Janet Jackson made some great records with the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis back in the day, but her claim to fame was mostly staked on being Michael Jackson’s hot sister. And, really, was her music ever rock ‘n roll?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has always had an uneasy relationship with reality.
Yet, Janet stands out this year in the 2019 class of Hall inductees that include Radiohead, The Zombies, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, The Cure and Roxy Music.
In case you noticed the age of the acts, artists only become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.
Janet falls a little short in terms of her contribution to rock and roll, but she’s not the first artist to lack rock credentials.
R&B singer Al Green was inducted in 1995, in the “performer” category, Aretha Franklin was inducted in 1987; blues crooner Billie Holiday was inducted in 2000 as an “early influencer;” and ’50s crooner Bobby Darin, who is about as far from rock and roll as you can get, was inducted in 1990.
But. hey, Darin was a rock and roll fan. So why not Janet Jackson?
The singer, who is 52, started performing when she was seven at the MGM Casino in Las Vegas. She also appeared in the variety show “The Jacksons” in 1976.
Janet Jackson released her first album, the self-titled Janet Jackson in 1982. It peaked at 63 on Billboard’s albums chart.
Radiohead’s induction is a plus in my book, but then you get to The Cure, Roxy Music, Def Leppard, The Zombies (finally!) and Nicks, as a solo act.
Nicks tweeted that she has a lot to say and she’ll wait to say it in person at their induction ceremony on March 29. I bet her speech will rival Steve Miller’s tirade last year when he complained about everything from the choices to having to buy a table for his family.
The hall was started by Rolling Stone magazine founder and editor Jann Wenner, who was frequently accused of keeping a finger on the scales in favor of his favorite artist.
Atlantic Records’ legendary Ahmet Ertegun, was a co-founder and knew the music business like no one else. But he died in 2006 and Wenner stepped back from the music scene after selling his magazine last year.
With them out of the picture, the so-called voting committee has changed somewhat dramatically.
The music industry is as political as any business, and just because a label buys two or three tables at the induction ceremony, shouldn’t mean that your act is nominated.
Entertainment PR-man David Salidor, who was part of a group that came up with the then-competing New Music Seminar in 1984, said no one cozied up to them at first.
“We were going it mostly alone, but by the second year, all the labels were coming to us, offering free goods, be it an act or buying ads. By the third year, we had essentially become what we started out to avoid,” he says.
As influential as the inductees are, there are so many rock acts with similar credentials who have been overlooked. Among them are such signature acts as Billy Preston, Jethro Tull, Kraftwerk, Willie Nelson, T-Rex, Dick Dale, King Crimson, Beck, Captain Beefheart, The Monkees, The Doobie Brothers, Blur, Warren Zevon, The Jam, Chubby Checker and Procol Harum,
Notably absent from the Class of 2019 is Todd Rundgren, who was the only artist among those eligible who made the fan ballot but did not get elected. His resume includes Badfinger, The Band, XTC and Paul Butterfield.
The Zombies induction was a long time coming. Folk/country icon John Prine, who was also up for induction this year, said in a recent interview that the Zombies “should go in before me,” which turned out to be a prescient bit of commentary.
It’s a tough nut to crack. You’re not going to please everyone. But, this year… you be the judge.
Best albums of 2018, Part 1
Trippin’: Robert Miller Project Grand Slam: Miller’s Project Grand Slam, which hit the #1 Jazz contemporary charts over the summer per Billboard, has brilliantly fused an amalgam of jazz with rock. His cover of The Who’s 1965 hit, “I Can’t Explain” (following his covers of songs by Cream and The Kinks) is wonderfully conceived. He evens mimics Townshend’s windmill guitar salute in the accompanying video. A new album, recorded by the ensemble in Serbia, is out in January.
The Monkees Christmas Party: Who would have thought that their Good Times album in 2016 (the band’s first new album in decades and recorded to commemorate their 50th anniversary) would have re-established the group on many Top Ten lists of the year. Reunited with Times-producer Adam Schlesinger, the album’s twelve tracks are highlighted by “House Of Broken Gingerbread,” written by Schlesinger and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. “Unwrap You At Christmas” by XTC’s Andy Partridge also stands out. Say what you will about the creation of the group as a television sit-com novelty act, there’s no denying the group’s impact on current day music.
Dirty Computer: Janelle Monae’s third album in April was devastatingly good. Three singles preceded the official release as well as a 46-minute narrative film. In the interim, she became an actress and was just terrific in “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.” She’s also in the upcoming “Marwen” with Steve Carrell. “Make Me Feel” and the title track, with Brian Wilson (yes, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys!) were awesome.