The Artists Still Waiting for Their Deserved Rock Hall Nods

The snub club

The Artists Still Waiting for Their Deserved Rock Hall Nods

Each year, a new crop of rock, hip-hop and pop acts becomes eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Next year, some of the bands that could be nominated for the first time include alt rockers such as Smashing Pumpkins and Hole as well as the Brit-pop icons Blur, grunge rockers Alice in Chains and pop singer Mariah Carey. But there are a number of quality acts that have yet to be inducted (and some of them have never even been nominated!). Here's a list of some of the bands that have been snubbed along with our take on why they should be inducted.

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.

Cheap Trick

There are fewer bands cooler than the pride of Rockford, Illinois: Cheap Trick. Back in the day, the power-pop godfathers appealed to teenage hellraisers and wholesome suburban kids alike, thanks to Robin Zander's pitch-perfect voice and flowing locks, guitarist Rick Nielsen's riffs and flashy axes, and Bun E. Carlos' ferocious drumming. Today the band's songs (and Zander's voice) still sound as fresh as they did in the late '70s, making their Rock Hall exclusion all the more mystifying — and disappointing.


Chic found their greatest success as a disco act thanks to propulsive hits such as "Le Freak" and "Good Times." However, the group's bassline-first approach and emphasis on groove infiltrated countless other genres, from hip-hop ("Rapper's Delight" sampled "Good Times") to rock 'n' roll (Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" was reportedly inspired by the song). Plus, Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers became an influential producer who steered popular music in innovative directions; clients ranged from David Bowie and Madonna to the Honeydrippers and Duran Duran.


Their '70s output included songs like "25 or 6 to 4" and "Saturday in the Park," and the innovative guitar playing of Terry Kath, whose career was tragically cut short at 31 with a 1978 gun accident. The "rock 'n' roll band with horns" sent those same horns out on lunch break for most of the '80s, collaborating with David Foster on a string of hits that sent the group in a ballad-heavy direction that built off of the success of similarly light '70s tracks like "If You Leave Me Now." Admittedly, group members themselves were well-aware that they were never critic's favorites, with Lamm penning "Critic's Choice" in the mid-'70s as a lyrical response to the group's detractors. You can also wonder if their '80s legacy will permanently overshadow their '70s accomplishments and keep them out. Either way, with nearly a half century of work in the books, you can bet that Chicago isn't losing sleep over the snub.

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 last December 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.

Deep Purple

Media personality Eddie Trunk has been banging a very loud drum in recent years over artists who continue to get snubbed by the Rock Hall. When Metallica was inducted in 2009, singer James Hetfield borrowed elements of Trunk's list during his induction speech, calling for Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Ted Nugent and others to be inducted. Since then, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has acknowledged that he's part of a group of individuals working to get the English hard rockers, famous for the classic rock staple "Smoke on the Water," into the Hall. Frontman Ian Gillan couldn't care less, saying that the Hall voters "don't quite understand what we are" and, as he notes, "Who the hell wants to be in an institution anyway?" Nominated in 2013 and 2014, Deep Purple seems very likely to get an eventual nod.

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.

Electric Light Orchestra

ELO majordomo Jeff Lynne hobnobbed with Bob Dylan in the Traveling Wilburys and co-produced albums for Tom Petty, Joe Walsh and every member of the Beatles but John Lennon. That the music he created and produced with Electric Light Orchestra doesn't receive the same sort of respect as these icons is perplexing. Complex harmonies and arrangements — and hooks for days — make "Do Ya," "Mr. Blue Sky" and "Evil Woman" pop music staples, while his disco fusions are underrated. Hopefully Lynne's contributions to the Xanadu soundtrack aren't being held against him.

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 (10 years for Maiden, 15 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.

Moody Blues

The English progressive rockers had success that was spread across four decades including their unexpected resurgence in the '80s with "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're out There Somewhere." Now 51 years into their journey, the Moody Blues continue to play a yearly run of gigs that are well attended. Even with that enduring popularity, the group feels like a bit of a long shot; but it's not hard to imagine that someday, all of those "Nights in White Satin" tributes might pay off.

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 last year'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.


This hip-hop supergroup didn't have the longevity of inductees such as Public Enemy, but don't hold that against them. The group yielded some of the biggest names in hip-hop today, including Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Its incendiary album Straight Outta Compton provided a snapshot of what life in South Central L.A. was like in the '80s and scared the shit out of the FBI, who allegedly kept tabs on the guys in the wake of the album's release. They've been nominated but haven't gotten the votes to get in. Look for them to finally get the nod in the coming years.

Nine Inch Nails

Nominated for the first time this year, Nine Inch Nails fell short of the mark and won't be getting inducted at this year's ceremony. 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 album 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.

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.


Bassist Chris Squire is the only constant presence in the constantly revolving lineup of members who have shuffled in and out the door — sometimes several times — over the years in Yes. But these are highly influential names we're talking about, from Squire to vocalist Jon Anderson, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Bill Bruford and even future super-producer Trevor Horn, to name just a few. The group influenced a long line of future prog rockers, including bands like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, and with the recent inductions of Genesis and Rush, it seems very likely that Yes will find their place sometime "Soon."

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.

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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