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The annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction brings back controversy surrounding inductee eligibility

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2023 Induction Ceremony raises questions about the current state of genre and what "rock and roll" even means.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2023 Induction Ceremony raises questions about the current state of genre and what "rock and roll" even means.

The 38th annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is happening today with The Spinners, Rage Against the Machine, Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Missy Elliot and George Michael all being inducted this year.

On top of the performers, there are three additional induction categories. The Musical Influence Award will be awarded to DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray, the Musical Excellence Award to Chaka Khan, Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin and the Ahmet Ertegun Award to Don Cornelius.

Though the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame itself is located in Cleveland, Ohio, the 2023 ceremony will take place in Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center.

In order to be inducted, the first record by the musician or band has to be out for at least 25 years.

The guidelines on which musicians fit under the umbrella of rock and roll, though, are less clear.

One of the biggest points of controversy was the induction of Dolly Parton, whose music would typically be classified as country. Parton initially declined the recognition, but she later accepted and will release a rock album on Nov. 17.

Kylee Phillips, a first-year emerging technology in business and design major at Miami University, listens mostly to rock music over any other genre. Phillips believes induction into the Hall of Fame should be partially based on who inspired the artist when creating their music. 

“It’s more of a legacy type of thing,” Phillips said. “I definitely think that they should take into account the person’s influences — who they look up to — because a lot of the time they don’t just make music. They make it based on who they look up to.”

Phillips also thinks that as a whole, the Hall of Fame goes beyond a single genre. The institution even includes a section for rap.

“It goes beyond just rock and roll, even though it was kind of created to just be rock and roll, because Cleveland is supposed to be known as a rock and roll capital,” Phillips said. “I think that they’ve definitely evolved further, to try to probably have more different types of people coming to the actual museum. It’s definitely kind of broadened their different levels.”

Natalie Czarnik, a first-year music education major, says she listens to a bit of everything, with some prominent genres being classical, pop and showtunes.

To Czarnik, rock and roll can mean many things, and there is a lot that goes into classifying something as a part of the genre. While different people may make different rules for rock and roll, an important part of the genre is breaking those rules and adding new variations.

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Name recognition and legacy are two things that Czarnik thinks should be taken into account when it comes to selecting inductees. 

“They would have to have some sort of legacy, I guess with their records. Billboard chart toppers,” Czarnik said. “Almost someone where you say their name and you’re like, ‘Oh, I know who that is.’”

Czarnik thinks that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become more inclusive through the years, especially in cases like the induction of Parton.

“A big music hall of fame now is what it’s shifting toward,” Czarnik said. “I think it’s kind of cool because they’re just recognizing people that deserve to be recognized in some way.”

Olivia Mowry, a first-year chemistry major, listens to a lot of classic rock, as well as indie rock. Mowry says the definition has really shifted over the years, and what actually classifies as rock is really up for interpretation. However, to her, it is a form of expression.

“It depends from band to band, but it kind of just expresses the way you feel without having to feel it yourself,” Mowry said. “It’s really morphed over time as more genres have come to light. It’s like everything has its own branch of rock and roll.”

Mowry thinks what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is and represents has morphed over time too, along with the genre as a whole.

“You just have to be an artist who has made an impact on the world around you,” Mowry said. “You have Dolly Parton, and Sir Paul McCartney and just The Beatles in general. All people who have done good ... They’re known not only for their music, but for what they’ve done altogether.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be broadcast live on Disney+ on Friday, Nov. 3.