The Case for All 15 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Candidates
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will soon announce which of the 15 nominees will make 2019 induction class. Even though only five will be enshrined, we think each of them deserves the honor. We've made our cases for all of them in the past, but below you'll find a summary of why each artist could make the cut, along with links to a bigger overview of their greatness.
With their relentless studio perfectionism, Def Leppard defined the sound of '80s rock. While their 1979 self-titled EP and debut album, On Through the Night, stood out from many of the rest of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, Def Leppard soon hooked up with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who brought along his radio-friendly sensibilities. Pyromania and Hysteria expertly blended crunchy guitars with anthem-sized choruses. Both sold more than 10 million copies -- one of only five other rock bands to accomplish that feat. Along the way, they've had to deal with their share of adversity, such as drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a car crash and the death of guitarist Steve Clark. But they've persevered through it all and have remained a top concert draw.
Already in the Rock Hall as a member of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks' solo career has stood out for the chances she's taken. Her hits have veered into other genres -- like country, blues and more muscular rock -- than the sophisticated pop her band typically makes. She's also been a valued collaborator, having recorded smash duets with Tom Petty, Don Henley and Kenny Loggins. Nicks has been an inspiration to subsequent generations of female musicians, including Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey, while sporting a signature style.
Few careers have been as varied as Todd Rundgren's. He's tried his hand at psychedelic rock, prog, electronic, one-man-band sensitive pop, rap and more. He's followed his muse regardless of commercial considerations, which has earned him one of music's most devoted fan bases. He's also been a successful producer, helming classics by the Band, Badfinger, Meat Loaf and XTC.
Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine's 1992 debut was a near-perfect fusion of metal, funk and rap. Zach de la Rocha's angry, politically charged lyrics and fierce delivery was met by the innovative sounds coming out of Tom Morello's guitar. They've shaken up the system in their own way -- closing down the New York Stock Exchange during a video shoot and breaking Simon Cowell's X Factor's hold on Christmas No.1 hits in the U.K. And their songs still sound fresh today.
David Bowie was so blown away after seeing Devo in concert that his endorsement helped them get a record deal. Their 1978 debut presented their theory of de-evolution -- the idea that society was regressing due to conformity -- through their experimental but accessible synth-driven songs. As video became essential to the marketing of a band, Devo's matching outfits topped with "Energy Domes" gave them a distinct and easily recognizable image, certifying them through the ages as one of the definitive New Wave bands.
Born into pop's most famous family, Janet Jackson fought back against her father's plans for her career. Control, from 1986, was a rebuke of the lightweight pop of her initial efforts and showed a maturing woman in charge of her career and image. She took that even further, making a strong sociopolitical statement with Rhythm Nation 1814. Her music videos are iconic, and she's sold an estimated 100 million albums across her nearly four decades of music-making.
The heavy guitars of "Creep" suggested Radiohead were a British version of a grunge group, but they quickly showed there was a lot more to them. From 1995's The Bends to 2016's A Moon Shaped Pool, they've been one of the most consistently interesting bands in the world, delivering records with textured productions that reveal new depths on multiple listens and have improved with age. Late-'90s and early '00s classics OK Computer and Kid A are certifiable masterpieces.
Roxy Music's debut helped predict pop music in the '80s -- all the way back in 1972. Fronted by Bryan Ferry, their sleek, post-modernist style predated MTV, they championed the Velvet Underground a decade before they became the de rigueur name for every college rock band to drop and they launched the career of future super-producer Brian Eno. Roxy Music continued to evolve -- moving from angular, experimental prog to lush, mature pop over the course of their career -- and they've proven to be a major influence on modern indie rock.
While most of the British Invasion bands were copying American R&B bands, the Zombies set themselves apart thanks to Rod Argent's jazzy keyboards on the signature hits "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No." And like the fictional creatures from which they took their name, they've risen from the dead. The group had broken up with a masterpiece of an album, Odessey and Oracle, completed but not released. Columbia A&R man Al Kooper heard it on a trip to England and demanded that they put it out. "Time of the Season" became a defining psychedelic anthem.
Loud and brash, Detroit's MC5 bucked the late-'60s trend toward long, explorative songs with short bursts of energy that were closer in spirit to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. That helped pave the way for punk half a decade later. Their debut, 1969's Kick Out the Jams, was revolutionary, and not just because of the F-bomb on the title track. They were genuine radicals of the day, supporting the White Panther party and performing during the protests at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention. And singer Rob Tyner's Afro deserves to be in the Hall all by itself.
Could the alternative revolution of the '90s have happened without the Cure? Their early records influenced the nascent American college rock scene, and their mid-'80s pop-chart breakthrough showed there was a sizable market for music outside the mainstream. And even though they balked at being linked with goth, their gloomy, darkly romantic music (and image) helped bring those concepts to a wider audience. And let's not forget that 1998 episode of South Park where Robert Smith triumphed over the evil Mecha-Streisand.
Rufus & Chaka Khan
The hits of Chaka Khan, first as the singer of Rufus and then on her own, spanned the early '70s through the mid-'80s. That is to say that, in the timeline of R&B divas, she dominated the period just after Aretha Franklin's ascendancy and before the arrival of Whitney Houston. "Tell Me Something Good," "Sweet Thing," and "I'm Every Woman" were slinky, powerful and sexy declarations of feminist and black empowerment. And she also bridged the generations of African-American music with her last major smash, "I Feel for You," which featured harmonica by Stevie Wonder and rapping by Melle Mel on a song written by Prince.
Krautrock emerged as a generation of Germans born after World War II looked to create a new culture, free from their country's traditions. Artists were intrigued by the possibilities of combining rock with electronic instruments and concepts, and Kraftwerk along with Tangerine Dream and Can, became the leaders of the new sound. Their minimalist “motorik beat,” so named because of how closely it mirrors the rhythms of driving, was perfected on mid-'70s classics like Autobahn and Trans Europe Express. Even though they never reached beyond cult status on a commercial level, their impact has been felt for decades, first in synth-driven New Wave and later in hip-hop and EDM.
John Prine honed his storytelling chops in the most nontraditional way: working on songs in his head while delivering mail. He'd then try them out in the Chicago folk scene, which included singer-songwriter Steve Goodman, who wrote "City of New Orleans." He was quickly championed by movie critic Roger Ebert, who walked in on one of his early gigs and raved about him in a column, and Kris Kristofferson, who brought him to New York, where he got signed. A songwriter's songwriter if ever one existed, Prine has also wowed the likes of Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, John Mellencamp and Johnny Cash -- all of whom have praised him. Bonnie Raitt covered his "Angel From Montgomery," leading a list of artists who've sang Prine's songs over the years. His influence can be felt today in the songs on Jason Isbell and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, both of whom have worked with Prine in recent years.
LL Cool J
Of all the seminal '80s New York rappers, the greatest one who hasn't yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is LL Cool J. In addition to being one of the most skilled battle rappers, he had both hip-hop's first great ballad, "I Need Love," and its greatest comeback -- even though he warned us not to call it one -- with "Mama Said Knock You Out." He's also had one of the most successful acting careers of any rapper, with more than 40 movie roles and a regular spot on NCIS: Los Angeles, all without any formal training. And, like many rockers, he's fought through his own issues with the star lifestyle, emerging with his career and credibility intact.