Visionaries of the Rock & Roll World
by Amy Lignor
In Cleveland sits a museum completely devoted to the celebration and preservation of rock & roll music. From the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s amazing educational programs to their extensive Library & Archives, this organization makes sure that all those who have inspired and entertained the world continued to be remembered.
And now, with six new artists—as well as one individual being recognized with an Award for Musical Excellence—the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is presenting the “Class of 2017.”
Inductee: Joan Baez. If there was a poster child for “charisma” this woman would be it. Her powerful voice continues to give strength to the world, and her words have never gone out of style. “We Shall Overcome,” (1963) was one of many platforms she gave to people who wanted to get their voices heard. She championed civil rights, human rights and stood up against discrimination of any type, as her music career crossed over with ease from folk music to mainstream. Being in the business for over 50 years now, with over 30 albums to her name, Baez still performs all over the world, encouraging one and all to stand up for their beliefs.
Inductee: ELO. The classic rock and roll sound of the Electric Light Orchestra – more popularly known as ELO – remains a mainstay on all classic rock radio stations. Beginning in Birmingham, England in 1970, their first single, “10538 Overture,” was an ode to the Beatles. Little did they know then, however, that their name would also become synonymous with ‘greatness.’ Commercial success was reached by ELO when their fourth album, Eldorado, scored them their first U.S. top 10 single “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” and went on to become their very first gold album. The Beatles were not the only band the U.K. produced that America is still extremely grateful for – ELO is most definitely another.
Inductee: Journey. The amazing sound of Journey sums up rock and roll at its very best. Formed in 1973, the band did well when first starting off by blending jazz with rock. But it was in 1977, when they found Steve Perry, that Journey became a household name. With Perry, they refined their path, releasing one of the biggest hit records of all time – Escape – in 1981. Perry had the voice of a balladeer which caused him to go out and earn a successful solo career until making his way back to Journey in 1995.
Inductee: Pearl Jam. Alternative rock and roll enthusiasts are still screaming at the top of their lungs for this group that puts on the most unpredictable live concerts that any band has ever created. Pearl Jam began in Seattle, Washington, and was well-known only in Seattle’s underground community. In 1991, when they released their debut album, Ten, Pearl Jam went from unknowns to a commercial success, conquering the world. Explosive voices, they mixed everything from heavy metal to hardcore punk to classic rock – blending it all together to create a sound no one had ever heard before. And they are still doing it today!
Inductee: Tupac Shakur. Everyone knows the story. Some are fans; some are not. But whether you liked him on a personal level or not, Tupac’s lyrics made him the perfect anti-hero. Race relations, rap, and the treatment of young black men in America were among a few of the complex subjects that he would touch upon in order to break down the walls of hip-hop and create what some feel is an art form. Using his voice to preach activism and express a broad range of emotions that went from rage to love, his first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, generated acclaim and brought about controversy. In a career that lasted only five years, Tupac sold over 75 million records worldwide, while he became a star on-screen. The impact he and his words had on people continues to this day.
Inductee: Yes. Talk about endurance. This is one band that still understands exactly how to change with the times. If you look back at their long career, Yes has been able to put out records that span hard rock, progressive rock, contemporary and more. The band created epics. Remember “Close to the Edge?” “The Gates of Delirium?” Their sound continues to fill stadiums in the 21st-century. It is amazing to hear Jon Anderson use his perfect alto tenor voice to hit the highest of high notes almost forty-five years after forming the band. Yes is one group that may just make it another fifty years.
And the Award for Musical Excellence goes to…Nile Rodgers. From NYC, it was in 1977 that he formed the band called CHIC, bringing a funk/disco sound to the dance floors across America. By producing Sister Sledge’s superhit, “We are Family,” Nile rose to the top of the charts as a producer and helped to create albums for everyone from Diana Ross to Madonna. Producing film scores, releasing solo albums – this is one man who has yet to even slow down and take a breath.
So there you have it. The 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, April 7, 2017. And, once again, voters have chosen the ‘best of the best’ to become part of music’s unforgettable history.