The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame perpetually starts fights about respectability and credibility, and the new class of inductees just shows how shifty and disputed those two words can be. The late rapper Tupac and the grunge band Pearl Jam are in, marking recognition for two ‘90s musical moments whose legacies are still in the making. The folk singer Joan Baez joins; she accepted by saying “I never considered myself to be a rock and roll artist,” a sentiment many rock fans no doubt agree with. Journey, the mega-selling arena act whose coating of cheese has kept them far from critical acclaim, has made it in. So have Yes and Electric Light Orchestra, two bastions of prog-rock musical nerdiness.
The strangest announcement of the day is about the guitarist/songwriter Nile Rodgers, who will receive the Award for Musical Excellence, a recognition that’s only occasionally given out and decided by “special committee” (rather than by the more than 900 musicians, historians, and industry members whose votes determine which five of each year’s nominees get inducted). Rodgers played with Chic, the hugely successful disco act that has been nominated 11 times for the hall of fame but has still not been inducted. Rodgers’s Musical Excellence award recognizes achievements outside of Chic, which includes important work Rodgers did with Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Daft Punk, and others. But still, there’s the air of disagreement behind the accolade for Rodgers: The entire body of hall-of-fame voters evidently doesn’t think Chic belongs, but the smaller group in charge of lifetime achievement awards perhaps does.