December 14, 2016

Candidates for the Rock Hall's Ahmet Ertegun Award, Part 2: Bob Geldof and Casey Kasem

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017 announcement is due Tuesday, December 20 (see our inductee predictions here). However, there's another significant honor the Hall frequently bestows: the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which generally goes to producers, record executives, songwriters, and various industry figures that have made their indisputable mark on rock and roll.

In a previous installment, the merits of Rick Rubin and Daniel Lanois for the Ahmet Ertegun were reviewed. This time around, the focus turns to two more prospects, one a notable rock and roll activist, the other a legendary DJ.

Bob Geldof at Live Aid
Bob Geldof
His name is forever synonymous with Live Aid, the monumental 1985 all-star concert for African famine relief, but Bob Geldof's achievements are many. For instance, this time of year, you are very likely to hear Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas," a huge international hit from 1984 penned by Geldof and Ultrovox's Midge Ure, and sung by a then-who's-who of Irish and British music stars. This mega-selling single was a clear prercursor to USA for Africa's "We Are the World."

Geldof's activist achievements also include Live 8, a 10-concert charity extravaganza in 2005 intended to raise consciousness around African economic, hunger, and AIDS issues. (The internationally-held event was also notable for reuniting Pink Floyd's long-estranged members for an historic performance.) To this day, he continues to fight on behalf of the impoverished as a member of the Africa Progress Panel as well as the ONE Campaign.

Before activism was a major aspect of his life, Geldof was the frontman for the New Wave group the Boomtown Rats, best known for their 1979 single "I Don't Like Mondays"—a harrowing song that both bemoaned and offered commentary on a school shooting long before such events sadly became commonplace. Elsewhere in his resume, it seems most rock fans either forget or are unaware that he played the lead role of "Pink" in the movie version of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

A major figure in the realm of rock and roll activism, music, and even film, Bob Geldof should probably be a part of any future Ahmet Ertegun Award conversation. This Rock Hall trophy might be a tad anticlimactic, as Geldof has an honorary knighthood from the Queen, and a Man of Peace award from the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, among other honors... but for his high-profile, decades-long committment to the greater global good, he should be recognized.

Top 40 Legend: Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem
A broadcasting luminary hailing from Detroit, Kemal Amin "Casey" Kasem was one of the most well-known, household name-level DJs in America until his death in 2014. For a wide swath of the populus, his weekly show American Top 40 (which ran between 1970 and 2004) was a regular listening habit—a ritual marked by hearing the latest pop songs, "Long Distance Dedications" and Kasem's resonant, reassuring voice. And zoinks, lest we forget, Kasem, a busy voiceover artist, was even the voice of Shaggy on the beloved animated show Scooby-Doo.

Kasem's most obvious peer on some levels is Dick Clark, who was given the Ahmet Ertegun Award in 1993, and if we're talking DJs, the first recipient of this honor was Mr. Alan Freed himself. While Kasem is perhaps more of a "pop music" figure, there's no denying the fact his voice was deeply woven into the American tapestry; he held an important cultural position long before MP3s, streaming music, and irretrievably fragmented musical tastes became the modern norm. His worthiness for the Ahmet Ertegun Award is, well, off the charts.