10 Glaring Omissions From The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

The rock and roll hall of fame is known for excluding numerous bands and artists over the years.  Here’s a list (in no particular order) of artists that are eligible, but currently not in the hall of fame.

Joy Division

With just two albums Joy Division influenced generations of artists from the early U2 records to The Killers.  Emerging from the punk scene, they were one of the first groups of that era to take the lo-fi esthetic of punk and emphasize mood and texture rather than sheer energy and bombast.  Ian Curtis’ cold baritone and lyrical fascination with isolation and despair  was a perfect mix for the icy, atmospheric music found throughout Unknown Pleasures and Closer.   And no matter what you think of the genre, it’s hard to think of Emo existing without Joy Division.


Television more or less invented post-punk taking cues from the Velvet Underground.  even though they began their career just as the punk scene was beginning to explode in New York City in the mid 70s.  Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd circumvented the traditional roles of lead and rhythm guitar, specifically on such songs as “Marquee Moon”, which often led the rhythm section of Fred Smith and Billy Ficca to anchor the songs.  What’s even more profound is the lack of blues influences, which even the more avant-garde and wild groups (like The Velvet Underground) had used as a blue-print.  While U2’s The Edge gets most of the credit to popular audiences for the extensive use of delay pedals, Verlaine was perhaps the first to really explore it.

Brian Eno

To many Brian Eno is just the guy who worked with U2, David Bowie and Coldplay.  As a producer and a member of Roxy Music, he certainly deserves recognition, but his solo albums have proved to be extremely influential as well helping to popularize minimalism.  Eno is often credited with coining the term (and also creating) “ambient music” – low volume music which is meant to change the listener’s perception of the environment around them.  His collaboration with David Byrne  1981’s My Life in the Bushes was one of the first records with extensive use of sampling.

Gram Parsons

There are so many alt-country artists on the scene, that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish what exactly constitutes the term.  But Gram Parsons was a true pioneer.  He welded together his love for traditional Country & Western into the emerging rock scene in a way that was not only groundbreaking, but also respectful to its original source. Country-rock never sounded as glorious as it does on GP and Grievous Angel.  While Parsons never had huge success, his influence can be felt on many records by The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, Ryan Adams and Wilco among countless others.

Toots and the Maytals

Bob Marley is more universally known, why omit Toots and the Maytals, one of the key artists in reggae?  They might not have had the big names songs that the wanna-be white dude with dreads plays in his dorm, but they might be more consistent.   The band had some of the best harmonies found in reggae, particularly on such as “Sweet and Dandy” the immortal “Pressure Drop”.  It also doesn’t hurt that Toots Hibbert has often been called a Jamaican Otis Redding for his soulful, tender vocals.

Emylou Harris

Emylou Harris has one of the best voices in rock and country music that is gut-renching and aching as it beautiful and angelic. So it’s no wonder she has been a go-to back up singer for artists such as Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, John Denver, and Ryan Adams among others.  Like her mentor Gram Parsons, Emylou Harris helped make traditional country cool for a rock audience.  And like many of those artists, Harris has a restless musical soul with consistently great records (Elite Hotel and Luxury Liner in particular).

Son House (Early Influence)

Thankfully the Rock Hall inducts early influences from artists who pre-dated rock and roll.  If you can include Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Lead Belly where the hell is Son House? Torn between his spiritual upbringing (he grew up wanting to be a preacher) and the secular and profane delta music, Son House embodied the Blues like no one else before or since.  Son House’s rhythms provided blueprint for hundreds of artists Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson to most recently The White Stripes.

The Faces

While The Faces aren’t as well known (or influential) as The Rolling Stones, they’re torn from the same cloth.  If you want dirty, sloppy rock and roll for a bad-ass party, The Faces are an essential soundtrack.  And like The Stones, you can feel the sweat and sheer joy from the performance. It’s hard not to want to get up and dance when listening to songs like “Stay With Me” and “Too Bad”.  A Nod Is As Good as a Wink To a Dead House is an undisputed classic in straight-up rock and roll boogie.  It’s also proof that, despite his cheesiness now, Rod Stewart was once pretty fantastic.

