[Thanks to John Zinevich and Steve Reuter, whose Facebook comments about Bernie Worrell and Patti Smith, respectively, inspired this post.]
Let’s go back to 1974 for a moment.
Patti Smith released her first single and was soon to establish herself as, arguably, the most influential female rock artist ever.
George Clinton’s group Parliament had their first major funk hit, “Up for the Down Stroke”; along with their sister act, Funkadelic, they would continue to make stunning, cutting-edge music for years.
Also in 1974, Paul Anka had a huge hit with “(You’re) Having My Baby.”
Nominees for the 2019-20 class of the New Jersey Hall of Fame have just been announced and, guess what? Anka is on the list, and Smith and Parliament-Funkadelic — both of whom have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — aren’t.
Now, I know Anka has done more than just “(You’re) Having My Baby.” I just brought that up to make a point; I know it shouldn’t define him. But he didn’t change the world the way Smith and P-Funk did. And he’s not even much of a New Jerseyan: A native of Ottawa, he did live in Tenafly for a handful of years in the late ’50s and early ’60s, but has spent most of his life elsewhere.
The nine other nominees in the “Performing Arts” category this year are Danny Aiello, John Amos, Buddy Hackett, Cissy Houston, Ernie Kovacs, the Nelson Family (Ozzie, Harriet & Ricky), Flip Wilson, Mary Chapin Carpenter
and George Benson. All talented artists, of course. But I believe only one of them, Kovacs, had anything close to the impact of a Patti Smith or a P-Funk.
You could argue that Smith is more associated with New York than with her original home state, New Jersey. But so is Debbie Harry, who was inducted into the hall in 2017. And plenty of other past inductees are not widely thought of as New Jerseyans, either (Michael Douglas, Patrick Ewing, Tony Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg …).
In the case of P-Funk, you could also make the case, as suggested by John Zinevich (see above), for individual members such as synthesizer wizard Worrell, or for ringleader Clinton to enter the hall on his own. But there’s no hall rule saying you can’t induct a whole group: the hall has done so before, with Kool & the Gang, The Smithereens and others.
But certainly, P-Funk needs to be in the hall, in some form. Before anyone even thinks about inducting Paul Anka or Buddy Hackett.
Those who are interested in voting can do so at njhalloffame.org/2019-nominee-voting.
The inductees will be announced in July, and a virtual induction ceremony is planned for October.
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