Friday, December 09, 2005

Tribune's Pointless Editorial about R&R Hall of Fame

I was flabbergasted by Corey Franklin's guest editorial in the Chicago Tribune about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame titled "The fossilization of rock 'n' roll." His sole qualification is being "a physician at Stroger Hospital," and frankly, I don't know why the newspaper accepted this drivel for publication.

Franklin begins with a meaningless complaint from Def Jam founder Russell Simmons about hip-hop artists being ignored. Well, apparently neither Simmons nor Franklin could be bothered to look at the requirements for consideration:
Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artist’s contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.
Hmm, so how many hip-hop artists made their first record at least 25 years ago? That would be 1981. Even Run-D.M.C., probably the first widely recognized rap artists, released their first album in 1983. Grandmaster Flash? 1982. Besides, Franklin later criticizes the Hall for inducting Miles Davis:
Miles may be a jazz immortal, but inducting him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is like putting Jim Thorpe in Cooperstown for playing a couple of years of baseball in the National League. Great player, wrong sport.
How would inducting a hip-hop artist be any different? There is some hip-hop that I enjoy, but I wouldn't really call it rock and roll. They should start their own museum. That leads to one of Franklin's better points, albeit a tired one dating back to the Hall's founding in 1983 -- that rock and roll is rooted is rebellion, and a Hall of Fame reeks of "establishment." The same could be said for the spirit of hip-hop.

Franklin briefly and weakly critiques the latest inductees: Black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Miles Davis. Davis was covered above. The others were all giants in their respective genres: heavy metal, punk, new wave and Southern rock. I will allow that they aren't on par with people like the Beatles, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis (it would be a small Hall if that were the requirement), but all were important in their time and influenced those who followed. Franklin pretty much writes them all off, so apparently they aren't his kind of rockers. He lacks either the background or maturity to recognize their value.

Franklin really loses credibility in his criticism of Lynyrd Skynyrd -- clearly he has no sense of the original band's influence and importance, maligning them as "definitely" members of the "Mullet Hall of Fame." If you can listen to "Free Bird" and forget that you've already heard it a million times, it really is one of the greatest guitar songs of all time. And I could name a dozen Skynyrd songs that are better than that one. (Another criticism from others is that the current Skynyrd has so few original members, but that's nonsense -- even the Stones are down to Mick, Keith and Charlie. The Stones weren't inducted for their latest work, but for their greatest work.)

While the best Franklin can come up with for future inductees are John Mellencamp, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Patti Smith, I'd like to weigh in once more for an overlooked rock and roll legend -- Link Wray. Anybody can sing some dirty words for controversy, but this is a guy who had an instrumental banned from the radio. If that doesn't capture the spirit of rock and roll, then what does?

I can't figure out why the Tribune published this uninformed editorial in the first place. It starts out whining about people who aren't even eligible not being inducted and proceeds to dismiss every inductee with little explanation. When it comes to music criticism, Dr. Franklin, I think you'd be better off tending to your patients.

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