The Smiths

If you can include R.E.M. in the Rock Hall, you also have to include their British contemporaries, The Smiths.  Like Peter Buck, The Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr favored a clear ringing style of guitar that was under-stated but brilliant.  The Smiths’ jangled, melodic, alternative rock with Morrisey’s articulate and literate crooning style was a direct anthesis to the synth-pop that was over-taking the British music scene at the time.   Like Joy Division, The Smiths had a huge influence on Emo, providing the soundtrack for many alienated and confused teenagers.

Harry Smith (Non-performer)

It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of The Anthology of Folk American Folk Music (aka The Harry Smith Anthology).  Prior to this collection, many of these recordings would otherwise go unnoticed and be lost in time.  The Blues, Folk and Bluesgrass music culled from Depression-Era America, directly resulted in the Folk-Revival off the late 50s and early 60s.  Simply put, without Smith’s archival the Coffeehouse perfomances in Greenwich Village probably wouldn’t have existed.  And who can imagine music without that?


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11 responses to “10 Glaring Omissions From The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

  1. Kevin

    I completely agree about Television, the Smiths, Joy Division, Parsons, and Eno, but I’m not sure about Emmylou. Much as I love her voice, there are plenty of more deserving acts still missing (Johnny Ace, the MC5, Richard Thompson, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, and Chubby Checker). Son House should definitely be in, but the HOF has always been bad with Early Influences. I’d add Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Wynonie Harris, and Junior Parker, but that’s just me. Also, as an aspiring rock critic, you should probably be bothered by how few writers have been inducted as non-performers; Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, and Robert Palmer all deserve some consideration.

    What about the sideman category? Any omissions there?

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  3. I thought you would include Emylou. Surprised you mention her as one you didn’t agree with. I probably could have done 20. I did think of the MC5 actually, but couldn’t come up with enough to write about outside of “Kick Out the Jams” (which is an important song and record, I know.)

    I completely forgot about Chubby Checker…you’re right that’s a huge omission. Charlie Patton is another early influence that is missing as well.

    Good call on the rock critics….perhaps I’ll do a list of the 10 Best Rock Writers some-time soon.

  4. Kevin

    I wouldn’t be unhappy if Emmylou made it, but she’s pretty far down my list of eligible omissions. I love her voice and her music, but her real importance was singing back-up on other people’s records. Maybe she should be inducted in the sidemen category. Wenner belongs in, no question; RS made be crap today, but it did change the culture of rock and roll.

    I also wonder if Harry Smith belongs in the Rock and Roll HOF. His influence on rock and roll was indirect, and the non-performer inductees tend to have been directly associated with rock and roll (not roots music). What he did was important, but less important to rock and roll than to folk, and so many other non-performers (Quincy Jones, Jack Nitzsche, Richard Foos and Harold Bronson) should be on the list ahead of him.

    And top ten rock writers? I can only name three who are any good…

  5. Wait, wait. Quincy Jones isn’t on the list? Are you serious? Jesus, I spent a good while compiling people and looking at the list and I completely left him off. He does deserve to be, no doubt.

    As far as Harry Smith, I was reading an interview with Dylan from 2001, where he says that Marcus gives too much importance to the anthology and that everyone in the scene mostly learned the folk songs from seeing other people perform.
    I don’t know how true that is…you never know with Dylan. But I’m sure it’s mostly true.

  6. thegeekswereright

    The Smiths. ‘Nuff said.

  7. Interesting pick with Television. Out of all the proto- to punk bands I listen to, they probably get the least play. I always figured they get mentioned a lot in rock history ‘cuz Verlaine dated Patti Smith. I never really thought of the guitar playing’s influence on the post punk scene.

    • Television is great. I never really picked up on them until I read more about U2 actually. The Edge is the most famous guitar play for use of delay, but Verlaine was a huge influence on them. U2’s first couple albums – especially “Boy” – are straight post-punk. Lots of Television and Joy Division there.

  8. pete

    i agree mostly with you and kevin. i can see son house , but i cant see son house with out mississippi fred mcdowel. dont forget al kooper! that guy was everywhere. if you are going to include chubby..look at professor longhair, allen toussaint, and dr. john

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