How Does An Artist Make It Into The Rock Hall? A Conversation With Hall Of Fame VP Jim Henke

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Image courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Image courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

It’s been a long four months for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since the Rock Hall announced its class of 2012 inductees back in December, the chatter surrounding the induction ceremony — specifically, the “will they or won’t they?” over a proper Guns N’ Roses reunion — has trickled out bit by rumor-fueled bit — until yesterday. Axl Rose dropped a bomb in the form of an open letter L.A. Times yesterday, in which he eloquently rejected his own induction and made it clear that a reunion involving some semblance of the original Guns N’ Roses is certainly not in the cards for Saturday’s (April 14) ceremony. The Rock Hall has since countered with its own statement, which tests Rose’s request to not be inducted in absentia and reads as follows: “We are sorry Axl will not be able to accept his induction in person. We are looking forward to still inducting Guns N’ Roses this weekend and will proceed forward with our original plan whether Axl is present or not.”


While it is certain now that Slash and Axl won’t share the stage on Saturday, Green Day will still induct members of GN’R. Case closed, matter settled. Except when it comes to the Rock Hall, everyone seems to have an opinion — or so says the museum’s Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs. Take, for example, what makes an act eligible for nomination for Rock Hall induction. The only real qualification is that the act’s first album has 25 years under its belt, but certainly it’s a bit more complicated than that.

“It’s about the longevity of their career, it’s about how much they influenced the development of rock’n’roll — and the one thing it’s not about is record sales,” Henke tells CBS Local. “Sometimes someone on the nominating committee will say, ‘Well this band sold 5 million albums.’ That’s not what this is about.”

The process is one that starts with a nominating committee consisting of approximately 30 music industry executives, music journalists and historians, who meet once a year. Members each initially suggest two or three artists for induction in the fall, Henke says. “Everything’s fairly friendly, and there’s several rounds of voting,” Henke says.

From there, the committee whittles down the list to around 15 nominees, whose fates are decided by an international voting body comprised 500+ “rock experts” – industry folks, journalists, and most of all, every past Rock Hall inductee.

Before the year’s end, “the chosen ones” are revealed, as they were this past year in early December when it was announced that Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Small Faces/Faces, Donovan, Laura Nyro and the Beastie Boys (as well as a number of sidemen and influences) would get a nod from Cleveland. And finally, this Saturday (April 14), they’ll meet for the long-awaited induction ceremony in Cleveland — an honor for the city as well, as the ceremonies are held there once every three years.

So what can fans expect? Rod Stewart will reunite with members of the Faces for a few songs, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Donovan will take the stage (separately, not together — though Anthony Kiedis did date Donovan’s daughter, Ione Skye), and members of ZZ Top have been added as performers to a tribute to 2012’s influence inductee, late bluesman Freddie King. LL Cool J and Chuck D will salute the Beastie Boys, Bette Midler will tip her hat to Laura Nyro, and John Mellencamp will say a few words about his friend Donovan, among others.

Those not fleeing for the Cleve can still get a glimpse of the action when HBO airs the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 5 at 8 p.m.

–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local

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