Rock's Hall of Fame is plagued by its own conundrums. For starters, there's little transparency around the nomination/induction process:
What is known is that a nominating committee of about 30 music critics, entertainment lawyers and recording executives winnows the field each year to 15 artists. Then another committee, this one of about 500 people, including past winners, selects five inductees.Ah yes, that classic arbiter of art and culture, the entertainment lawyer.
The Hall has played a lot of catch-up in recent years, attempting to reverse the committee's apparent disdain for harder rock acts (Kiss, Def Leppard, and Judas Priest are all recent inductees) and hip hop. But one figure whose absence has been more than a little perplexing is influential singer-songwriter Warren Zevon.
Zevon, Los Angeles's own tempestuous troubadour, has been eligible for the Hall since 1994 (artists can qualify 25 years after their first recording), but hasn't been nominated even once, despite earning accolades and tributes from the likes of Bob Dylan to Father John Misty. That is, until now. And we may have Billy Joel to thank for it:
All this comes amid Zevon’s surprise nomination, announced Wednesday, to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Among his high-profile supporters was Billy Joel, who wrote a letter to the hall’s nominating committee urging them to consider Zevon, who became eligible for induction in 1994 but had never made the ballot.As with the sports halls of fame, rock's relies a lot on the statistical impact/chart performances of the players/artists selected. Unlike MLB, the Rock Hall seems a little less concerned about extracurricular peccadilloes. It's the nature of the beast that R&R inductees are there in spite of certain behavioral considerations. Perhaps Zevon, one of the most admired of the L.A. songwriters before his out of control drinking alienated his contemporaries, would've been forgiven if he'd shifted more units.
Asked why, Joel says, “Well, he was a piano player, and we all tend to get lumped into this thing of ‘They’re not real rock guys’ — which I don’t think is fair, but I understand why it happens.
Like, say, N.W.A. or Ike Turner.
And then there's the gatekeepers themselves. Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner, a member of the nominating committee and of the Hall's founders, once vowed that Zevon would never be on the cover of his magazine after he got out of hand at a Bruce Springsteen show. Could this have bled over into his HOF consideration? Seems likely.
Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, is also on the committee. He has conceded that "the choices are subjective," and rely on "quality and influence, not record sales or flavor-of-the-month popularity." Might that apply to someone whose only familiarity with Zevon is "Werewolves of London?" If so, is it fair to ask what the hell that person's doing on the Rock Hall nominating committee in the first place?
In any event, Zevon has cleared the first hurdle (along with fellow first-time nominees Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Joy Division/New Order, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, The White Stripes). Now it goes to the voters, who will select five inductees.
The best part? Zevon himself wouldn't have given a frog's fat ass about the Hall. This belated effort is solely for the benefit of Boomers and Gen X-ers (like me) who grew up with a perhaps unhealthy affinity for songs like "Splendid Isolation" and "Mr. Bad Example." Inducted or not, his influence is undisputed, and he'll be drinking salty margaritas and shooting guns in whatever qualifies as the afterlife.
Hey, our ride's here.