What Will It Take For Yes to Be Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? (BrainJet)
Digital opinion piece, BrainJet, December 2015
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The 2016 class that will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been announced, and many rock music lovers are livid. During a ceremony in April 2016, Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, N.W.A. and Steve Miller will be inducted. Those acts were selected as the winners from a list of nominees that were announced in October 2015; also up for consideration were The Cars, Chaka Khan, Chic, The JB’s, Janet Jackson, Los Lobos, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, The Spinners and Yes.
We can wonder about the merits of the nominees that weren't selected for 2016 as well as the long, long list of popular or profound acts who haven't been crowned as royalty yet. But the biggest mystery we see this year is this:
What in the heck does Yes have to do to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
There always will be controversy surrounding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Performers generally are considered for inclusion beginning 25 years after their first record release, but the voting is subjective, with more than 600 artists, historians and members of the music industry having a say (plus a dubious fan poll is counted). And besides performers, there are other categories to consider, like songwriters, DJs and a host of other people who have shaped rock and roll. The Hall of Fame's website says, "One of the Foundation’s many functions is to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll by inducting them into the Hall of Fame."
That means that those outside of rock and roll may be inducted, as long as their contributions to the current or next era of rock have been significant or influential. Rock music from the '80s forward isn't as easy to classify as it was in the '50s and '60s; there are more sub-genres touched by rap, electronic, pop, punk, jazz, hip-hop and other styles, which is why recent inductees have included Madonna, Nirvana and Public Enemy instead of only those from the classic rock era.
But the body of work Yes has put forth since 1968 certainly qualifies as having "a significant impact" on rock as we knew it then and as we know it now. The group -- founded by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire -- has been credited along with King Crimson and Genesis for ramping up the public's interest in and appreciation for progressive rock and selling millions of such albums. With its complex arrangements, layered harmonies, cosmic lyrics and symphonic style, Yes has brought much more to the rock conversation than simple guitar riffs, plus the legacy of bands that have been influenced by Yes is impressive. Moreover, the June 2015 death of co-founder Squire led fans to believe that the Rock Hall finally would recognize the band's contributions.
But prog rock isn't to everyone's taste, and the Hall of Fame even has gently suggested that symphonic rock doesn't belong within its walls, despite fan demands. Further, we're baffled that only five inductees have been announced for 2016 when previous years have celebrated as many as 17 acts. Certainly there's room for a detour down the progressive rock path once in a while? But having been nominated for the Rock Hall previously, it's obvious that certain members of the nominating committee can see Yes's value to rock and roll. So what will Yes have to do to secure induction? We're banking on these three things: * The "Yes/Dialogue" book will need to become a best-seller. The book features 35 years of interviews between Yes and the author. * The 2016 tour will need to be a huge success. With yet another North American tour under their belts, Yes will perform in Europe throughout 2016. Yes has employed dozens of band members throughout its history, and the tours are no different. * Yes will need to bolster fan support in a big way. Through its social media channels, its tours and the Rock Hall's controversial fan poll, Yes should encourage fans to keep the pressure on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inclusion of progressive rock. But honestly, even with all of this, there's still one more thing that will cement the band's legendary status more than anything else: someone at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will actually have to give a whoop.