A decade is seemingly an eternity to wait for something. However, that time frame is just the beginning for many artists anticipating the Rock Hall’s immortalizing welcome.
Here are 20 acts that are especially overdue for induction; the standard is that their eligibility has stretched at least 10 years. Some have previous nominations, others do not. While not comprehensive, this list is a representative sample of names meant to highlight how far the Hall needs to go to complete that rock and roll puzzle it’s assembling there in Cleveland.
10 years eligible
The jangling, poetic expression of guitarist Johnny Marr and frontman Steven Patrick Morrissey lasted only five years officially, but still resonates today. Much like Bob Dylan famously “taught rock and roll to think” in the ’60s, the Smiths taught it how to feel in the ’80s, providing a thorny, highly literate soundtrack for the painfully alone. This is a songbook that launched a musical movement; acts such as Radiohead, the Cranberries, the Decemberists, and the National could not exist without the Smiths.
10 years eligible
“6 in the morning, police at my door/Fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor/Out my back window I make a escape/Don’t even get a chance to grab my old school tape…” Well before the then-nicknamed Snoop Doggy Dogg used “6 in the mornin'” as a braggadocious, lifestyle-revealing time stamp (as in, the ladies weren’t leaving his place until then), the police were pounding at Ice-T’s door at that hour. Arguably the originator of gangsta rap, Ice-T deserves a place in the Hall alongside inductees N.W.A., an act he set the table for. Of course, the provocative, thrash metal side project Body Count is an inextricable part of the Ice-T legacy due to the 1992 “Cop Killer” song controversy. Lightning rod, television actor, reality star… that fresh Adidas shoe fits. However, above all else, Tracy Marrow, introduced to the world with the single “The Coldest Rap” in 1983, is a legendary and genre-defining figure.
11 years eligible
Consecutive nominations in 2015 and 2016, and the pop icon is still, remarkably, on the outside looking in. She wasn’t nominated for the 2018 class, but she’ll be back. A high-caliber performer—demonstrated most recently on her critically-lauded “State of the World” tour—Jackson would be the perfect headline attraction for any induction ceremony. It’s a safe bet, too, that other legends (Beyoncé, Missy Elliot) would jump at the chance to induct her. That’s a win-win for the Rock Hall, where star power is concerned.
12 years eligible
Minneapolis delinquents Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, and brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson created something from almost nothing: brilliant songs, fueled by boredom and copious amounts of cheap beer. Their stellar achievements include the LP Let it Be and such singles as “Alex Chilton” and “Bastards of Young.” The Mats’ rowdy, melodic blueprint has been followed by such acts as Guided by Voices, the Strokes, and Ryan Adams.
12 years eligible
Sitting at the intersection of glam, shock-rock and metal with a pile of thunderous hits and multi-platinum albums is Mötley Crüe, a squad of hellions the Hall is going to have to deal with eventually. Flaming up into the public eye amid the Satanic Panic of the early ’80s was fortuitous timing, as every teenager pissed at their parents clutched their pentagram-branded copy of Shout at the Devil even tighter. It’s a rarity in rock anymore, but these guys once seemed downright scary. Sure, the Crüe discography is a mixed bag, from the auspicious, punk-glam debut Too Fast for Love to the concussive, Bob Rock-produced smash Dr. Feelgood to throwaways like Generation Swine. However, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil blazed their own hedonistic trail, turning sex, drugs, and power chords into anthems that had broad appeal. In arenas around the world, guys banged their heads to “Wild Side,” and girls wistfully sang along to “Home Sweet Home.” And if all this previous mayhem wasn’t enough, there’s a major motion picture being filmed right now based on the Crüe’s eyebrow-raising book The Dirt, with Cleveland’s own Machine Gun Kelly portraying Lee.
13 years eligible
The only all-female group that wrote and played its own music to reach the top of the Billboardchart is the Go-Go’s. That’s a pretty sturdy credential for Rock Hall consideration. In the early ’80s, the band broke out of the Los Angeles punk scene and bounced into the pop orbit, taking the airwaves and MTV by storm with “Our Lips are Sealed,” “We Got the Beat,” and “Vacation,” among other hits. Currently, the Go-Go’s music is the foundation for Head Over Heels, a new, 16th century-set (!) Broadway musical opening this year.
