CLEVELAND - Six more names will become part of music infamy when they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next April.
The Rock Hall has announced its 2017 performer inductees, who will be enshrined in the annual induction ceremony April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The six inductees were among a list of 19 nominees, chosen by a committee of more than 900 people. A special exhibit on the 2017 inductees will open at the Rock Hall in Cleveland March 30.
If you’ve seen Joan Baez live you’ll know the simmering charismatic presence that draws you into her performance. It’s a powerful force that saw her cross over from her folk roots into the mainstream, achieving gold albums in the 70’s and also provided a platform for her lifetime’s work, championing civil rights and human rights, highlighting the downtrodden, standing up against discrimination and reminding us it’s not always only rock ‘n’ roll.
Gifted with a natural singing voice and influenced by an early appreciation of opera, her career really took off following a performance at Newport Folk Festival in 1959, her first self-titled album coming out the following year. In these early days Baez was at the core of the American roots music revival where she championed a barely known at the time Bob Dylan and paved the way for other artists like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. Although a talented songwriter herself, it’s Joan Baez’s interpretation of other writer’s work that really stands out. At the age of 13 she was taken to see Pete Seeger whose performance inspired her to start learning some of his repertoire and perform publicly. It’s Baez’s version of ‘We Shall Overcome’ that became prominent during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s; she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and performed the song at rallies. As the 70’s got started, her cover of The Band’s ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ went to the top of the charts and is arguably the definitive version. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2007.
Joan Baez opened Live Aid in the USA in 1985 and performed on two Amnesty International tours in the same decade. The organization honored her in 2011 at its 50th Anniversary with the inaugural Joan Baez Award for outstanding inspirational service in the global fight for human rights.
In a career spanning over 55 years and over 30 albums, Joan Baez is still touring and still mesmerizing audiences all over the world. Her social activism has provoked and inspired, encouraging many other performers who followed to stand up for their beliefs.
Electric Light Orchestra
Electric Light Orchestra, or more popularly known as ELO, were formed in Birmingham England in 1970 when Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood, members of The Move, had the vision to start a new project that would create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones.
Joined by fellow Move member Bev Bevan, their mission was clear – to pick up where the Beatles left off and carry the torch. And they did just that. Their first single “10538 Overture,” released in 1972, is an unabashed homage to the Beatles, a heavily orchestrated psychedelic gem that sounded like their musical answer to “I Am The Walrus.” Roy Wood left ELO later that year, leaving Lynne as the band’s sole creative force, and he took them to both creative and commercial heights. Their fourth album Eldorado, A Symphony, a concept record about a daydreamer, yielded their first US top 10 single “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” and became the band’s first gold album. The two albums that followed produced four top 20 hits - “Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic,” “Livin’ Thing” and “Telephone Line” – that are all still classic rock radio mainstays. Their next album was their most ambitious yet, the multi-platinum selling double LP Out Of The Blue, that featured three more hit singles, including the ever popular “Mr. Blue Sky,” and a grandiose tour highlighted by the now famous spaceship stage complete with fog machines and laser displays that made ELO a must-see concert. All told, ELO has sold over 50 million records worldwide and between 1972 and 1986, Jeff Lynne wrote and produced twenty-six Top 40 hits in the UK and twenty in the US. Their legacy is still growing and their success continues today, with Jeff Lynne’s ELO selling out huge shows around the world, and their timeless songs have become staples for music fans of all generations. John Lennon once famously referred to the band as “sons of the Beatles,” but more than 40 years later, it is clear that ELO have carved out their own unique place in rock history.
Formed in San Francisco in 1973, the group was initially a combination of ex-Santana members Neil Schon and Gregg Rolie, and ex- Frumious Bandersnatch members. The band was steeped in the psychedelic and jazz fusion sounds of San Francisco and pushed out into the territory of progressive and hard rock with songs like “Of A Lifetime” and “I’m Gonna Leave You.” In 1977 they found Steve Perry – one of the all-time great rock voices – a singer who could perform ballads and scorchers with equal skill and passion. Between 1978 and 1981, they refined their sound, worked on their songwriting, and eventually released one of the biggest hit albums of the early 1980s, Escape (1981). Pulling from Queen’s melodic rock sound (by specifically working with Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker), the band was soon performing in sold out stadiums around the world. Their biggest hit, “Don’t Stop Believin” is a song that has gone beyond its own place and time and has become a cultural anthem, appearing in everything from the TV show Glee, the final episode of The Sopranos, and even as the finale of the Broadway musical Rock Of Ages. They followed up in 1983 with another album full of radio hits on Frontiers. The opening track “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” blended all the best elements of their powerful music: synth arpeggios, guitar power chords, thumping bass and drums, and the soaring vocals of Perry. In the late 80s and 90s they only put out two new albums, but each captured their signature sound, although with a decidedly AOR sheen. The band continues to tour the world with their new lead singer Arnel Pine, and their classic hits continue to rock the world – just turn on “Don’t Stop Believin” in a bar and see what happens.
