18 Acts That Still Need To Be Inducted Into the Rock Hall

click to enlarge The British alt-rock band Radiohead was nominated but not inducted this year. - Alex Lake
Alex Lake
The British alt-rock band Radiohead was nominated but not inducted this year.
When the Rock Hall Inductions last took place in Cleveland three years ago, we put together a list of the bands that the Rock Hall has snubbed. While some of the acts have subsequently been inducted, many still haven't.

So with the inductions coming up on Saturday, we're revisiting that list and adding a couple of other acts that are currently eligible but not yet inducted — you know, just to contribute to the general bitching and moaning about the selection process that takes place each year.

Big Star

Rock 'n' roll as we know it today wouldn't exist without Memphis misfits Big Star, an unselfconscious, folk- and twang-inflected pop band that inspired everyone from the Replacements and Wilco to R.E.M. and the Bangles. Keening harmonies, chiming riffs and lyrics infused by longing, loneliness and faint optimism made the band's music feel like the comforting shoulder of a good friend. Cult acts rarely get the credit to which they're entitled, but Big Star deserves every accolade they receive. They've been eligible for more than 20 years.

Joe Cocker

It's a real shame that the gravelly voiced Cocker couldn't get his moment on the Hall of Fame stage prior to his passing a few years ago after a battle with cancer. Eligible since 1994, Cocker was a masterful interpreter of songs that had been written by others, and the fact that he didn't write them probably figures heavily into his continued exclusion. He put a huge amount of effort and passion into his performances, something that was famously parodied by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live, and if you saw him perform, it was evident that no matter who wrote the songs, he certainly wasn't coasting on the compositional work done by others.

The Cure

These British Goth rockers will probably never get inducted (they've only been nominated once) but they've got the catalog to merit inclusion. Formed in the wake of the punk explosion, the band still had that edge but it harnessed pop sensibilities in radio hits such as "Boys Don't Cry," "Just Like Heaven" and "Lovesong." There's a reason these songs still find their way onto movie soundtracks — they capture the restlessness of youth in a way that few other songs do and they have great hooks too.

De La Soul

Someone oughta represent the influential Native Tongues movement that took hold in New York in the late '80s and early '90s and found rap groups opting for a more positive portrayal of black culture. Rappers such as Mos Def were clearly influenced by the movement. So it might as well be De La Soul. The forward-thinking hip-hop act had only one outstanding album — 1989's Three Feet High and Rising, which just happened to be its debut — but the group's clever use of jazzy samples and skits made it into one of hip-hop's most distinctive acts. Producer Prince Paul deserves some of the credit; he went on to produce a slew of rap acts and issue a handful of solo efforts. If the group is inducted, it better invite him to the ceremony.


The British music duo featuring singer Annie Lennox and producer David A. Stewart pioneered the synth pop/New Wave sound that would become so popular in the '80s. While the band would split up in 1990, it left behind a legacy of hit tunes. Lennox went to have a semi-successful solo career, and Stewart became a sought-after producer. The group has been eligible for 12 years and was nominated for induction this year but didn't make the cut.

Hüsker Dü

Foo Fighters are a shoo-in for the Rock Hall the first year they're eligible. However, the band wouldn't exist without the '80s punk and hardcore underground, specifically kindred sonic spirits Hüsker Dü. The Minneapolis power trio (fronted by the mighty Bob Mould) merged furious tempos, aggressive guitar hooks and unstoppable pop melodies, and in the process proved that punk could be delicate and confrontational.

Iron Maiden and Judas Priest

Iron Maiden and fellow British hard rockers Judas Priest have each been eligible for induction for a long time now (14 years for Maiden, 19 years for Priest). Both bands are cornerstones of '70s and '80s hard rock and heavy metal. So what will it take to get them inducted? It might be as simple as waiting for turnover in the voting pool — the continued addition of hard rock inductees (and those who worshipped at the altar, like Dave Grohl) might eventually provide the necessary juice that will get them voted in.

Ben E. King

Technically, King is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — as one of the members selected from the complicated scorecard of musicians that made up the Drifters over the years. During King's short time with the group, he lent his soulfully smooth vocals to a number of future classics, including "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "There Goes My Baby." Due to management disputes, King's run with the band ended after less than two years and he went solo, recording a string of additional hits including the iconic "Stand by Me," penned with legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller — a track which went Top 10 twice, in 1961 and again in 1986. Since he was nominated three times in a row beginning in 1986, it's likely the window to induct King as a solo artist officially closed in 1988 with the Drifters induction. He hasn't been nominated since then.


