Long accused of having a racist and sexist bias against female musicians and musicians of color, the Cleveland-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled on Feb. 10 one of the most diverse rosters of nominees for inclusion in its Hall of Fame in the organization’s history.
Of the 16 acts nominated (all of whom must have a catalog of music dating back 25 years or longer), 11 are either female or include people of color. The diverse nominees for this year’s class include Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, The Go-Go’s, Jay-Z, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, Rage Against the Machine, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick. The remaining nominees are Devo, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, the New York Dolls and Todd Rundgren.
Variety’s Chris Willman has reported this diverse roster of nominees appears to at least help right a few long-standing controversies that have dogged the pop culture institution over the years. On The Go-Go’s, he said “Within the last year, there was a renewed abundance of head-scratching over why the most successful all-female rock band of all time had never been counted sufficiently influential to get at least a nod for the Hall.”
In a 2020 interview, Willman reported that Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle was obviously bothered by the ongoing slight. “At this point, to be 150% honest with you, I could give a f—,” she told Willman. “I mean, it would be nice, but… I know what we accomplished, and I’m really, really proud of that, and I don’t need the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s validation for that.”
A superstar in her own right, Tina Turner is already a member of the Hall of Fame for her work with ex-husband Ike but has never before been honored on her own.
“LL Cool J is the returning nominee who’s been thwarted the most times; this is his sixth time up at-bat for the honor,” Willman reported. “For Khan, it’s her third time being nominated as a solo artist; she has also been separately nominated as a member of Rufus four times, without success.”
According to Willman, “Among first-time nominees, Warwick and Kuti are the two who are getting put up for the honor after having been eligible for the longest time; they put out their first recordings in 1962 and 1970, respectively.”
Acknowledging that work was obviously done in an effort to correct the Hall of Fame’s very white and very male past, the organization’s chairman John Sykes said, “this remarkable ballot reflects the diversity and depth of the artists and music the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates. These Nominees have left an indelible impact on the sonic landscape of the world and influenced countless artists that have followed them.”
Now that nominees have been announced, a pool of roughly 1,000 musicians and industry professionals will vote on the final inductees, who will be unveiled in May 2021. In previous years, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony included a massive concert. However, due to COVID-19, last year’s ceremony was pre-recorded and aired on HBO. Producers are reportedly still working to determine the format of this year’s ceremony.