The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 2017 nominees, and once again, Whitney Houston isn’t among them. She has been eligible since 2009, and has not even been nominated once.
The nominees are Bad Brains, Chaka Khan, Chic, Depeche Mode, Electric Light Orchestra, The J. Geils Band, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Journey, Kraftwwerk, The MC5, Pearl Jam, Steppenwolf, The Cars, The Zombies, Tupac Shakur and Yes.
What can possibly be behind this?
The notion that she’s not a rock ‘n’ roller? But the Rock and Roll Hall of fame is not exclusively open to rock artists. It has already inducted artists from the worlds of pop (Madonna, ABBA), hip-hop (NWA , Public Enemy), reggae (Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff), blues (Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy), country (Johnny Cash), gospel (The Staple Singers), disco (Donna Summer) and jazz (Miles Davis), plus a slew of singer-songwriters who aren’t exactly known for the backbeats (Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Cat Stevens, Randy Newman). Among this year’s nominees, Joan Baez, Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur aren’t exactly rock icons either.
The notion that she was tarnished by her drug use? But many Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have abused drugs and/or died from them (Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley).
The notion that her music was not “great” or substantial enough? Listen to “Greatest Love of All” or “All the Man That I Need” or her dazzling “Star-Spangled Banner” again, and tell me that.
Whitney Houston had huge hits, for a long time. Before things started to go south, she had a good 15 or so years at the top — which is a lot more than Hall of Famers such as Ritchie Valens and and The Sex Pistols.
She was hugely influential on subsequent artists (including Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion and Mary J. Blige). It’s hard, in fact, to think of an artist of her generation who has been more influential.
I’d vote for her ahead of any other artist on this year’s ballot, with the possible exceptions of Yes and Pearl Jam. But she’s not even on the ballot. Again.