They've been nominated before, but now more than ever Kraftwerk deserves a spot in the Rock Hall. Between their DIY instrument-building and electronic music experiments, the German act has been an inspiration to countless artists or scenes: '70s experimenters such as Bowie, Gary Numan and Human League; '80s new wave; '90s rock bands such as Nine Inch Nails and the modern EDM movement. Electronica is pretty much the new rock 'n' roll, and this wouldn't be the case without Kraftwerk.

Willie Nelson

Is there anybody more rock 'n' roll than Willie Nelson? In the eyes of the Hall, apparently so. The outlaw country singer-songwriter has been eligible since 1986, but never nominated. There have been collaborations with inductees like Aerosmith and U2, and his buddy and fellow Highwayman Johnny Cash is in the Hall. Like Cash, Nelson worked in a lot of different genres over the years, so it doesn't feel like much of a stretch to say that the Texas-bred storyteller has earned his place in the Hall. But he's also gotten his share of accolades in the right places — like the Country Music Hall of Fame. So a nod from the Rock Hall might not be coming anytime soon.

Stevie Nicks

If Lou Reed, Springsteen and each Beatle can get into the Rock Hall as solo artists, why not Stevie Nicks? Fleetwood Mac's queen witch has had a successful solo career for decades, starting with her Tom Petty duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" through the unstoppable "Edge of Seventeen" and 2014's underrated 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. Nicks' inimitable, gravelly voice and sartorial perfection — not to mention feminist perspectives — make her a musical icon; recognizing her bulletproof nature with a Rock Hall nod is the right thing to do.

Nine Inch Nails

Nominated for the first time three years ago, Nine Inch Nails fell short of the mark and wasn't inducted. It's rather disappointing, especially when you consider that the industrial rock group has such deep roots in Northeast Ohio. The group deserves the nod simply because albums such as Pretty Hate Machine, Broken and The Downward Spiral introduced industrial rock to a wide audience and did so without making any significant compromises. In the wake of those releases, frontman Trent Reznor has proven himself to be quite the composer on soundtracks for films such as The Social Network and Gone Girl.


If this British art rock band had only released 1997's OK Computer, we'd still be clamoring for its induction. One of the defining albums of the '90s, OK Computer inspired independent-minded acts to embrace experimentation even if that meant writing concept albums about the disconnection that exists in a high tech world. A commercial and critical success, the album established the group to such an extent that it continues to fill arenas even though it hasn't had a radio hit in years. Nominated for induction this year, the band was unfortunately overlooked in favor of Baby Boomer acts/fan favorites such as Dire Straits and Bon Jovi.

Roxy Music

That Roxy Music hasn't joined fellow U.K. shapeshifters David Bowie, Genesis and Peter Gabriel in the Rock Hall is a puzzle. Their early years were as challenging (and prog-leaning) as the latter two acts, while their shapeshifting tendencies and sleek, sophisticated electropop became a touchstone for debonair, boundary-pushing rockers of all persuasions. Bryan Ferry is also one of rock's great frontmen, dapper and classic in all the right ways.


Certainly '80s mope merchants the Smiths aren't — and were never — as mainstream as other college rock bands. However, in the past three decades, the group has been more influential overall, on genres both unexpected ('90s hardcore and post-rock, '00s Warped Tour rock) and logical (shimmering indie rock, gloomy singer-songwriters). Of course, it helps that frontman Morrissey (who's playing Akron in June) and guitarist Johnny Marr are a musical pairing on par with the Glimmer Twins, in the way the latter's effortless riffs and the former's playful melancholy created angsty, relatable magic.

Sonic Youth

Not only did Sonic Youth's DIY, artsy ethos and punk attitude influence recent Rock Hall inductees Nirvana, the New York band proved underground artists could be successful on their own terms — and join the mainstream without compromising their ideals or sound. The band's distortion-filled music and paeans to (and skewering of) pop culture kitsch were spot-on, while their detached-cool observations about power, feminism and relationships made them countercultural heroes. Even if Sonic Youth ended with the end of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore's marriage, their noisy, chaotic rock and roll left an indelible legacy.

Warren Zevon

If you did a quick poll of people on the street, most of them would probably tell you that Warren Zevon is already in the Rock Hall — because Zevon just seems like a guy who would have been inducted automatically in his first year of eligibility, right? One can only wonder if the notoriously difficult singer-songwriter pissed off more than a few of the people holding voting ballots. But his inimitable songwriting style and lyrics — preserved in songs like "Werewolves of London," "Lawyers, Guns & Money" and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" — make a case for induction that cannot be denied. And with pals like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt in the Hall, hopefully Zevon's legacy will eventually become a noise that can't be ignored. He's been eligible for more than 20 years but never nominated.

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About The Authors

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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