(Todd A. Smith)
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has never exclusively belonged to rock music.
True music historians might even say that rock music is not rock & roll because the roll is missing from the rock.
Nevertheless, it seems that every time a non-rock musician gets nominated or inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, rock fans lose their minds as if the hall has welcomed in R&B, pop, hip-hop and reggae artists for the first time, therefore requiring a name change to the Pop Music Hall of Fame.
In 2022, that ire turned to country music icon Dolly Parton, who has since decided to turn down her nomination.
In a message posted to social media, Parton said, “Even though I am extremely grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.
“I do hope that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will understand and be willing to consider me again—if I’m ever worthy. This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock ‘n’ roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total rock ‘n’ roll freak, and has always encouraged me to do one. I wish all of the nominees good luck and thank you again for the compliment. Rock on!”
Parton’s brief nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame happened alongside fellow nominees Eminem, Rage Against the Machine, Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Kate Bush and Beck.
On “Fox and Friends,” the country icon added, “My perception, and I think the perception of most America—I just feel like that’s more for the people in rock music. I’ve been educated since then, saying that it’s more than that, but I still didn’t feel right about it. It kind of would be like putting AC/DC in the Country Music Hall of Fame. That just felt a little out of place for me.”
Although one must respect the queen of country and her decision to turn down potential induction for now, she deserves her place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and any other Hall of Fame because of what she has done in the music business and what she has done for Black rights and women’s rights.
And while rock fans gripe about nominees from other genres getting in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has never just been about rock musicians.
From the onset, musicians, writers and executives from non-rock genres have always been honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Therefore, music fans should not have this asinine conversation every year.
In 1986, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first group of honorees.
Those inaugural inductees included: Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, John Hammond, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Yancey.
Berry was the godfather of Rock & Roll so he should get no pushback from rock fans, obviously.
However, Charles was a soul artist who had gospel roots.
Charles even recorded country and western music.
Therefore, if rock fans have no problem with Charles, they should have no problem with Parton and others.
Cooke was a soul and pop artist, whose roots were in gospel music.
Fats Domino was a king of blues music.
The Everly Brothers were pop artists.
Freed was not even a professional musician.
He was a radio disc jockey.
However, Freed popularized the term rock & roll, so he definitely deserves a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because he “created” the name of the music genre.
Presley, Holly, Lewis and Little Richard were kings of rock & roll, so no problem there.
Johnson is probably the most important blues musician of all time.
But rock & roll did not even exist during Johnson’s lifetime.
Hammond was a music producer.
Yancey was a boogie-woogie pianist.
And like Parton, Rodgers made country music.
Even the sophomore class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 had non-rock inductees like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, The Coasters and executives like Leonard Chess of Chess Records (home to some of the best blues musicians of all time) and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, the man responsible for much of the success of Charles and Franklin.
Suffice it say, those who have a problem with artists like N.W.A, Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson or Earth, Wind & Fire, should have a problem with the entire institution of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because the hall’s definition of rock & roll obviously includes all popular music, not just what rock fans consider rock & roll.
The artform known as rock & roll was always more than just the instruments used.
Rock & roll was the attitude.
Rock & roll was anti-establishment.
Rock & roll was music for the young generation.
Therefore, rock & roll is hip-hop.
Rock & roll was Motown Records of the 1960s, the sound of young America.
Rock & roll was the grunge music coming out of Seattle in the early 1990s.
In a nutshell, rock & roll is just musical greatness, regardless of what musical instruments used.
And that greatness extends across all genres of music and always has, at least since the inception of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.