14 years eligible
There are perhaps two Def Leppards that must be recognized. One is the gang of booze-swilling bad boys who churned out the New Wave of British Heavy Metal-era albums On Through the Night (1980) and the anthemic High ‘n’ Dry. The other is the more polished band that created digitized, multi-platinum LPs like Hysteria and Adrenalize, all the while retaining their inspirational drummer Rick Allen, missing one arm due to a car accident. Whichever version of Def Leppard you prefer, the blazing, two-guitar attack and powerful voice of Joe Elliott are undeniable. Also impossible to ignore is Bon Jovi’s induction this year, which clears the way perfectly for this British pop-metal outfit.
14 years eligible
Pat Benatar is a highly respected icon, and has been a fixture of FM radio, MTV and concert stages since 1979. She’s more than paid her dues, and with a songbook spiked with classics like “Heartbreaker,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Love is a Battlefield,” it’s tough to argue against the Rock Hall qualifiers of musical excellence and influence. With every Rock Hall induction ceremony that transpires, this trailblazing, no-nonsense rock star’s absence gets more conspicuous.
15 years eligible
As popular and audacious as he was in music, no discussion of Rick James is complete without referring to his infamous 2004 TV moment: the uproarious “Chappelle’s Show” satire/nick-of-time interview with James, who passed away the same year. This cat was a larger than life character without a doubt, but his musical legacy must also be acknowledged. This funk maestro and producer from Buffalo channeled his libertine lifestyle into unforgettable, rap and rock-influencing hit singles, from “Give It to Me Baby” to “Super Freak” to “Cold Blooded.” His hometown is currently in talks to honor him, and Cleveland could be next. Household name? Check. “Habitual line stepper?” Check. Rock Hall-worthy? Most definitely.
15 years eligible
Bursting out of Hermosa Beach, California, Black Flag were pioneers of hardcore punk. Their shifting membership, which included original singer Keith Morris and later frontman Henry Rollins (but always guitarist Greg Ginn), screamed and flailed across Reagan-era America with a never-say-die, DIY work ethic. In doing so, they jolted countless other bands into action. Their reckless, defiant punk influence can be seen in a variety of acts, from Nirvana to the Beastie Boys to Green Day.
17 years eligible
The populist, FM radio-saturating Rock Hall classes of recent years would seem to set the stage for this band out of… well, you know. Boston has sold a remarkable 75 million records, with their 1976 debut Boston moving 17 million units. Tom Scholz, a guitar, songwriting and producing genius, created dynamic tunes that, when paired with the warm vocals of the late Brad Delp, went supernova. “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Don’t Look Back” are just a few of the Boston tracks you’ll hear if you turn on your classic rock station right now, or if you did at any point in the last 42 years.
19 years eligible
The rejection letter metal gods Judas Priest received from the Hall last December—informing them they weren’t being inducted despite their first nomination—revealed much about the induction process, which obviously needs an overhaul (don’t feel bad, guys, Black Sabbath was nominated 8 times and got in!). Frontman Rob Halford and company have been gracious throughout, but it’s still a shame—not just for metal fans who are marginalized to begin with, and for whom this induction would mean so much, but also for founding guitarist Glenn Tipton, who had to step away from touring due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. There was plenty of room in this year’s fairly small class for another band, and Priest would have been a terrific candidate to round it out. They even left a gap in their April touring schedule for a potential induction. A band that wants to play ball should be put in the game.
21 years eligible
Roxy Music, sitting on the snub shelf since 1997, burst out of early-70s London and went on to spur glam, new wave, shoegaze, and anything that might fall under the “art rock” rubric. Forward-looking and effortlessly cool, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno and company are responsible for a sophisticated, towering songbook that’s lodged them in the Rock Hall conversation for years now.
