The 2019 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees has a pronounced English accent, as British rock bands the Cure, Def Leppard, Radiohead, Roxy Music and the Zombies will join the hall’s ranks next year. They’ll join two celebrated American artists, pop star Janet Jackson and singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks.
The selection of Nicks in her first year of eligibility as a solo act is additionally noteworthy in that she becomes the first female musician to be inducted into the hall twice. She was previously voted in as a member of Fleetwood Mac in 1998.
The new inductees will be feted March 29 in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the rock hall’s annual induction dinner and ceremony, which will again gather a raft of those acts’ peers and admirers to deliver testimonials and perform some of their music.
Left behind this time from the slate of nominees that made the final ballot for consideration are a slew of American musicians: Todd Rundgren, John Prine, Devo, Rage Against the Machine, LL Cool J, MC5, and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. In addition, the hall’s 1,000-plus voting membership again overlooked influential German techno band Kraftwerk.
As has increasingly been the case in the six years since officials instituted a fan-voting component in 2012, acts ultimately chosen for induction also strongly reflect the vox populi: Def Leppard won that balloting this year, collecting more than 500,000 votes among the total of 3.3 million entered in the fan competition.
Similarly, Nicks, the Zombies and the Cure were among the five fan favorites who are to be inducted. Only Rundgren, among the top five in the public vote, didn’t make the final cut. Radiohead was the lowest ranked by fans among the 15 acts on the final ballot, placing 10th.
The results of that contest, however, don’t significantly impact the selection process. The way it’s set up, the five top vote-getters in the fan balloting each receive one additional vote toward their overall total.
More important, the process shows the individual voters which acts most appeal to the public, a consideration for a body that has a physical hall of fame and museum in Cleveland whose financial health and well-being relies heavily on its appeal as a tourist attraction.
Before 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame often was criticized as an elitist organization that recognized artists who might have been artistically influential but achieved less commercial success than many others.
One classic example was the New York proto-punk band Velvet Underground, elected to the hall in 1996, despite the fact that none of the group’s albums ever cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 Albums chart, nor even registered a blip on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles ranking.
The first couple of decades of inductions also reflected the tastes of older voters, many of whom had been active since rock was born in the mid-1950s, along with seasoned pop-music critics who traditionally found little of merit in the genres of heavy metal, progressive rock, teen pop, disco and several other fields with strong popular followings.
In the first induction class after the fan polling became part of the process, Canadian prog-rock group Rush topped the fan vote and was in turn chosen to join the hall in 2013, finally quelling the annual outcry from die-hard fans who dismissed the institution for overlooking the group year after year.
The acts being inducted next year represent a broad time span from when each entered the public spotlight — from the Zombies, whose 1965 debut album arrived during the height of the British Invasion, on up through Radiohead, the alt-rock group that issued its first single in 1992 and its debut album in 1993.
To be eligible for induction, at least 25 years must have elapsed since musicians’ first recordings were released, as a way of ensuring that inductees’ contributions have stood the test of time.
Radiohead, long a critical favorite as well as having significant success on the pop sales charts, enters the hall in just its second year of eligibility. The Zombies became eligible in 1990, four years after the induction process began in 1986.
Like Nicks, Def Leppard and Roxy Music have been voted in on their first appearance on the final nomination ballot. Jackson had previously been a nominee in 2016 and 2017, and the Cure had made it that far only once, in 2012. Radiohead also reached the final nomination list last year in its first year of eligibility.
The list of performers for the induction ceremony, and the lineup of those who will be delivering induction speeches, will be announced closer to the event.