Willie Nelson got an odd gift for his 90th birthday.
The country music legend learned he finally made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame cut.
Is there any sane argument against the singer/songwriter’s legendary status? Did the Hall’s voters need another year of Nelson above ground to finally say, “It’s time?” Did they miss his decades-worth of essential songs, tours and collaborations?
And, by the way, isn’t he a country singer, not a rock ‘n’ roller?
Absurd. All of it.
Then again, absurdity rules this Hall, which officially opened its doors in 1995. The institution is meant to honor rock legends, but through the years it’s welcomed acts whose songs soar beyond the “rock” category.
Think this year’s nominees, including Nelson, Missy Elliott, Chaka Khan and “Soul Train’s” Don Cornelius. Do any of those names scream, “rock” to anyone?
It gets worse.
Bon Jovi, the band that brought the song “Bad Medicine” into existence, is enshrined in the Hall but Iron Maiden isn’t. A more embarrassing case of exclusion comes via the so-called Pre-Fab Four.
The Monkees remain uninvited despite their outsized impact on pop music. The faux band became the real deal, reportedly outsold the Beatles at its musical peak and enjoyed musical rebirths in both the ’80s and mid-2010s.
Their wacky TV show built on the Beatles’ visual legacy and became a precursor to MTV.
And the songs! So many perfect pop moments – think “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer,” “Sometime in the Morning,” “I’m a Believer,” “Shades of Gray” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” Even the deep cuts count, and the band’s 2016 “Good Times” album delivered more essential tracks.
The same holds true for the Indigo Girls, a tireless duo with a string of killer tracks and albums. They’re one of the most beloved touring acts around, and yet they still stand outside the Cleveland Hall.
Warren Zevon, Soundgarden and Joy Division also await their induction, assuming it ever happens. Maybe Hall voters are waiting until they each turn 90, which hits Zevon the hardest since he passed in 2003 at the age of 56.
ENJOYING HOLLYWOOD IN TOTO? CHECK OUT THE HOLLYWOOD IN TOTO PODCAST!
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame chairman John Sykes accidentally summed up the institution’s irrelevance via this quote to Variety.
“Sometimes it takes a major moment like Willie’s 90th birthday or, in the case of Kate Bush, music being played in ‘Stranger Things’ to shine a light on them for a lot of younger people who didn’t know who she was in 1985; they probably weren’t even born yet.”
Good thing Nelson lived to be 90, otherwise his body of work might have gotten ignored.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is special, in large part, due to the brutal barrier to entry. Some of the best players of the modern era, including Curt Schilling and Don Mattingly, have yet to make the cut. The former’s political positions clearly play a role in his omission.
Other MLB giants excluded from the Hall include Lou Whitaker, Dale Murphy and Dwight Evans. That means getting a Hall pass means something significant to the culture and the sport.
The musicians who make the Hall cut? The honor means little in the long run. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen inductee no-shows over the years, including three-fifths of Van Halen, Paul McCartney, Axl Rose and David Bowie.
To quote Bill Murray in the classic camp comedy “Meatballs” … it just doesn’t matter.