The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a joke.

The museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of

Emma Hughes, Head Editor

In light of the releasing of 2023’s nominees last week, qualms fans have with the nomination process, voting process, and Hall of Fame itself have resurfaced. With artists and fans alike expressing their detest about it over the years, an analysis of its credibility is necessary.

What is the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?

Britannica says, “the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a museum in Cleveland that celebrates the history and cultural significance of rock music and honors contributions of those who have played an important role in the music’s creation and dissemination.” It was founded on April 20th, 1983, by Ahmet Ertegun, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records. He assembled a team that included publisher of Rolling Stone magazine Jann S. Wenner, record executives Seymour Stein, Bob Krasnow, and Noreen Woods, and attorneys Allen Grubman and Suzan Evans.

The artists’ complicated history with it.

Members of the British punk rock band the Sex Pistols, inducted in 2006, refused to attend the ceremony calling the museum “urine in wine.”

The Sex Pistols. Photo courtesy of Discogs.

Steve Miller, inducted in 2016, had many complaints at the hall that he expressed both during his speech and especially in his interviews afterwards. His criticisms included the lack of female inductees, not enough support by the hall for music education, and poor treatment of the inductees at the award ceremony.

In the same ceremony as Miller, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen commented on the hall’s unnecessarily expensive tickets for the inductees and their families.

In 2018, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden criticized the hall, calling it “an utter and complete load of bollocks … run by a bunch of sanctimonious bloody Americans who wouldn’t know rock ‘n’ roll if it hit them in the face.” Iron Maiden, a heavy metal band formed in 1975, has been eligible for induction since 2004. Many industry insiders and a legion of fans collectively agree the group should’ve been inducted decades ago.

KISS’s induction into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. From left to right: Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley. Photo courtesy of Billboard.

Hard rock and heavy metal website Blabbermouth observed how it had taken Kiss 15 years to be inducted and Deep Purple 23 years. Regarding Judas Priest’s non-induction into the Hall, bassist Ian Hill stated in a 2019 interview, “I don’t think they like heavy metal music in general.”

In June 2007, Monkees keyboardist and bassist Peter Tork complained to the New York Post that museum co-founder Jann Wenner blacklisted the Monkees, commenting:

“[Wenner] doesn’t care what the rules are and just operates how he sees fit. It is an abuse of power. I don’t know whether the Monkees belong in the Hall of Fame, but it’s pretty clear that we’re not in there because of a personal whim.”

In 2022, Dolly Parton was put on the ballot despite requesting to be removed. In a statement, she wrote:
“Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.”

The Rock Hall responded days later denying her request, by saying:

“From its inception, rock and roll has had deep roots in rhythm & blues and country music. It is not defined by any one genre, rather a sound that moves youth culture. Dolly Parton’s music impacted a generation of young fans and influenced countless artists that followed. Her nomination to be considered for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed the same process as all other artists who have been considered.”

One of the suspected reasons certain people were advocating for Parton to be put in the museum is because of the lack of women. However, her induction very well could have kept popular rockers Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper out another year.

The museum’s lack of representation.

A former member of the nominations board once commented,

“At one point Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren’t enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a ‘name’ artist … I saw how certain pioneering artists of the ’50s and early ’60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in ’70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren’t in today.”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the godmother of rock ‘n roll, playing a Les Paul. Photo courtesy of NPR.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “The Godmother/Grandmother of Rock & Roll,” was not chosen for induction until 2017. The committee has also been accused of ignoring certain genres. According to author Brett Milano, a music journalist and critic, “entire genres get passed over, particularly progressive rock, ’60s Top 40, New Orleans funk and a whole lot of black music.”

In BBC Radio 6 Music’s Annual John Peel Lecture in 2013, singer Charlotte Church accused the museum of gender bias, stating, “Out of 295 acts and artists in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, 259 are entirely male, meaning that Tina Weymouth’s part in Talking Heads makes them one of the 36 female acts.” The actual percentage of female inductees is only 8.5%. Combining all the categories, there are 719 inductees, of which only 61 are women.

Why are fans upset now?

This controversy concerns the stars being nominated and inducted. Artists who are known as founding members of completely different genres are being nominated and voted in based solely on popularity and not because they helped create or majorly influenced rock music.

A significant example is the nomination and induction of Dolly Parton in 2022 and the recent nomination of Willie Nelson. Fans have nothing against Willie Nelson; he’s one of the most well-known country music artists and has made major contributions to the country genre. Kyle “The Triggerman” Coroneos, author of his blog Saving Country Music, states:

“All that said, it certainly is cool to see Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and the artists that will be nominated in the coming years from the country music realm receive this recognition. But in this new era where country artists are all of a sudden competing for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame slots, let’s be respectful and judicious as country music fans, and as a country music community. Let’s make sure we don’t step on our brothers and sisters in rock through this new opportunity. Because we would want the rock world to show that same respect to us.”

There is a place for Nelson and Dolly’s legacy to be remembered: the Country Music Hall of Fame. In fact, they inducted them in 1993 and 1999, respectfully, so why are they both in a Hall of Fame they have little to no contribution to? The answer: profit.

Is it redeemable?

Seeing as the whole operation is a private business that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon, the answer is no. Petitions have been made, uproar caused, and complaints published to no avail.

As what Monkees member Michael Nesmith has said, “”I can see the HOF (Hall of Fame) is a private enterprise. It seems to operate as a business, and the inductees are there by some action of the owners of the enterprise. The inductees appear to be chosen at the owner’s pleasure. This seems proper to me. It is their business in any case. It does not seem to me that the HOF carries a public mandate, nor should it be compelled to conform to one.”

The Hall of Fame should allow the fans to vote, and not on a preset ballot made by the owners. Artists should be nominated and chosen by who they influence with their music the most: their fans. Perhaps there could even be a tiered system where rock journalists get two votes for every fan’s one. All I know is that artists and fans alike would respect the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a more credible account of the genre’s history if it were created by those whom it is for.