As if you needed extra incentive to visit the fair city of Cleveland, April 8th marks the 31st annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremony. Cleveland’s shrine to excess, decadence and glorious, thundering noise will welcome a new class of performers. And as with every year, their qualifications will be subject to debate. No doubt, opinions on Cheap Trick’s right to be in any Hall of Fame are myriad and varied.
But on the day that the Hall of Fame came to be, its inaugural class was fairly inscrutable. Back in 1986, nine years before the museum opened its doors to visitors, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation honored a group that included Elvis Presley, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
31 years later, the Class of 2016 will join 312 inductees of incredible range, commercial appeal, and cultural relevance. Indeed, the gap in impact between Heart and Hendrix is incalculable, but there they are, right next to each other in the museum’s alphabetical list of committee-appointed legends.
This year, along with the aforementioned Rockford, Illinois-based power popsters, Cheap Trick, horn-heavy arena-rock combo Chicago (which I believe is from Chicago) will enter the Hall of Fame. Their induction is proof that you don’t need to put thought into album titles to achieve such a status. Indeed, each of their albums is cleverly titled “Chicago” with a Roman Numeral indicating its place in their discography.
England’s influential riff-monsters, Deep Purple, will join Black Sabbath and Metallica as the Hall’s leading emissaries to metal. N.W.A. continues its year of well-deserved recognition by giving gangsta rap full-fledged Hall representation. Steve Miller, arguably the most well-liked and long-waited inductee, established his reputation as San Francisco’s Space Cowboy before morphing into the Joker and dispensing a treasure trove of ’70s FM gold.
If individually these artist’s don’t comprise the most impressive bunch of musicians ever inducted, collectively, they demonstrate precisely what makes rock and roll worthy of its own museum. Rock and roll is limited only by that which limits human imagination, creativity, or primal expression. It is greater than the sum of its parts, which are too many for one person to even know.
If all of that sounds a little too deep for a year in which “I Want You To Want Me” will almost certainly be heard at the induction ceremony, consider the rich and remarkable history contained within the Hall’s slanty retro-future walls. Certainly, it’s something we’ve given a ton of thought to. As you enjoy this year’s induction ceremony (or completely ignore it, your call), check out our growing library of Rock-Centric resources at TBS’s Rock and Roll University. We honor current members of the Hall, those likely to be inducted soon, and, for good measure, even a few who have absolutely no business being anywhere near a Hall of Fame.