What is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

No one asked me but here goes anyway. I literally have no idea what to make of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame these days. When its founder goes on record as saying a particular band "wasn't/isn't/never will be a great band and therefore has no place in the hall of fame..." despite having sold over 100 million records over a 40 year career, influenced hundreds of other bands, was innovative in its stage craft, found numerous ways to insert itself into popular culture via movies, comics, etc., I can't help but wonder what the purpose of a hall of fame about pop culture would be about.

By one measure, selling a massive amounts of records validates a rock band. It's the measure that the band has created melodies and lyrical content that connects with people. By another measure, flying under the radar in terms of popular acceptance and being influential to others is important to the musical community at large as well. I know each and every musical friend I have has one artist in their past that brought a lot of joy and perspective to their own work. For me, this would include players like Robin Trower or Wes Montgomery. Maybe they are not household names but they are certainly players with skill and a voice that's truly their own. Is there room in the Rock Hall of Fame for them? Apparently there would be but there is a major caveat here. This type of musician must be a personal favorite to the small group that makes up the selection committee. Patti Smith? One hit wonder (and that hit was co-written by some guy named Bruce Springsteen). At her induction, she was singing cover tunes because her catalog is apparently thin. In the Hall of Fame? Yep. Why? Beats me. I'm not looking to invalidate anyone's work but the criteria for inclusion seems to work more around cronyism than any objective conclusions in terms of answering the question, "what is art?".

Another item of puzzlement is the question is "what is rock and roll?" Because the following artists reside in the hall of fame: Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen and Les Paul. Look at this list. In order, that list is comprised of a country music legend, a jazz trumpeter, a lounge act and a man known today for his inventions than his music. (Sad but true). What is so "rock and roll" about any of them? Attitude? Presence? Okay, I suppose those things embody every thing about rock and roll. Except the characteristics of what sonically defines the musical genre of rock and roll.

Even taking a broader view and conflating the terms "rock and roll" with "popular music" only addresses the last of my complaints of how Jann Wenner and his band of musical elitists conduct their business. I won't go into how their foundation doesn't fund much of anything beyond their own galas. I will also sidestep how the museum is a mostly publicly funded enterprise.

But I won't back down from the stance that a museum devoted to popular musical styles should reflect the tastes of the public at large and not some self satisfied, snobby group of self appointed taste makers who fail to appreciate the power of a song that connects with millions and instead wish to propagate an ethic of "if you weren't such an unwashed heathen, you'd appreciate this" in their critical perspective.

I know it's only rock and roll but we like it. Maybe you should try liking it too instead of pontificating about how you know better than the rest of us.

That's my $.02