When they released their debut album, Ten, in August, 1991, Pearl Jam were a band of young unknowns to anyone not from Seattle, Washington. At home, Pearl Jam were practically a supergroup – founded in 1990 at a crossroads of classic rock, Seventies heavy metal and hardcore punk, just as that city’s underground scene was about to go worldwide.
Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard played in the proto-grunge bands Green River and Mother Love Bone; Mike McCready was a highly regarded lead guitarist steeped in Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Matt Cameron of Seattle elders Soundgarden played drums on Pearl Jam’s early demos, finally joining in 1998 after a parade of drummers including Dave Krusen. Singer Eddie Vedder was an out-of-town wild card, a San Diego emigrant whose baritone howl, aggressively emotional lyrics and jubilantly unhinged stage presence quickly made him a universal symbol of the personal trials and cleansing rage at the heart of Nineties alternative rock.
Propelled by the hits “Alive” and “Jeremy” (about a high school student’s suicide), Ten sold more than 13 million copies in America, launching a singular career of enduring commercial success (ten Top Five studio albums, half of them Number Ones) and staunch idealism. In the mid-Nineties, Pearl Jam challenged monopolistic practices in the concert-ticket industry; in 2000, they took the live-tape-sharing aesthetic to a new fan-friendly extreme, initiating a series of soundboard-quality live releases from every show – a now-common practice among bands big and new. Pearl Jam have also collaboratored extensively – as a group and individuals, on stage and records – with a long list of inspirations including Neil Young, the Who and the Ramones. 25 years after Ten, Pearl Jam are still one of the most reliably explosive, vigorously committed and truly modern rock bands in the world.
Beyond his popularity, Tupac Shakur is one of the most complex figures to emerge from hip-hop – really, to emerge from any art form. His naked emotion and fearless personal revelation were a direct influence on MCs from Eminem to Kendrick Lamar. “Every rapper who grew up in the ‘90s owes something to Tupac,” wrote 50 Cent in Rolling Stone, paying tribute to Shakur as one of the “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time.”
Tupac was born into struggle—his mother, Afeni, was a leader in the Black Panther movement—but grew up to become not just a multi-platinum rapper, but a movie star. He managed to become both the “realest” artist, in a genre obsessed with authenticity, and larger than life. His songs preached activism and nihilism, expressed rage and love, raised questions without answers. He was a lightning rod, a screen onto which millions of people continue to project their feelings about rap, about race, and about the young black man in America today.
Tupac’s first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, instantly generated both acclaim and controversy. Though the single “Brenda’s Got A Baby” demonstrated his empathy and conscience, the album’s unsparing examinations of street violence and police harassment led to a public condemnation by Vice President Dan Quayle.
This tension would continue to play out over the next five years, as Tupac’s life grew increasingly tumultuous and his popularity escalated. “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Dear Mama” were heart-tugging, feminist anthems; elsewhere, he could be brutally misogynist and violent – a side of his work which escalated when he became part of Suge Knight's Death Row empire.
But even as his rap sheet grew, his records kept getting better, culminating in 1996’s All Eyez On Me, which spawned five singles, including two Number One hits, “California Love” and “How Do U Want It.” Meanwhile, his performances in Juice, Poetic Justice, Above The Rim, and other movies revealed a powerful screen presence.
In a recording career tragically cut short after just five years, Tupac Shakur sold over 75 million records worldwide, with All Eyez On Me and his Greatest Hits collection both surpassing the ten million sales mark. Since his murder in 1996 at the age of 25, Tupac’s legend and impact have continued to expand across the globe. He has become an international symbol of resistance and outlaw spirit, an irresistible contradiction, a definitive rap anti-hero.
Yes is the most enduring, ambitious and virtuosic progressive band in rock history. By fusing the cinematic soundscapes of King Crimson with the hard rock edge of The Who and the soaring harmonies and melodies of Simon and Garfunkel, they took progressive rock from a small audience of aficionados to radio airwaves and football stadiums all over America.
Hits like "Roundabout" and "I've Seen All Good People" appealed to rock fans who did not even think they liked prog rock, while album-side length epics like "Close To The Edge" and "The Gates Of Delirium" represent the genre at its absolute finest. Steve Howe remains one of the most underrated guitarists in rock history, while keyboardist Rick Wakeman, bassist Chris Squire and drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White will always be regarded as musicians simply without peer. Frontman Jon Anderson is an alto tenor singer who still hits the highest of high notes 45 years after forming the group.
While many of their contemporaries wilted once punk hit, Yes managed to change with the times, and they reemerged in the 80s as an MTV-ready commercial force, landing massive hits on the charts like "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." While prog giants like Pink Floyd, Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer retired years ago, Yes continues to tour (albeit with some new members) at a pace that would leave bands half their age breathless.
Musical Excellence Award
Legendary musician, songwriter and producer Nile Rodgers will receive the Musical Excellence Award.
Rodgers is the co-founder and lead guitarist of the band disco era band Chic, formed in 1976. He also recorded a trio of solo albums and has found success producing and collaborating with many modern big-name artists, including Lady Gaga, Daft Punk and Madonna.
Want to hear samples of all the inductees' work? Check out this Spotify playlist:
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