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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2005

Who names themselves The Edge?
Who names themselves “The Edge”?

Every year around September, a foundation committee nominates a group of artists who have been making records for at least 25 years to join the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. In December, a group of about 700 music industry executives, writers, broadcasters, and producers then select around five to seven of these musicians to be inducted the following March. This past December, five artists were selected for induction, and the ceremony took place on March 14, 2005. It isn’t the strongest of classes this year, but The Pretenders and O’Jays definitely deserved this honor, as did the incredible and still highly energetic 67-year-old Buddy Guy. With his raw emotional singing and guitar playing, and spontaneous acts on and off the stage, he is simply the best blues performer to see play live. Percy Sledge was also inducted, though he didn’t do enough to earn this honor, in my humble opinion. Although many in the industry consider him one of the pioneers of country-soul, he never expanded much beyond that and didn’t have longevity as a recording artist, especially when compared to fellow inductees like The Pretenders. Besides, his career can be summed up in not much more than a handful of hits (“When A Man Loves A Woman” included), and much of his music was penned by others, especially Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.

Maybe it’s just me, but with rare exceptions, I think that successful performers whose major contributions to their hits isn’t in writing the music but instead are vocal-based, they should be treated with a separate honor than the artists who make a name for themselves doing both. Since these performers are almost always non-rock based artists, they may need a separate but equal hall of recognition. If the Rock Hall of Fame is going to keep inducting artists from non-rock-related genres then they might as well call it the Billboard Hall of Fame. Otherwise, there could come a time when say, fifteen or so years from now, prepackaged pop and boy bands like the Backstreet Boys are nominated alongside alternative hard rockers like Incubus.

Having said that, the strongest inductee this year was definitely U2. What can be said of the most current and relevant band ever inducted? Just ask their good Irish-Italian friend Bruce Springsteen, whose entertaining tribute speech to U2 hit all the right notes. Using metaphors and poetry to flatter and poke fun at the band like only Bruce can. He basically said that U2 belongs in the same class as The Beatles, James Brown, and Robert Johnson, and that The Edge is one of the most rare and “subtle” guitar heroes in rock, whose wall of sound is instantly recognizable and defines the band’s sound and generation. U2 treated the audience with four songs on induction night, including a rather subdued version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” But, the highlight among highlights of the show was Bono’s induction speech.

Bono once said that being in a band is like being in the mob; you don’t leave it until you die, and U2 has been together since 1976. In his speech he condensed the highlights of U2’s career into three “Kodak moments,” the third of which was a dramatic and powerful story, one I won’t forget anytime soon. U2 was campaigning for MLK’s birthday to be a national holiday in the South in 1987 when one night in Arizona, Bono and the band were warned by the FBI not to go on stage because some people who were against this cause wanted to kill them, presumably, while performing. The band shrugged off the warning, and when during the show Bono got to the third verse of “Pride (In The Name of Love),” which is about King, he closed his eyes thinking he may be shot to death right then and there. When he opened them up, not only was he still alive, but also no shots were fired and there was U2 bassist Adam Clayton standing directly in front of him, ready to take a bullet for his beloved band mate. When people say they would die for you, rarely do they get the chance to really prove it, and Adam was literally in a position to do just that. Yes, it is a powerful real-life story, about as powerful as the band’s music, and since U2 are showing no signs of slowing down, I hope they keep going ’til death does them part.