Because we’ve lost some great musicians this year, it feels especially good to celebrate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s latest crop of inductees.
Winning a place in the hall of fame is like a ticket to rock and roll eternity; and it’s not about who sold the most records, but who had the biggest impact.
The class of 2017 is filled with musical meteorites: winners include Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Tupac Shakur, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey and YES.
This eclectic group of headliners represents disco, rock, rap and folk, and all of them served as soundtracks for multiple generations.
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Pearl Jam, the band that emerged out of Seattle in the early 1990s was eligible for nomination for the first time this year. The band’s name has become synonymous with a genre they helped invent: grunge.
If you don’t like Pearl Jam’s grunge sound — thick power chords and fuzzy distortion aren’t for everybody — you can at least appreciate how this brand of alternative rock embodies the rogue spirit of the Pacific Northwest.
Grunge had a message for kids growing up in the 90s: It told them they didn’t have to follow a script; they could take risks with their lives and with their art. Grunge countered the 80s ethos that success translated to slick suits and fast cars and that greed was good. Grunge told them they were all racing to a red light.
In 1994, Pearl Jam practiced what they preached and filed a memorandum with the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department against Ticketmaster, saying the mega-giant ticket brokers made tickets and service charges too expensive for young fans.
Pearl Jam, originally called Mookie Blaylock, is one of those Cinderella stories, only instead of glass slippers and a royal palace, this tale involves darker subjects like depression and loneliness. These themes dominate many of Pearl Jam’s songs.
Like our beloved region, Pearl Jam was familiar with gloom and didn’t always kowtow to tradition. Its iconic look of flannel shirts and combat boots made its way through mainstream culture and all the way to Paris runways.
If you don’t believe music can be an agent for change, just ask our most recent Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, whose message reached a larger audience because of another 2017 hall of fame winner, Joan Baez.
Baez, who’s been called the first lady of folk, spoke to larger political causes and turned every line she sang into poetry. Baez, like fellow inductee Tupac Shakur, used fresh language to describe a vast emotional range.
Shakur, who died in 1996, was eligible for nomination for the first time this year and will be the sixth hip-hop artist to be inducted. According to the Hall of Fame’s rules, musicians or bands must have released their first single or album at least 25 years prior to nomination.
It’s not uncommon for performers to have multiple nominations before they win. Some of the performers nominated were Bad Brains, Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode, J. Geils Band and Janet Jackson.
To these artists who didn’t make the cut, this year’s winner Journey, the iconic band of the 1980s, would surely say, “Don’t stop believin’.”
The hall’s 32nd induction ceremony will take place on April 7 at the Barclays Center. SiriusXM will do a radio broadcast and HBO will show highlights.
Even though the first rule of grunge is to look unimpressed, the fact that Pearl Jam, the Seattle gods of grunge, will be there is pretty cool.
They may balk tradition, but Pearl Jam’s concerts often end with the Yellow Ledbetter song, one that contains the line: “I don’t know whether I was the boxer or the bag.”
It may not be the anthem of a generation, but it certainly speaks loud and clear to this one.