It seemed like a good idea at the time—enshrine the biggest and best stars of the rock ‘n roll era, and give them their own building where fans can come and gape at the very guitar pick Eric Clapton used on “Layla.”
Reality has turned out to be a little different. The problem is that the list of the “biggest and best” dried up a long time ago. And so, in a few weeks, we (okay, the shrinking number of people who actually seem to care about these things) will witness the spectacle of Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures, and Leonard Cohen entering the hallowed halls. Let’s see:
Madonna—Possessing dubious musical skills, Madonna flounced her way to the top of the charts via a superb body, provocative panting, and savvy marketing. She also paved the way for artists such as Britney Spears. This is surely worthy of some sort of award. I’m not sure that the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame should be it, though. Maybe a plaque at the Playboy Mansion.
John Mellencamp—Springsteen Lite for the midwest, Mellencamp had a few feel-good anthems. But that little ditty about Jack and Diane was, in fact, a little ditty, and Mellencamp has alternated between throwaway nostalgia and blowhard political diatribes ever since.
The Ventures—Nothing like honoring an instrumental surf band 45 years after the fact. “Theme From Hawaii-5-0” was really cool, though.
Leonard Cohen—Leonard Cohen is most famous for being depressed. He’s articulate in his depression, but he can’t sing worth shit, and his most famous songs—“Suzanne,” “Bird on a Wire,” and “Hallelujah”—have been made popular (and calling Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” take “popular” is really stretching it) by others.
So those are the big stars. Lesser-known producers and songwriters will also be enshrined.
I’m telling you, it’s only a matter of time until REO Speedwagon and Toto have their shining moment in the sun. And when that happens, no one will care. Nor should they.