This year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is more like the MTV Hall of Fame: The newly minted inductees in the Performer category include ’80s pop icons Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Lionel Richie, plus Carly Simon and country legend Dolly Parton, who also had ’80s pop hits. The one outlier: rap superstar Eminem. But according to the Hall of Fame’s head honcho, “it’s all rock ‘n’ roll.”
“Rock ‘n’ roll has never been one thing,” says Rock Hall president and CEO Greg Harris. “It’s always been changing. It’s heavily influenced by the youth culture of the era and drives people to think differently, to act differently, to dress differently, to really believe in things.”
He adds, “We are seeing that in a big way with this class for the 1980s, but we’ll see it for subsequent decades as time marches on and and we continue to evolve. We’re not stuck in any one sound, but it’s all rock ‘n’ roll in our book.”
According to the Rock Hall, those honored with induction have created music with “originality, impact and influence [that] has changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll.” So how do these ’80s pop stars fit in?
Harris says Benatar “really set a path” for lots of female artists who came after her, because she was “in control [and] uncompromising” and has an “unbelievable vocal range.”
As for Duran Duran, Harris cites their “infectious melodies” and “complex musical arrangements,” as well as their mixture of guitar and synths, as influential.
And speaking of guitars and synths, Harris says Eurythmics took those and made them “really funky,” adding that Annie Lennox‘s “unbelievable voice” really brought “’60s soul into the ’80s.”
And talking about soul, Harris says, “Richie [was] hitting just as hard as Marvin Gaye, in a different era.”
As for Simon, Harris names Taylor Swift and Alanis Morissette as examples of women who’ve been impacted by “the honesty of her music and her delivery.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held November 5 at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, and will air later on HBO and stream on HBO Max.
This year’s other inductees include Musical Excellence Award honorees Judas Priest and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis; Early Influence Award recipients Harry Belafonte and Elizabeth Cotton; and music-industry figures Allen Grubman, Jimmy Iovine and Sylvia Robinson, who’ll be recognized with the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
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