The foremost “grunge rock” group enjoys lasting critical and consumer approval two decades after the suicide of its frontman Kurt Cobain, and leads a field of 16 nominees announced this morning.
Half of the nominees, including Nirvana, are up for induction for the first time, the others being Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, The Replacements, Link Wray, Yes and The Zombies. Of these, the singular Ronstadt, who championed songwriters ranging from Buddy Holly to Elvis Costello while spearheading genres from country to classic American Songbook and even opera and Gilbert & Sullivan, could well benefit from recent visibility due to her disclosure that she is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The returning nominees are the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Kiss, LL Cool J, The Meters, N.W.A. and Cat Stevens. Here eight-time nominee Chic feels like a winner this time, as Nile Rodgers, its co-founder with the late Bernard Edwards, is enjoying a resurgence thanks to his successful collaboration with Daft Punk (he co-wrote its global hit “Get Lucky”).
First-timers Link Wray and The Zombies have a chance, standing out as the oldest nominees and also for their influence: Wray is a legendary rock ‘n’ roll guitarist who will appeal to voters who appreciate instrumental mastery—not to mention history. British Invasion band The Zombies, while they had only a few hits in the U.S., were led by one of rock’s all-time great keyboardists (Rod Argent) and voices (Colin Blunstone), both of whom had successful post-Zombies careers prior to reforming and coming back stronger than ever; Nirvana’s Dave Grohl is among many who credit their inspiration.
Fellow ‘60s act Paul Butterfield Blues Band also has more significant history than hits, but was nominated last year, as were Deep Purple and N.W.A. Maybe the familiarity will see them all through this year.
Of the other returnees, New Orleans rhythm kings The Meters, who have been heavily sampled by the likes of N.W.A., could have a crossover appeal to more broad-based RockHall voters that LL Cool J lacks; Kiss lacks it, too, but it’s hard to completely discount another hugely influential act, whose big songs include the rock-titled anthems “Rock And Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” from righteous recognition from for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cat Stevens? One of rock’s great singer-songwriters, whose “beautiful music” spot may be taken this time by Ronstadt.
That leaves new nominees. The Replacements were to the Minneapolis scene what Nirvana was to the Seattle scene—and preceded both. Nirvana’s big win won’t cancel out The Replacements, whereas whatever their merits, voters will pass this time on Peter Gabriel and Hall and Oates, and will likewise say no to Yes.
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