March 21, 2019

It's Too Late: Artists That Should Have Been Inducted Before They Died

Ain't that a shame. 

Another beloved music artist passes on, and along with the sadness their fans feel, the realization that this icon wasn't inducted into the Rock Hall is salt in the wound.

But let's pump the brakes just for a second. Perspective is so important. A Rock Hall induction, to the departed's immediate family and friends, doesn't even register. There are concerns of far greater consequence. Life, after all, is way bigger than a career achievement trophy. Recently, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) made some entirely rational comments to Stereogum on this very topic:

"...I’m not gonna sleep any better. Included or not. With that being said, it’s always nice to feel you’ve been appreciated to some degree but it’s not on my list of things I have to achieve before I die."

Reznor's candid position is presumably shared by many of his peers. But on the other side of this matter, the fan experience is different. Fans feel these artists belong to them on some level; these musical heroes have enriched, provided a soundtrack to, and elevated their lives in immeasurable ways. Music has given them freedom, identity and exhilaration when they needed it most. To evoke the late Dick Dale's thrilling guitar work, music is the wave we catch — it carries us. Everyday fans process these deaths differently — to them, it's unjust that their heroes weren't afforded the proper respect while they were with us, in the form of Rock Hall recognition. It was avoidable, and it's hard to understand. They feel invalidated by proxy.

So this stuff matters, on some level. Whenever a major popular music figure dies, from Prince to Gregg Allman to Aretha Franklin, the fact they were members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is reliably noted in their obituary, often within the first two paragraphs. And it must be said — few turn down the honor or fail to show up. Most celebrate it and invite their families to the ceremony.

Alas, many never got that chance. Here's a partial list of snubbed artists that should have been inducted before they died (yes, there are others). In a perfect world, the Hall's committees and voters would observe the recent lessons of Dick Dale and Peter Tork passing, and take appropriate nominating/inducting action with those still with us. There are many still-living artists that are wildly overdue, and many ailing musicians that could get in before it's too late.

(One distinction to call out: There are also several individuals who were inducted posthumously when it didn't have to be that way/after long periods of eligibility, i.e. Yes' Chris Squire, Deep Purple's Jon Lord, Donna Summer, Moody Blues' Ray Thomas, etc. The following list is comprised of deceased individuals that might have had nominations, but were never inducted.)

Barbara Ann Alston (The Crystals) Eligible in 1988, died in 2018, no nominations

William Jan Berry (Jan and Dean) Eligible in 1985, died in 2004, no nominations

Clive Burr (drummer, Iron Maiden) Eligible in 2004, died in 2013, no nominations

Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) Eligible in 1991, died in 2010, no nominations

Bob Casale (keyboardist/guitarist, Devo) Eligible in 2002, died in 2014, 1 nomination

Joe Cocker Eligible in 1994, died in 2014, no nominations

Glenn Cornick (founding bassist, Jethro Tull) Eligible in 1993, died in 2014, no nominations

Dick Dale Eligible in 1987, died in 2019, no nominations

Ronnie James Dio - His band Dio eligible in 2008 (he was technically eligible with Black Sabbath in 1995, Sabbath was inducted without him in 2006). Died in 2010, no nominations

Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) Eligible in 1995, died in 2016, no nominations

J. Geils (J. Geils Band) - Eligible in 1995, died in 2017, 5 nominations

Lesley Gore Eligible in 1995, died in 2015, no nominations

Gladys Horton (The Marvelettes) Eligible in 1986, died in 2011, 2 nominations

Whitney Houston Eligible in 2009, died in 2012, no nominations

Davy Jones (The Monkees) Eligible in 1991, died in 2012, no nominations

Arthur Kane (bassist, New York Dolls) Eligible in 1998, died in 2004, 1 nomination

Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead) Eligible in 2002, died in 2015, no nominations

Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) Eligible in 1995, died in 2016, no nominations

Alan Myers (drummer, Devo) Eligible in 2002, died in 2013, 1 nomination

Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) Eligible in 2002, died in 2018, no nominations

Peter Tork (The Monkees)Eligible in 1991, died in 2019, no nominations

Alan Vega (Suicide) Eligible in 2002, died in 2016, no nominations

Mary Wells Eligible in 1986, died in 1992, 2 nominations

Link Wray Eligible in 1983, died in 2005, 2 nominations

Warren Zevon Eligible in 1994, died in 2003, no nominations

Members of the Spinners - Eligible in 1986, 3 nominations
Pervis Jackson, died in 2008
Billy Henderson,  died in 2007
C. P. Spencer,  died in 2004
Bobby Smith, died in 2013
George Dixon, died in 1994
Edgar "Chico" Edwards, died in 2011
Philippé Wynne*, died in 1984 (*prior to Rock Hall's existence)

(Acknowledgement and thanks, as always, to Future Rock Legends for many of these stats.)