23 years eligible
Institutionally speaking, the Recording Academy apparently loves electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, granting them a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, and even a 2018 Grammy for Best Dance/Electronica album for their live set 3-D The Catalogue. So what’s the disconnect between the Rock Hall and this genre-creating act, nominated a whopping four times? The situation gets more confounding with each passing year, and suggests that ballot counts of the Rock Hall voting body perhaps shouldn’t be the last word on who gets in. Without Kraftwerk, electronic music as we know it would not exist.
25 years eligible
Prog, folk, thunderous riffs and, of course, flute converge in the musical forest of Jethro Tull, best known for their 1971 album Aqualung. If listeners are willing to delve into this catalog, though, they’ll discover a treasure trove of ambition and melody. There are breathtaking achievements throughout, from lesser celebrated efforts like Minstrel in the Gallery to Crest of a Knave, the 1987 release that stole a Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy out from under Metallica. Past critical snobbery might explain their current omission from the Hall, but Tull’s heavily-rotated, unorthodox songbook is a wildly convincing case for induction. Hey, Ron Burgundy gets it, why can’t Rock Hall voters?
26 years eligible
The nomination count for the late Harry Nilsson stands at zero thus far, but there would seem to be hope for the lauded, wild-living musician, responsible for such classics as “One” (popularized by Three Dog Night) and “Without You,” among others. The Hall is partial to singer-songwriters—recent inductees Laura Nyro and Randy Newman come to mind—and Nilsson is on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.” Additionally, his widely adored album Nilsson Schmilsson is a confessional-rock touchstone. And hey kids, even Harry Styles digs Harry (no, really).
32 years eligible
Evolving from a doo-wop group in the ’50s into one of finest soul outfits ever, the Spinners were signed first to Motown, but gained little recognition. It was their Atlantic Records era that yielded the greatest success in the ’70s, with songs such as “I’ll Be Around,” “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love” and “The Rubberband Man.” With three nominations, it’s hard to understand why the Spinners are on the outside of the Hall, looking in. Sadly, and as these things go with the Hall, much of its membership has passed on, including Bobby Smith, C.P. Spencer, Billy Henderson, and Pervis Jackson. Still, lone surviving member Henry Fambrough keeps the Spinners and their beloved music on the road to this day.
35 years eligible
A pair of nominations for guitar legend Link Wray haven’t led to induction, and it’s getting a tad ridiculous now. Wray’s most recent nomination this past year seemed his best shot at getting in, especially given his increased visibility due to the documentary RUMBLE: The Indians who Rocked the World. Still, “Rumble” is an eternally cool track and the late power chord innovator continues to influence and inspire. Is merely getting nominated the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honor? You might have to think so, as 2018’s smaller than usual class definitely had room for Wray.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
36 years eligible
Nearly four decades, and still no love for Cleveland’s own Screamin’ Jay Hawkins at the Rock Hall. The shock rock originator’s story is rooted in drama: he began life as an orphan, and was later raised by a Blackfoot Indian family, learning piano as a child. He went on to become a boxer, and was once the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska. In performance, Hawkins would arrive on stages popping out of a coffin, and if that wasn’t enough, he employed chattering teeth props, stage smoke, and flash powder to terrorize unsuspecting audiences. All in all, he injected a theatricality into rock and roll that’s been co-opted by everyone from Alice Cooper to Tom Waits to KISS. Genuine synergy might have been achieved this year around the Hawkins-written song “I Put a Spell On You” (not to mention some ceremony running time efficiency?), as both inductee Nina Simone and Hawkins both imbued that number with their own signature passion. This guy was once so intense and unhinged, frightened teenagers would run out of concert halls, legitimately freaked out. How rock and roll is that?
36 years eligible
Among the most beloved country singers ever, Virginia Patterson Hensley perished in a 1963 plane crash at age 30. Her country and pop crossover legacy, however, lives on. Cline recorded several singles in the the ’50s, one of them being no less than “Walkin’ After Midnight.” In the ’60s, she released “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy” (written by Willie Nelson), magnificent songs that are still covered to this day by artists across genres. Cline was the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but will the Rock Hall ever come calling? This legend’s pop chart success and iconic, genre-transcending stature would seem to demand it. Everyone from Loretta Lynn to Linda Ronstadt (inducted) to k.d. lang owes a debt to her.