The 2020 nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced with the Doobie Brothers, Pat Benatar, Judas Priest, Whitney Houston, and Soundgarden leading the pack. Also announced were previously shortlisted artists Todd Rundgren, Kraftwerk, Rufus & Chaka Khan, MC5, and Nine Inch Nails. First time nominees include Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, Motorhead, The Notorious B.I.G., T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy.
The top Rock Hall vote-getters will be announced in January and inducted on May 2nd, 2020 at Cleveland’s Public Hall, with the event airing live.
To be eligible for this year's ballot, each nominee's first single or album had to be released in 1994 or earlier. For the seventh consecutive year, the public will have the opportunity to vote alongside the more than 800 artists, historians and music industry insiders of the Rock Hall voting body. Fans can vote on the Rock Hall's site https://www.rockhall.com for the nominees they'd like to see inducted. The top five acts will comprise a “fan's ballot” that will count as one of the ballots that determine the class of 2020.
We caught up with the Doobie Brothers' co-founding guitarist Tom Johnston, who was clearly humbled at the band being shortlisted: “Well, we're all honored to be nominated. This is great, man — and happy that members of the band, past and present, have been included. That's pretty cool as well. Y'know, I'm sure we've all paused and reflect. . . Uh, I think I speak for the other guys when I say this; it seems rather odd that we hadn't been selected before. But at the same time — I don't take things for granted and we are honored to be nominated. And if we can just carry it all the way to getting in — that would be awesome.”
Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil shed light on what the honor means for the band and the work of the late-Chris Cornell: “I felt proud. I thought this is important, especially for the legacy of Soundgarden and for Chris' legacy. As both a current enterprise as well as a posthumous enterprise. There's still things we want to release that have not been; just some old tapes, some live performances. So, in that regard, there is a current concern, but also in looking back — and I think in terms of the legacy and something like this nomination — it is important. I never had the opportunity to look back before and to understand it that way and the legacy and the body of work we've completed up to this point.”
Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford told us he's proud to have Priest considered part of the fabric that connects the best of rock: “It's just fantastic to be in the same category of all the other extraordinary talent is a thrill. And it just re-emphasizes the broad spectrum of what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents. It's a little bit of everybody, again.”
Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee told us he was absolutely over the moon at the prospect of the band being singled out: “We've been waiting for that (laughs) for a long time. And in my book, if anyone really deserves to be in that Hall of Fame, it's Motorhead in so many ways, 'cause they're the inspiration of thousands of bands.”
Pat Benatar has been nominated along with her husband Neil Giraldo. Although some people are still confused by the pair billing themselves as a double act on the road — Benatar told us that's really how it's been since day one: “People still don’t realize that it was just the record company’s marketing that made it seem like it was a solo thing. The truth is; he and I put that band together, started that whole thing together and, y’know, we — the two of us together — were instrumental in making the sound and what happened, and what happened to my vocal and what happened to his guitar playing. Every thing was completely a duo right from the start. It’s just that, y’know, they felt it was better to market it as a female.”
Dave Matthews explained to us how the group's style has evolved over the course of its career: “What has happened is the majority of the music we sort of played out and traveled and toured on and we come up with a sound. I think all the influences have been things that we enjoyed and have influenced us. But then once the musicians — once we play stuff together, it tends to become our way. We have a way of writing that became sort of patterned.”
A while back, Todd Rundgren told us that summing up his career isn't something he's comfortable with and is really a job best-suited for others: “It's a little bit difficult to see yourself — particularly having gone thorough all the changes I have — of being able to be summed up in that sense. I can get perspective on part of what I'm doing, but I can never get perspective on all of what I'm doing. And part of what I'm doing is trying to avoid repeating myself.”
Co-founding MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer told us that breaking boundaries, defining its time, and hipping their community to the world around them was the backbone of Detroit's greatest band: “I think the band was, was part of a unique cultural moment, y'know, when all these currents hit together — y'know, Motown, and James Brown, and John Coltrane, and the Black Panther Party, and war in Vietnam, and marijuana, and the hippie, anti-war movement. And the MC5 was really part of all of everything that was going on, which, y'know, doesn't happen much these days.”
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor was the sole member of the band to be nominated. He told us a while back that music has always been the best way for him to express his emotions: “In my early-20's, when I first started to write music, it was because I found a way to take this anger or pain or resentment or sadness and express it in a way other than punching a wall, that had some beauty to it. And then later found out, if I put it to music, there's real power here and there's kind of a truthful honesty or something that people that have heard it seem to relate to.”
The great Chaka Khan explained that although funk and R&B is her stock in trade, she in fact made her bones in jazz: “I grew up, actually, and was weaned on jazz. In fact, my Christian name, Yvette, comes from a Stan Getz song. My dad was a be-bopper, he was like a beatnik they used to call them. They were be-boppers, now they're hip-hoppers, funny, huh? And my mother listened to a lot of Sarah, Ella, and jazz, and opera. And on the radio I heard Aretha Franklin, and people like that.”
Not long before her 2012 death, the great Whitney Houston said that she didn't let her success put undue pressure on her moving forward: “I suppose it could put a lot if I tried to outrun it, if I tried to outdo it. Like, each time I did something and my next project, 'I gotta outdo this,' and then I did my next project and I gotta outdo that, and then I do my next project and I gotta outdo that. I don't think that way. I think about doing quality work.”
A while back, Think Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham told us he was searching through the band's archives and discovered dozens of reels of studio and concert outtakes: “It's basically a room with a locked door and shelves, y'know? We kept shelling out month after month for having somebody look after this locked door. I imagine we had been paying for that since 1984. Of course they open it up and it's like a mountain of tape in there. And I had no idea what really most of this stuff was — there'd be just like working titles. It's like 'The Boys Are Back In Town' — the working title was 'G.I. Joe.' Y'know, what the hell? 'G.I. Joe'?”
Depeche Mode keyboardist Andrew Fletcher told us that there was time when he couldn't imagine a career that lasted a few years, let alone one that spanned decades with millions of fans spread across the globe: “I don't think we ever considered, really, that we were gonna last 20 years, two years, three years. I don't know. When we first started we were just having fun and it was a gradual thing. I mean, we were on Top Of The Pops — a famous pop program in Britain — and I was still at work at the time, y'know, which was a bit bizarre. That's what being on an independent label was about. So I sort of did Top Of The Pops to about half the population of the country and I went in to my work the next day.”
Four years before his death, and eight years before the launch of MTV, T. Rex's always media savvy frontman and genius Marc Bolan predicted the next decade's audio / visual explosion: “I think anything where the media is kind of an expansion of rock n' roll. . . I mean, there's been a lot of talk about revolutions. The only revolution that's gonna happen is if people like myself, or Mick Jagger, or Rod Stewart — or, whoever, try to get into other fields. Be it television, be it movies; then, we will get a revolution.”