Sunday, September 28, 2008
Sexism and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
If Cher could turn back time, maybe she'd have a shot at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Maybe Carly Simon tells herself, "I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it will be coming around again"? Linda Ronstadt is probably wondering, "When Will I Be Loved?" while Pat Benetar's insisting to the Hall, "Treat Me Right." Patti Labelle's probably decided forget it, "I've got a new attitude."
Women need something because they certainly aren't getting respect from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As we noted last week in "Cock Rock Hall of Fame," there are 159 performers who have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and only 24 are women. That's less than one sixth. Such 'rockers' as Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, the Bee Gees and Bobby Darin have been inducted into the Hall. But obviously there are different rules for women.
Monday the nominees for 2009 inductee list were announced and, as we warned, women were hardly on the list. There was the expected sole woman: Wanda Jackson.
Here's a better one: When the US is at war is she really the woman to grab that spot?
Jackson's famous as a friend of Elvis Presley's and as a cute little cowgirl who played the guitar, sang and yodeled -- yodeled? There's hope for Jewel yet! She's a country singer. Or, rather, she was a country singer. Early in the seventies, she'd be recording Country Gospel. That's Ms. Jackson if you're godly. Presumably for her actions prior to becoming a gospel singer, she made the nomination list for inductees. (Worded that way because the list is not inductees, it is the list from which 2009's inductees will be chosen.) Her contribution prior to to moving over to gospel can really be boiled down to "Fujiyama Mama." In that 'gem,' Wanda sings, "I've been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima too/ The same I did to them, baby, I can do to you."
Oh, goody. Songs glorifying slaughter by nuclear bomb. Again, is this really the time to induct Wanda Jackson?
And should she be inducted?
If country musicians are going to be brought into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, induct Dolly Parton. She's meets all the qualifications and her impact on music is much more lasting than Jackson's plus we're not aware of Dolly ever 'finding the joy' in nuclear bombs.
Jackson had her pitiful "pop" hits in 1961 and 1962 (hitting number 37, number 27 and number 29 respectively). Yes, her biggest charting pop hit was number 27. What an influence in the age of singles. With all the women not inducted who qualify, why is the Hall reaching back to 1962 for the sole woman on the list this year?
With one woman a year, the Hall will have to do this every year. They will have to find some niche 'pioneer' that they've overlooked from forty years prior and it will prevent women who actually qualify from being inducted in their own lifetime. Forty-six years ago, Wanda Jackson finally wandered onto the pop charts. This year she's hogging the spot that should have gone to another woman. The rule is 25 years after your first recording (solo recording if you were also part of a group and are being inducted as a solo artist). So 1982 is the year that we should be at for women. It's the year that we're at for men. But because the Hall has so ignored women, the sole spot for a woman has to drop back to 1962 for a performer most people don't remember and for a performer's who's most long lasting 'hit' glorifies nuclear war.
Somehow the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame sees nothing wrong with that. But they're the same folks who think 24 women out of 159 inductions is somehow 'representative.' Please note that those 24 women were not all inducted individually. The induction of Talking Heads, for example, counts as one induction and it provides three men and one woman. If you want to do the actual number of men inducted into the hall, it is far greater than 159. But for women -- either as individuals or as part of a group -- its a pathetic number.
And the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a pathetic institution.
Laura Nyro has been eligible since 1990 but never inducted. She is among the many artists who have left lasting impressions and changed the nature of music. But it's not enough to do that if you're a woman. And, yet again, a woman from the field of country has a better shot of getting in than a woman who actually did rock. Does the Hall not grasp that there is already a Country Music Hall of Fame?
It may seem unfair to focus on Jackson. She wasn't the only nominee, after all. However, as we noted last week, the pattern was one female nominee a year. So she is wasting the spot that could have gone to many more qualified. And the other nominees for induction? Jeff Beck, Metallica, the Stooges, Bobby Woman, War, Little Anthony and the Imperials and Run DMC. In other words, there's no point in attending the induction because every one's career and cachet ended years ago. What a sorry, sorry list.
So Chic may get in following in the footsteps of the Bee Gees. A disco act. No doubt, KC & the Sunshine Band will be next and certainly they will get in long before Donna Summer who not only owned the disco idiom, she redefined it. Summer was the only artist truly making art in that genre. But Donna can wait -- even though she's been eligible all through the nineties and all through this decade. Run-DMC means that the "Rock" Hall is now inducting rap as well. Great, another excuse to ignore women as they work the next years to induct various rap groups.
If there's a more questionable nominee than Jackson on this year's list, it's Jeff Beck. Beck is a sideman not a performer. It is as a sideman (for Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and many, many more) that his guitar playing is known. But somehow he's a performing nominee? Again, the rules are different for women. They don't just have to achieve the same things a male performer does, they have to achieve three times as much just to be considered. It's pretty damn disgusting but so is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Last week's feature article resulted in a huge number of e-mails which mainly asked why any of the press reporting on Monday wasn't calling out the sexism? Good question. We'd suggest you ask them why they continue to ignore it. Until they're pressed to address it, they won't.