mean in the history of music? Nothing.”

Wenner also noted that Jon Bon Jovi enlisted billionaire investor Ron Perelman to help his case. (The band had been nominated once before, in 2011.)

Jon Bon Jovi declined to respond directly to those slights.

“There’s no reason to get into mudslinging,” he said, adding of the voters: “The truth is that they all came around and said, ‘You can’t deny the facts.’”

He continued: “We’re not on the ‘where are they now?’ tour. My last three tours were the biggest-grossing tours in the world. We’ve been blessed that people come and see us and there’s a big catalog of music. I wasn’t surprised, but I was pleased.”

The rest of the Rock Hall crop varies from more straightforward — Dire Straits and the Moody Blues, which both got in on their first try — to slightly left of center.

Although the Rock Hall has been criticized in the past for its lack of diversity, five of the nominees this year were acts led by women, while six featured nonwhite performers. Ultimately, two prominent black women — Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (both deceased) — made it in as first-time nominees.

Other less down-the-middle rock ‘n’ roll acts to receive their first look this year — including Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, Eurythmics and Radiohead — did not make the cut this time. Members of Radiohead publicly expressed ambivalence about the honor and booked a tour date in South America on the night of the induction ceremony.

Overall, this class of inductees also stands out for lack of acts especially popular with Gen X: Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, N.W.A., Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Public Enemy have all been inducted in recent years. Additional nominees passed over this year included Depeche Mode, Judas Priest, J. Geils Band, the Zombies and LL Cool J, who would have been the seventh hip-hop act inducted.

Jon Bon Jovi said he was looking forward to the ceremony, although he was not aware that all the groups present traditionally participate in an all-star jam at the end.

“I really don’t watch award shows and get caught up in all that,” he said.

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