In Joe Hagan’s recent biography of Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it becomes clear that the Hall of Fame has been largely shaped by the preferences of just a few guys. The self-made gatekeeper “especially disliked Jon Bon Jovi, who Wenner said campaigned unsuccessfully to get himself inducted into the Hall of Fame by enlisting billionaire investor Ron Perelman for muscle,” Hagan writes. “‘I don’t think he’s that important,’ said Wenner. ‘What does Bon Jovi mean in the history of music? Nothing.’”
The times have been a-changin’, though, at least since KISS—another act once blackballed by Hall of Fame leaders—made it into the Cleveland institution in 2014. Now, Bon Jovi has been named in the next induction class.
To the question of what the New Jersey band means to the history of music, the Hall of Fame website has its reply: “Bon Jovi redefined the rock anthem by dominating arenas and captivating audiences with hooks that continue to define the decade.” But the more fitting answer is the circular one intrinsic to any arbitrary process like the Hall of Fame’s. Bon Jovi means something because they meant something to enough voters.
The other four inductees to the big “performers” category for 2018 are the new wavers The Cars, the roots-rock explorers Dire Straits, the contemplative proto-prog act the Moody Blues, and the soul legend Nina Simone. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the gospel and folk singer of mid-century, is being inducted as an early influencer.