What, no Whitney? The biggest Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs ever – ranked!

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame recognises the world’s greatest popular music stars – except for the ones it doesn’t, from Kate Bush to Kraftwerk

20. Björk

This week saw the latest batch of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, but – like many other uncategorisable, expansive, eclectic and influential singer-songwriters – Björk was nowhere to be seen.

19. Lee “Scratch” Perry

Reggae doesn’t get much of a look-in: Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff are there, but not the genre’s most exploratory and unhinged artist/producer.

18. Suicide

The hall of fame is not an institution much given to frightening the horses – and frightening the horses was very much the point of Suicide’s minimal, electronic updating of rock’n’roll.

Larry Williams in 1970 … beloved of the Beatles.
Larry Williams in 1970 … beloved of the Beatles. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

17. Larry Williams

An absent rock’n’roller – beloved of the Beatles, who covered three of his songs – whose career shifted from rock to soul and back again.

16. Black Flag

This year, Bad Brains were nominated – the first time hardcore punk has impinged on the event’s consciousness: no Black Flag, no Minor Threat, no Dead Kennedys.

15. Derrick May

Disco is underrepresented, but it is present in abundance compared with house and techno, which has not a solitary artist or producer in the Hall of Fame.

Roberta Flack … urbane and quietly intense.
Roberta Flack … urbane and quietly intense. Photograph: Jack Robinson/Getty Images

14. Roberta Flack

Curiously, Flack’s measured, urbane and quietly intense brand of soul-jazz was panned by US critics during her heyday, which may account for her absence here.

13. Love

The least biddable of west coast 60s psych legends are another surprising omission: perhaps their masterpiece, Forever Changes, offers too bleak a view of the summer of love.

Depeche Mode in 1987.
Depeche Mode in 1987. Photograph: Paul Natkin/WireImage

12. Depeche Mode

U2 aside, the hall really doesn’t do British post-punk, no matter how stadium-packing. Not only are Depeche Mode absent, the Cure are, too.

11. Eric B & Rakim

After years of ignoring hip-hop, a few rappers have been admitted. The operative word is “few”: the greatest, most influential duo of rap’s golden age are noticeable by their absence.

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You.

10. Whitney Houston

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is not a bastion of pop, but it isn’t entirely immune to its charms. Madonna is in there, which raises the question: why not Houston, who sold 200m records, was the first black woman to get heavy rotation on MTV, and created the soul diva’s latterday template?

9. The New York Dolls

Punk’s forebears are thinly represented in the hall of fame’s pantheon: the Stooges are there, but not the MC5; Lou Reed only got a posthumous induction. And there’s no sign of the New York Dolls, whose boundary-pushing, gender-confusing brand of glam (another genre the Hall of Fame largely overlooks) lit a fire under Ramones and the Sex Pistols alike.

Kate Bush … never really broke the US.
Kate Bush … never really broke the US. Photograph: Peter Mazel/Sunshine/Rex

8. Kate Bush

You might excuse her exclusion because she never really broke the US. But if the mark of a great artist is how many others claim them as an inspiration, without coming close to replicating their idiosyncratic genius, then Bush is about as great an artist as you can get …

7. Captain Beefheart

… which brings us to another inimitable artist: nearly 50 years on, the avant mangling of the blues found on Beefheart’s 1969 masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica, remains a gold standard by which all rock music’s challenging explorations of the far-out are judged. He is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – but Journey are.

Iron Maiden – Run to the Hills.

6. Iron Maiden

The hall seems to have as sniffy an attitude to heavy metal as it does to all forms of dance music: it exists in a bizarre parallel universe of hard rock where Bon Jovi are more worthy than Judas Priest. No nod either for Iron Maiden, progenitors of the new wave of British heavy metal and a band of pivotal and unceasing importance to their genre.

5. Johnny Burnette

The hall of fame is good on foundation rock’n’roll: its initial USP was to honour the US’s 50s legends – but they missed the toughest 50s legend of all. Listen to the Johnny Burnette Trio’s ferocious 1956 single Train Kept A-Rollin’, complete with groundbreaking distorted guitar, and you hear the roots of everything from garage rock to Motörhead to Led Zeppelin. It was the first song the latter ever performed.

Gil Scott-Heron in 1974.
Gil Scott-Heron in 1974. Photograph: GAB Archive/Redferns

4. Gil Scott-Heron

A strange omission. His work is hardly obscure – who doesn’t know The Bottle and Home Is Where the Hatred Is? – and his groundbreaking, no-compromise fusion of soul, jazz, blues, spoken word and biting social commentary hangs heavy over successive generations of soul artists and rappers. “He influenced all of hip-hop,” as Eminem noted.

3. Gram Parsons

Some hall of fame snubs are explicable – hats off to the website doughtily campaigning on behalf of R Kelly – and others suggest the voters may have strict musical tastes. Others are inexplicable: even given the institution’s self-imposed boundaries of taste, how has the man widely credited with single-handedly inventing the notion of country-rock been missed out?

2. Kraftwerk

You can understand why, say, Can and Neu! have failed to make the cut: European experimentalism isn’t really the hall of fame’s thing. But the extent of Kraftwerk’s influence over subsequent pop music – they are the electronic Velvet Underground – makes the fact they were overlooked this year in favour of Dire Straits as mind-blowing in its own way as hearing Trans-Europe Express for the first time.

Chic … excruciating omission.
Chic … excruciating omission. Photograph: GAB Archives/Redferns

1. Chic

There are few episodes in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s history as excruciating as the non-induction of Chic, which seemed to speak loudly about certain deep-seated musical prejudices. Donna Summer was posthumously inducted, but the sense that here is a world where disco still sucks is hard to miss, no matter how spectacular and influential Chic’s career as artists and producers. They were perennially nominated and perennially knocked back, until Nile Rodgers was eventually given a consolation prize: an award for musical excellence that came complete with an online citation that posited him as an artist who made “danceable rock”, presumably lest the kind of hooting thicko that turned up at the 1979 Disco Demolition riot get upset.


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Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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