The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has pulled the curtain back on six inductees who’ll be formally ushered in as the class of 2021, with Jay-Z, the Go-Go’s, Tina Turner, Todd Rundgren, Carole King and Foo Fighters all invited to make the trip to Cleveland this October.
Notably, the hall will also welcome several other artists that did not appear on the general ballot this year but are being inducted in other categories, including two artists that have been repeatedly nominated in the past without being voted in, Kraftwerk and LL Cool J.
Among the main crop of performer inductees, women were voted into three of six slots — representation that’s likely to be welcomed after years of complaints that rock’s female pioneers have gone underrepresented — and two out of six are Black artists.
Among the main crop of a half-dozen inductees, King and Turner are receiving their second inductions. Tina Turner was voted into the hall all the way back in 1991 as half of the duo Ike and Tina Turner. King’s previous induction goes back even a year prior to Turner’s. She was brought in as half of a duo, too, when she was inducted along with former partner Gerry Goffin in the songwriting category in 1990. Neither had ever been nominated as a solo artist until this year.
King and Turner are the second and third women to be selected for induction twice, after Stevie Nicks came in as a solo artist in 2019 following her previous membership as a member of Fleetwood Mac.
Most of the class of 2021 got in the first time they appeared on the ballot, although that should come with a big asterisk for some who had been long eligible. The Go-Go’s had never been nominated before — a huge point of controversy and contention for a hall that had been accused of recognizing pioneering women rockers late, if ever (with some seeing New York vs. L.A. bias also figuring into their previous exclusion). Interviews around the Go-Gos’ Sundance/Showtime documentary last year led to inevitable media discussions of why the band had never been in contention despite being eligible for roughly 15 years.
Meanwhile, Foo Fighters also got in their first time on the ballot, but this was their first year of eligibility, with a mere quarter-century having passed since the band’s debut album. Dave Grohl, of course, will join Turner and King as a double inductee, having previously been brought in as the drummer for Nirvana.
Todd Rundgren got the nod on only his third nomination, although he became eligible in 1996; he was previously nominated in 2019 and 2020. King was previously nominated as a performing artist only once before this year, remarkably… all the way back in 1989.
Special awards being given out in three other categories are certain to get a lot of attention, especially because of the inclusion of artists who’d previously been repeatedly put before voters in the main performer category without success.
Kraftwerk is being recognized with an “Early Influence Award.” The pioneering electronic group had previously been nominated as performers six times, starting in 2003 and as recently as last year. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finding a different way to get them in may be seen as the inner circle saying: If the general votership won’t do the right thing, after repeated opportunities, we will.
The same goes for LL Cool J, who is being given a “Musical Excellence Award.” Like Kraftwerk, the rapper-actor, too, had been nominated six times before, starting in 2010 and continuing through this year’s ballot.
Joining LL Cool J in getting that Musical Excellence honor are solo star and “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston and metal guitarist Randy Rhoads. Those being recognized with an Early Influence Award besides Kraftwerk are soul-jazz performer (and seminal hip-hop influence) Gil Scott Heron and early 20th century blues musician Charley Patton.
Finally, the singular Ahmet Ertegun Award, typically given to executives or other non-performing figures, this year goes to Clarence Avant, the celebrated industry trailblazer who was subject of the 2019 Netflix documentary “The Black Godfather.”
And now, a moment of loud rock ‘n’ roll silence for those 10 artists on the 2021 ballot who didn’t make it to the final six, a highly illustrious crop in and of itself: Kate Bush, Devo, Dionne Warwick, Rage Against the Machine, Chaka Khan, Iron Maiden, Mary J. Blige, the New York Dolls, Fela Kuti… and LL Cool J, who, as previously noted, is getting a separate entree.
The 36th annual ceremony is set for Oct. 30 at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, a welcome return to live proceedings after last year’s class had to settle for a virtual, pre-recorded HBO induction due to the pandemic. SiriusXM subscribers will be able to hear a live simulcast and, as always, an edited version will be seen later on HBO (and, now, the streamer HBO Max).