I’m a child of the sixties. I like classic rock, music born from the talent of artists, not commercial formulas. It’s sad to think that performers like Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, or The Band, might not get a shot in the music business of the 21st century. Pop stars of today don’t necessarily have to have talent as long as they can fit the formula, look good on camera, and generate buzz, (read go viral on the internet) they will find some producer ready to wrap them in money and send them to the show.
In an industry that has chosen to put the look and style ahead of the sound and song, I’m grateful that Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is about the roots and not the routine.
This year’s inductees is a who’s who list of performers who played a small part in shaping my musical foundation. I might not ever been able to play a guitar, but I am one hell of a listener.
The first 33 LP record I ever bought for myself with my own money was Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death. (If you are scratching your head asking, “wut in hell is a 33LP?” – click here.) I wore it out and replaced it twice. From 1969 to the release of Muscle of Love in 1973, the Alice Cooper band pioneered big stage productions that included guillotines, boa constrictors, and electric chairs. Before Kiss and Marilyn Manson, there was Alice Cooper. The AC band included guitarist, the late Glen Buxton (1947-1997), rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bass player Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. Hey Alice – Welcome to the Hall of Fame.
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies, Neil Diamond is coming to Cleveland. In a career that spanned over fifty years, the artist referred to as ‘The Jewish Elvis” played music that touched your soul. With heart wrenching lyrics like, “I am, I cried” and “Honey’s sweet, but it ain’t nothin’ next to baby’s treat,” you could feel his music from the ends of your long frayed hair, through the corpuscles of your pounding heart, ending up somewhere in your feet tapping out the unmistakable Neil Diamond beat. His massive list of music still reverberates with audiences today.
Ask anyone what comes out of New Orleans and the most likely responses will be Jazz, Gumbo, and Dr. John. He was in the right place at the right time this year when the Doctor got his ticket punched to the Rock and Roll HOF Inductee ceremony. The flamboyant artist was born in New Orleans in November 1940. He hit the music scene in 1968 with his stage persona of Dr. John, the Night Tripper. His show was a mix of Rhythm & Blues, psychedelic rock, and elaborate costumes and props. His name was taken from a legendary Louisiana voodoo practitioner of the early 19th century.
Perhaps no artist of this years inductees is more deserving than Mr. Tom Waits. It would be easier to compile a list of who hasn’t been influenced by his music. From Pomona, Ca., Waites charged onto the music scene in the early 70s and within a few months was working with some of the biggest names in the business. He has an unmistakable voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.” I know some present day artists that could benefit from the same treatment.
And then there’s Tulsa, Oklahoma’s, Leon Russell, known mostly as a session musician. During his career he has played with: Jerry Lee Lewis, George Harrison, Delaney Bramlett, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, The Byrds, Dave Mason, The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, Badfinger, Tijuana Brass, Frank Sinatra, The Band, Glen Campbell, The Rolling Stones and most recently Sir Elton John. The pair have been touring the country on their “Union” tour. When Elton called Leon last year, it had been 35 years since they first worked together. I for one am happy that Elton never forgot his early influence and proposed they record together – one more time.
The rest of this years inductees are rounded out by, Jac Holzman, Darlene Love, and Art Rupe. Holzman was the founder of Elektra Records in New York, who would bring us acts like Paul Butterfield, The Doors, Carly Simon, Harry Chapin, The MC5, and the legendary Queen.
Art Rupe founded the Los Angeles lable, Specialty Records, just after WWII. Through his doors came early rhythm and blues artists Roy Milton and Percy Mayfield. Later he was to influence the careers of artists like Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke and Little Richard.
Darlene Love from California was only a sophomore in high school when she took her powerful church-choir voice and joined the popular girl group the Blossoms as their first lead singer in 1958. Phil Spector used them to sing on his new Crystals’ singles. With early hits such as “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” Love became a member of Spector’s Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. By 1964, the Blossoms were regulars on TV’s Shindig and had graduated to first-call A-list session singers. Darlene left the blossoms in 1973 to start a family, but the early 1980s roots-rock revival drew her back. She starred in the Broadway “jukebox” musical Leader of the Pack (based on the Ellie Greenwich songbook). U2 later invited her to sing on their 1987 remake of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Join me in applauding this stellar cast of classic rock artists and industry leaders as they take their place among the best of Cleveland’s R&R Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. If you have an extra ticket, I am available.
On a side note it saddens me that Alice Cooper lead guitarist Glen Buxton did not live to see this day. G.B…. This one’s for you.