As the baby boomers’ death grip on the rock ‘n’ roll canon continues to loosen slowly over time, the nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are broadening, somewhat, in turn: Radiohead, Nina Simone, Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Eurythmics are among the first-time contenders for the 2018 induction class, it was announced Thursday.
More traditional throwback acts are among the crop of 19 as well: Dire Straits is nominated for the first time; J. Geils Band, with four previous nominations, is back; Bon Jovi returns for the second time (and first since 2011); and MC5 has its third nomination after missing the final cut last year and in 2003.
The nominees also include Judas Priest and the Moody Blues, both for the first time; Depeche Mode, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and Link Wray, for the second time; the Cars and the Zombies for the third time; and the Meters and LL Cool J for the fourth. (This year, Tupac Shakur became the sixth hip-hop act to be inducted.)
Pictured: Jazz singer Nina Simone relaxing at home in Los Angeles on June 3, 1990. (Oscar C. Williams/Shutterstock)
The hall has been rebuked over the years for what critics say is its lack of diversity and its hewing to conservative notions of classic rock. Five of the nominees this year are acts led by women, while six prominently feature nonwhite performers.
Artists become eligible for nomination 25 years after the release of their first recording and are selected for the shortlist by a nominating committee. A body of about 900 artists, historians and music industry figures then casts ballots; the inductees — usually about five — will be announced in December.
Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine were each nominated in their first year of eligibility, having put out commercial work in 1992. Those bands follow a spate of inductions for the leading rock groups of the MTV ‘90s, including Guns N’ Roses (2012), Nirvana (2014), Green Day (2015) and Pearl Jam (2017). Simone, nominated posthumously for the first time, on the other hand, has been eligible since 1986; her modern profile has been raised of late with the release of the documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” in 2015 and the feature film “Nina,” starring Zoe Saldana, last year.
Although Radiohead’s odds for induction seem strong — longevity, influence and innovation are all considered — members of the band expressed some ambivalence about the hall of fame in an interview with Rolling Stone this year. “I don’t care,” guitarist Jonny Greenwood said. Ed O’Brien added, “It seems very showbiz.” And Thom Yorke said, “It wouldn’t be the first place ...” before stopping himself. “I always put my foot in my mouth,” he said.
Inducted living artists are typically expected to be present and perform at the ceremony, scheduled for April 14 at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland. Excerpts from the show will be broadcast later by HBO.
As for snubs, Janet Jackson is back off the ballot after two consecutive nominations; Jane’s Addiction and Bad Brains, voted on for the first time last year, are gone again; and the Smiths, twice nominated, were skipped. Eligible since 2011, Soundgarden, whose lead singer Chris Cornell died this year, has never been nominated despite the recognition of some of its grunge peers.
The funk band Chic, which has a record 11 failed nominations, is also absent, a year after its creative engine, Nile Rodgers, was given something of a consolation prize in the form of the hall’s award for musical excellence.