Commentary: Guns N' Roses, Heart, Red Hot Chili Peppers deserve Hall of Fame induction

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses Live at Ritz in 1998 AKRON, Ohio -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation has released the list of nominees for 2012 induction, and its eclecticism continues the voting body's widening of the definitio...

Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses are among the nominee for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses Live at Ritz in 1998

AKRON, Ohio -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation has released the list of nominees for 2012 induction, and its eclecticism continues the voting body's widening of the definition of rock 'n' roll.

The nominees are: Beastie Boys, the Cure, Donovan, Eric B.&Rakim, Guns N' Roses, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Freddie King, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rufus with Chaka Khan, the Small Faces/The Faces, the Spinners, Donna Summer and War. Of those, Beastie Boys, Summer, Donovan, the Peppers and War are repeat nominees.

Acts are eligible for enshrinement 25 years after the release of their first single or album and will be voted in or out by the foundation's more than 500 voters.

For music fans who have lost interest in the induction process, perhaps the knowledge that the 2012 ceremony will be held April 14 in Cleveland (tickets go on sale to the public in December) will bring you back to the fold. Or not.


Nevertheless, it is an interesting group with the classic 1970s R&B and disco of Summer, the Spinners, and Rufus with Chaka Khan mingling with goth's first entry, the Cure, along with late folksy songstress Nyro and the hardcore hip-hop of Eric B.&Rakim.

Part of the fun is handicapping which artists will eventually walk the red carpet, step on stage and give a long rambling speech come next spring, so let's have at it, shall we?

A few of these folks' chances appear pretty slim. Disco queen Summer will likely have to wait, but she will probably be able to commiserate with Detroit vocal group the Spinners, who under the guidance of producer Thom Bell gave the world "Rubberband Man," "They Just Can't Stop It the (Games People Play)," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" and "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl."

Also likely to remain on the nominee list are Rufus with Chaka Khan, who had big hits with the Stevie Wonder-written "Tell Me Something Good," "Ain't Nobody" and the oft-covered "Stay." Khan would probably have a better chance of getting in as a solo artist (her debut was released in 1978), but as yet the 10-time Grammy winner hasn't been nominated.

The Afro-Latin band War is one of the few R&B groups whose songs get played on classic-rock radio (specifically "Low Rider" and "Cisco Kid") and through much of the 1970s they brought a nice Latin soul flair to their run of hits. Their influence on hip-hop is undeniable, as songs such as "Slippin' Into Darkness" have been sampled by artists from Janet Jackson to Korn. But they will probably have to wait a while, too.

Eric B.&Rakim? Not a chance. As influential as emcee Rakim was on a generation of rappers and hardcore hip-hop fans, they simply didn't have the commercial cachet of say, LL Cool J or (gulp!) Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince or the Beastie Boys.

If there can be only one hip-hop inductee per class, it'll be the Beasties, whose mix of goofy charm, dope beats and old school (nonthreatening) energy gave the genre a needed dose of humor and helped ease the music into the mainstream.

While some hardcore gothkids (who would be gothadults now) may argue that the Cure's late 1970s contemporaries Joy Division and/or Bauhaus should get the first look for the genre, singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Smith and his band of morose men took the macabre underground music and its equally spooky visual style to MTV and into arenas for much of the '80s through mid-'90s, scaring the parents of millions of fans. Early modern/alternative rock hits such as the once-controversial "Killing an Arab," the bouncy "Close to You" and the dreamy "Just Like Heaven" all lead up to their landmark 1989 Top 12 album "Disintegration" with its hits "Lullaby," "Fascination Street" and "Lovesong." That made them goth-rock superstars, so their chances of being first-ballot inductees look pretty good.


Arguably the biggest surprise of last year's class was that the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren't in it. The once wild and crazy punk-funkers turned power balladeers have had a fairly steady stream of successful records, and though they are seldom name-dropped as big influences, the L.A. band helped turn alt-rock into mainstream rock. They are still active, having just released their 10th album "I'm With You" last month. Chances are they won't be waiting much longer.

The Small Faces/The Faces is a curious case, as they were two distinct bands with a lot of the same members. The psychedelic, bluesy Small Faces were primarily driven by future Humble Pie guitarist Steve Marriott, while the group's second act, simply the Faces, became a launching pad for Rod Stewart's solo career.

Neither version made it as big on this side of the Atlantic as in their native United Kingdom, with most folks knowing the Small Faces hit "Itchycoo Park," while the boozy, loose Faces had the radio staple "Stay With Me." With some higher-profile names on the nominee list (what, you say that shouldn't matter? Ha!), both versions of the band will probably be seeing their names back on next year's list.

As for the ladies -- silky folk songstress Nyro, badass rock chick Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and classic-rock sister act Heart -- the last should be a shoo-in.

Nyro is probably better known by the masses (who don't get a vote) as a songwriter, with artists such as Three Dog Night, the 5th Dimension and Blood, Sweat&Tears having hits with her songs "Eli's Coming," "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "And When I Die." Nyro is often listed by 1970s artists such as Alice Cooper and Todd Rundgren as a songwriting influence, but Nyro, who died of ovarian cancer in 1997, has yet to receive a posthumous career boost / rediscovery so she may be on the nominee list a few more years.

As for Jett, she and her Blackhearts had attitude (she's often referred to as the original Riot Grrl) and fist-pumping songs, including the No. 1 hit "I Love Rock and Roll" and "Do You Want to Touch Me" along with her theme song "Bad Reputation," making tough guitar-slinging rocker chicks sexy. But there's simply no logical way she can be inducted before Heart.

The Wilson sisters, singer Ann and singer/guitarist Nancy, founded Heart in 1973 and suffered many sexist, condescending slings and arrows from the rock 'n' roll industry boys club (the galloping "Barracuda" is not about a fish). They turned out hard-rocking radio staples "Crazy on You," "Magic Man" and "Straight On," and not only survived, but also became a big arena act through the latter half of the 1980s with power ballads such as "These Dreams" and "Alone."

Perhaps the only true slam-dunk inductee is Guns N' Roses, which from 1987 to the mid-1990s was the biggest rock band in the world. The breakthrough "Appetite for Destruction" has sold 28 million copies worldwide and is still one of the better hard rock records of the past 25 years, with "Welcome to the Jungle" a constant on rock radio (and the all-important new revenue streams: video games, commercials and movie placement). Its two-part, four-album follow-up "Use Your Illusion 1&2" was considerably more sprawling but also sold boatloads of records.


Ignoring the 15-year saga of the band's leaden sixth album "Chinese Democracy" -- which still managed to go platinum -- Guns N' Roses has certainly earned a spot in hallowed halls of rock.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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