The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s eclectic slate of 14 nominees for the class of 2023 runs the gamut from Kate Bush, who’s been nominated three times before but stands an especially good chance of getting in now, to Willie Nelson, who could follow fellow country icon Dolly Parton in, to Missy Eillott and the White Stripes, both of whom are late-’90s icons being put up for the honor in their first year of eligibility.
The full lineup of artists selected by the Hall’s nominating committee as 2023 contenders:
- Kate Bush
- Sheryl Crow
- Missy Elliott
- Iron Maiden
- Joy Division/New Order
- Cyndi Lauper
- George Michael
- Willie Nelson
- Rage Against The Machine
- The Spinners
- A Tribe Called Quest
- The White Stripes
- Warren Zevon
A slight majority of the 14 nominees — eight in all — are on a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot for the first time: Missy Elliott, Warren Zevon, Willie Nelson, the White Stripes, Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael and Joy Division/New Order.
That means, of course, that the remaining six are returning after being nominated but not voted in before. Kate Bush didn’t make the final cut when previously nominated in 2018, 2021 and 2022, but would seem to have the wind at her back now, with her oldie “Running Up That Hill” having oddly become one of the biggest hits of the past year, due to a “Stranger Things” sync.
Rage Against the Machine is another act that appeared on the ballot last year that is up again for a fourth time; the band was also nominated in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Soul group the Spinners was up three prior times, as well, but for them, it’s been seven years since their last nomination. The ensemble’s previous nods came in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Soundgarden, Iron Maiden and A Tribe Called Quest are all on the ballot for a second time this year after having been nominated once in the recent past — in 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Crossing the mark for 25 years having transpired since their first commercial recordings, Elliott became eligible as her “Supa Dupa Fly” album (released in July 1997) celebrated a quarter-century last year. The White Stripes did not release a full album until 1999, but are apparently eligible due to their debut single, “Let’s Shake Hands,” having come out in March 1998.
Elliott and the Stripes beat out a lot of other artists that are believed to also have become eligible for the first time this year, including Coldplay, Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child, Queens of the Stone Age, Britney Spears, P. Diddy, Mos Def, Muse and Death Cab for Cutie.
At times, the Rock Hall has appeared ready to move on from ’70s rock acts, as the nominating committee has from ’50s and ’60s possibilities, but several acts who got a start or rose to fame in that decade made it into this crop. One is the Spinners, the R&B vocal group whose ’70s hits include “Could It Be I’m Falling in Lofe,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “I’ll Be Around” and “The Rubberband Man.”
Another is Warren Zevon, who has long been cited as one of the top egregious omissions not to have even gotten a nomination prior to now. Although he didn’t have many major chart hits beyond “Werewolves of London,” his edgy, distinctive brand of storytelling has been an influence on untold thousands of singer-songwriters.
Willie Nelson, soon to turn 90, has been eligible since the very first Rock Hall class in 1983. The nominating committee hasn’t always seemed sure whether to embrace iconic country artists or not, the way it has genres like soul, R&B, pop and disco; some have noted that country music has its own hall of fame, as if that should exclude the genre’s artists from double-dipping. But with Parton having been voted in in 2022 (after initially questioning her inclusion), the logjam may have broken, for the consideration of Nelson now and perhaps fellow legends like Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn in the future.
The Joy Division/New Order nomination marks one of a handful of times a seminal band and its spinoff group have been combined into one entry. That will seem a reasonable choice to many, with New Order consisting of mostly the same lineup as Joy Division except for the absence of Ian Curtis, whose death by suicide in 1980 prompted the survivors to forge ahead under different branding. It’s previously happened with the Rascals/Young Rascals and Faces/Small Faces going in as single entries, although in those cases the spinoff bands being inducted simultaneously had names derived from the original act.
Crow could prove a popular choice, both by virtue of being a pioneering female rocker — even with her recording career not kicking off until the early ’90s, things were still so dire prior to that that she counts as a pioneer — and because of her strongly collaborative nature over the years. However many musicians may be among the 1,000-plus voting members, probably a substantial number of them have either recorded duets with Crow or shared a stage with her in the last 30 years.
George Michael may be the most polarizing nominee among that segment of the public that believes pure pop artists should not be inducted into a hall with rock in the name, but that hasn’t kept the musicians and industry pros for electing pop artists as winners in recent years, as with the induction for Lionel Richie this past fall.
If Elliott makes it into this class, she will join a very select group of hip-hop artists in the Hall of Fame that includes an inductee from this past year, Eminem, plus Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
While several artists named were also nominated last year, there are a number of 2022 nominees that are getting a rest from being on the ballot this year: Devo, Dionne Warwick, Beck, the New York Dolls, Fela Kuti and the MC5.
The Hall of Fame noted that the actual nominees coming out of this slate will be announced in May. It has not been revealed what city the ceremony will be held in this year, between the usual shuffling between Cleveland and New York with an occasional detour to Los Angeles, although it’s expected the show will keep its usual October spot on the calendar for a live taping that will be carried later on HBO. The inductees in special categories like influences, chosen directly by the nominating committee without going through the larger votership, will also be announced at a later date.