Rock Hall of Fame Responds to Lack of Progressive Rock Groups

FragileBack on December 29, author John Covach wrote a guest column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer asking why Yes and other progressive rock groups (Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Moody Blues, Procol Harum) had not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His conclusion is that the voters for the Hall may be very knowledgeable about music, but don't have a good background in the music's history.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is thus historically flavored entertainment, and perhaps even historically flavored advertisement, but it is most definitely not history. It represents the collective personal tastes of a group of industry insiders and is far less objective than, say, almost any sports hall of fame, after which it is in part modeled. Sports fans at least have statistics to keep them honest. With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, it's not clear what keeps the voters from indulging their personal tastes or dislikes, and as the years go by, it is becoming more and more obvious that there's not much that's objective about it. It's almost as if these folks think they can dictate history with no explanation or supporting argument: rock history by fiat.
On Thursday, Dr. Lauren Oakley of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posted a response to Covach's column.
Prog rock’s status in the Rock Hall is less about bias and corruption than it is a reflection of the changing history of the definition of rock and roll itself.  From its inception, prog rock got a mixed reception.  As Covach himself has shown in his book What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock and Its History, many critics originally saw the music as pretentious and some rock fans were turned off by prog’s lofty subject matter.

By drawing from classical elements, prog rock implied to some that rock itself wasn’t artistically interesting or important enough to contain its complex ideas. And for many critics prog strayed too far from rock’s African-American origins, reinforcing the stereotype that associated European music with the intellect and African music with the body.
The author goes on to argue that there are not voter biases but that "The standard for artistic value in music, visual art, literature or any art form is fluid, shifting over time and fluctuating with cultural conditions and different audiences."
Prog rock’s position in the Rock Hall is similar to heavy metal and girl groups. The Hall of Fame did not induct artists who played these styles at the outset. The Shirelles and The Ronettes were both eligible at the time of the first induction class in 1986, but weren’t inducted until 1996 and 2007, respectively. Black Sabbath was eligible in 1995 but weren’t inducted until 2006.

Girl group music and heavy metal were not as highly-regarded in the 1980s as they are now.  As times passes, our perspective on the past changes. That’s how history works.
So, the argument is that the perception of specific sub-genres of music ebb and flow and that progressive rock is not currently on voter's radar as an important element of rock history.  Through this, it is implied that, in time, the perceptions of the genres importance will once again grow leading to the possible induction of these groups.

Agree or disagree?  Let us know in the comments.

To get the full story, read Dr. Onkey's full statement at the Rock Hall site.

3 comments

aq07 said...

This is why I'll never visit the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. It's an absolute joke and Dr. Onkley is even more of a joke.
She comments on prog rock being pretentious.
No, that would be the artist Madonna with her strapped on guitar, rocking out!
The Hall of Fame should have never entered into a voting system but should have been just a curator of pop music history. Who gave this people the ultimate say in who is hall of fame worthy. That's just like voting on the best guitarist. If they inspired you and made you feel emotion, then that's the best to you.

Anonymous said...

History according to the few. Despite their academic sounding response, they ought to put some effort into examining the genre more closely. They credit Pink Floyd and Genesis as the leaders here...when both were coexisting or even progeny of other performers. Tom Petty and ZZTop may be big, but not really influential. One cannot say the same thing about the Moody Blues or Yes...both helped form and influence future musicians and sounds. While the Genesis entry last year points to hope, I fear it is based more on the schmaltzy Phil Collins years than the true prog Gabriel/Hackett/Phillips era sounds. Too bad, but perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

I agree I'll never visit either!
The Moody Blues were one of the few groups to have a number one hit in two different decades for crying out loud!! Why not Chicago??? What's with that? I just don't get it! Many of the groups not included were very popular with very high musical skill levels! I loved progressive rock as much as any other era of music.
The harmony and Instruments of the Moody Blues were second to none in my opinion!!

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