I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame some years ago, when I was speaking at a conference in Cleveland. I loved it, and spent something like 5 hours there — more than twice the time I usually spend in a museum of any kind. “Rock and roll” to me, means names from the past like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, the Supremes, the Beach Boys, the Beatles. More recently it means Joan Baez, who was inducted in 2017. I think of Baez as a folk musician not a rock and roll singer, but hey…
How do I know I’m old and completely out of touch with contemporary music? Here are the names of the current inductees, courtesy of the 538 Significant Digits newsletter:
“The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, that bastion of cultural relevance, announced its 2019 nominees for induction yesterday. They are The Cure, Def Leppard, Devo, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, Todd Rundgren and The Zombies.”
I recognize Janet Jackson’s name because I’m old enough to remember the Jackson Five, and of course Michael — the most famous Jackson. I also am vaguely aware the Janet had some sort of boob-exposing wardrobe malfunction while singing at a Super Bowl. I know LL Cool J from NCIS Los Angeles, but I have no sense of his work as a hip hop artist. I recognize the name Chaka Khan, but can’t tell you a thing about her. The rest of the names on the inductee list are a complete mystery to me.
I know the music of a lot of the old names, but nothing about what got the current group into the Hall of Fame. My obliviousness is a measure of something, to be sure. Radiohead? Rage Against the Machine? Not a clue.