Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to Emphasize Diversifying its Inductees

“We have to do better, but we’re making progress,” Chairman John Sykes said.

The 38th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday (Nov. 4) was a star-studded affair, captivating audiences with a constellation of music legends.

Kate Bush, Willie Nelson, George Michael, Sheryl Crow, Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners and Missy Elliott, the first female rapper to be inducted into the hall of fame, were among the attendees of the ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The New York Times reports that this year's Rock Hall induction is crucial as the institution reckons with long-standing calls for increased diversity, especially as it pertains to women artists. Despite the induction of iconic artists like Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Joan Jett and Whitney Houston in the Hall, women remain significantly underrepresented, accounting for less than 100 of the almost 1,000 inductees since 1986.

Evelyn McDonnell, music critic and journalism professor at Loyola Marymount University, published an essay that detailed the demographics of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Her research found that only 8.8 percent of the inductees are women.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's public image problems worsened recently when Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine who helped establish the Hall, spoke with New York Times about "The Masters," his book of interviews with stars like Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, and John Lennon – all of whom are white men.

In an attempt to justify the absence of women and people of color, Wenner claimed that none of them were "as articulate enough on this intellectual level" and did not qualify as "philosophers of rock." Wenner was quickly voted out of his position once the article went live.

John Sykes, chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation who took over from Wenner, has been vocal about wanting to diversify the nominating committee and inductees.

“I needed to reset the board and the nominating committee to reflect those artists that we’re honoring,” Sykes said. “So we added nine new board members, four women, four African Americans.”

This year, the hall expanded its definition of “Rock & Roll,” referring to it as "a spirit that is inclusive and ever-evolving."

On Friday, Chaka Khan, Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin were honored with the Musical Excellence award. Taupin, Elton John’s legendary writing partner, threw a little shade at Wenner in his acceptance speech.

“I guess you could say my being inducted is a paradox, perhaps, but either way, I’m honored to be in the class of 2023 alongside a group of such profoundly ‘articulate’ women and outstanding ‘articulate’ Black artists along with all of the other music masters here tonight,” Taupin said.

DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray were also recognized for their influence, while Don Cornelius, the creator and host of "Soul Train" who passed away in 2012, was honored as a nonperformer.


Missy Elliott And A Tribe Called Quest Are 2023 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees

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