25 Classic Artists You Won’t Believe Aren’t In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

With its 2014 class being inducted today, it’s time to pull up some of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s most glaring omissions. Prepare to be shocked, disappointed, and maybe even outraged.

25. Stevie Ray Vaughan

You know this list is going to have some contenders on it when Stevie Ray Vaughan is at the very beginning. This may come as one of the more surprising omissions, since he’s arguably the most famous guitar hero of the last 30 years. Vaughan’s blazing blues bends managed to recall both the abandon of Jimi Hendrix and the precision of David Gilmour. Surely his induction is only a matter of time, but despite being eligible for years, he’s yet to be formally nominated.

24. Captain Beefheart

Anyone who would self-apply a moniker like Captain Beefheart has got to be a little strange, and Don Van Vliet is no exception. His jagged blues presentations can sometimes be difficult listening, but they are just as haunting and emotional as they are maniacal. Beefheart died in 2010, and even though he hadn’t put out a record in almost 30 years the music world mourned the death of such a singular figure. His relentless experimentalism makes him an unforgettable performer and composer.

23. Black Flag

These guys make The Sex Pistols look like the Carpenters. Boastful of their message with fast, aggressive music to back it up, Black Flag are probably the band par excellence of the hardcore punk movement. The band provided a template that has been followed and expanded upon by countless successors. It’s hard to say if the Hall of Fame has the guts to induct these guys, but it’d certainly help their credibility: no one else inducted so far pushes the envelope as much as Black Flag.

22. Nancy Sinatra

Nancy Sinatra cultivated an iconic image all her own in the 60s. She combined sex appeal with psychedelia, being down-to-earth and experimental in accordance with the hippie times. She’s probably most famous for her lineage, association with the James Bond franchise and the classic These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, but Sinatra’s unique, acid-drenched and quintessentially 60s catalog is filled with darkness, mystique and melody.

21. Richie Havens

Richie Havens is one of the only remaining musical milestones of Woodstock yet to be inducted. While not strictly a “rock” musician, Havens made a career out of his highly inventive, worldly flavored covers of classic rock tunes, notably songs by the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Although he recorded and performed right up until the very end of his life, he will perhaps always be best known as the inaugural performer at Woodstock. Whilst waiting for the other bands to arrive, Havens played a now-legendary set that lasted several hours.

20. Mountain

Fronted by the gravelly, growling voice and fat, fuzzy guitar of the mountainous Leslie West and bolstered by the complex, flower-child songwriting of psychedelic visionary and Cream producer Felix Pappalardi, Mountain was one of the first major American hard rock bands. Their classic Mississippi Queen virtually defines “classic rock” and their covers of classics like This Wheel’s on Fire and Satisfaction are woefully underrated. In 1983, Felix was killed when his wife misfired a pistol, and the soul of rock and roll still feels his loss.

19. Nina Simone

Inasmuch as rock and roll is a state of mind, this jazz legend is every bit as rock and roll as anybody else on this list. Nina Simone’s electrifying voice soared out of the lowest female register, carrying with it every ounce of the power and emotion of the civil rights movement. A gifted pianist as well, Simone could cross into soul alongside her tough jazz, gospel and blues, cementing her status as perhaps the most important vocalist of her generation.

18. The Smiths

Legions of artists insist upon the central importance of The Smiths’ influence. While it’s usually Morrissey who attracts most of the attention, guitarist Johnny Marr’s tasteful guitar playing flavored Morrissey’s famously mopey and sardonic lyrics in a way that made the listener enjoy being made depressed. Such tremendous songwriters and widely influential figures are exactly what the Hall was made for.

17. Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf’s contributions to the Easy Rider soundtrack will forever cement their importance to the counterculture of the era, and their lasting impact on the imagery of rock simply cannot be overstated. Credited by some with coining the term “heavy metal,” their music came about as close to fitting that description as anybody else’s did in the 60s. It was dirty, gritty, bluesy, greasy and totally undiluted.

16. The Monkees

Hey, hey, where are The Monkees? Despite starting out as a deliberate marketing ploy to create an American Beatles, The Monkees blossomed from a group of actors playing a boy band into fully developed artists with major songwriting talent – a transformation Micky Dolenz quipped was like Leonard Nimoy actually becoming a Vulcan. Regardless of how seriously you’re inclined to take them, The Monkees are an undeniably important chapter in rock’s history.

15. The Guess Who

Canada’s The Guess Who have all but vanished from discussions on important performers, and it’s more than a little strange. Their litany of hits are still rotated heavily on classic rock radio, including These Eyes, New Mother Nature and the perennial favorite, American Woman. Burton Cummings’s forceful delivery on songs like Share the Land and Randy Bachman’s tasteful, jazzy guitar playing on the classic Undun distinguish the band from the multitude of other hit-making sensations of the late-60s.

14. Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio may be metal’s most important godfather. Sitting at the helm of numerous important metal bands, his voice is one of the most recognizable in rock. He’s also the man responsible for popularizing rock ‘n’ roll’s devil horns. Mixing sword and sorcery in with rock, Dio wrote catchy songs about men on silver mountains and rainbows in the dark. While there are certainly other worthy metal acts, the Hall of Fame just isn’t complete without this centrally important figure of one of rock’s biggest subgenres.

13. Blue Öyster Cult

One of rock’s greatest riddles is New York’s Blue Öyster Cult. Setting the live music scene on fire in the 70s, BÖC’s songs are classic: timeless, yearning accounts of loves lost sitting side-by-side songs like Harvester of Eyes. Most of the well-known songs are from the pen of lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, but every member of the band has notable writing credits. It’s music that can be beautiful, heavy, enigmatic, gothic and humorous – sometimes all at once.

12. N.W.A.

You all know what it stands for, and of any accusations you might make against N.W.A., false advertising is not one of them. They showed a stiff, over-privileged white America a vision of the streets it had never seen, prompting all-new degrees of social awareness. Many of the members have gone onto impressive solo careers and explored new artistic mediums. N.W.A. set the stage for black artists in a post-Reagan America to face white audiences with the proper level of hostility, and if you watch FOX News you’ll know white people are still terrified.

11. Kate Bush

Widely known for her unique and arresting falsetto, Kate Bush was one of the most adventurous and experimental female pop stars of the 70s. A pure artist, Bush has remained steadfast across the decades in her unwillingness to compromise. The Hall is way behind in recognizing her. For her bold experimentalism and undeniable influence on artists such as Bjork and Regina Spektor, Bush ought to be a shoo-in.

10. The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues are one of pop’s most imminently listenable bands. In a single word, they are lush. Formed way back in 1964, they were the first to successfully incorporate classical music into pop, scoring many of their hits with full orchestration. Considering the large number of these hits, their enormous popularity, their impressive longevity, their originality, and the instant name recognition, this is one of the most mysterious of the Hall’s omissions.

9. Thin Lizzy

Working-class rock and roll has never had a more powerful voice than Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott. Whether singing tormented tales of unrequited love or testosterone-fueled rockers, the sincerity in Lynott’s words is unmatched. He lost his battle with addiction far too early, but the band left an impressive recorded output, bolstered by their famous twin lead guitars, that is still rotated heavily on the radio today. If Lynott’s home city of Dublin can erect a statue of him, the Hall of Fame can certainly give these underdogs the recognition they deserve.

8. Yes

This is the second year in a row Yes has been nominated for induction and failed to get in. Forty years after their “classic” heyday, the music still sounds unprecedented and futuristic. Many of their songs feature the dazzling virtuosity of all five members, the classic lineup consisting of Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire – all pillars of their respective instruments. They even adjusted to the 80s better than most prog-rock contemporaries, landing a smash hit with Owner of a Lonely Heart.

7. Journey

It’s hard to think of a band more despised by critics, and yet with more huge fans, than Journey. The arena rock superstars have their share of undeniably outstanding material. Any band that can get people to stand arm-in-arm and sing along the way Journey can with classics like Don’t Stop Believin’ just has to be something special. Rock and roll belongs to the people, and Journey is definitely the peoples’ band.

6. Dick Dale

Just about everyone who plays fast, heavy guitar riffs owes a debt to surf rock god Dick Dale. But for all the attention his breathtaking lead playing receives, Dale’s elegant, tasteful and acid-drenched chord phrasings are equally noteworthy. Maybe the most astonishing thing about a song like Misirlou is that 50 years since its release, there’s still nothing around to match its energy. Dale has been ignored since his first eligible year of 1987, and as the most important figure in a genre that was once the most popular in music, that’s frankly a scandal.

5. Jethro Tull

Another polarizing band, Jethro Tull is probably most famous for frontman Ian Anderson’s totally original use of the flute as a lead rock instrument. Their catalog covers blues, folk, classical, progressive rock and even Christmas music in a uniquely Tull way, with huge hits strewn around for good measure. Few pop composers possessed as tuneful an ear as Anderson, whose command of melody and masterful poetry allowed him to pen aggressive rock screeds or lilting acoustic laments with equal poignancy.

4. Joe Cocker

From his earliest days performing at classic concerts like Woodstock and Newport with The Grease Band, Joe Cocker established himself as a lively entertainer with an R&B sensitivity on contemporary hits. Perhaps his most famous song is With A Little Help From My Friends. With age has come very little loss of energy – he can still be a potent and vital entertainer whose wild gesticulations are cultural blueprints and whose powerful voice is at least as commanding today as it was in 1969.

3. Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon is rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest outlaw. He lived the music he wrote and wrote about the life he lived. The songs tell of his own reckless behavior, masterfully constructed character studies, the slow crawl of death and tender laments for second chances. Zevon famously faced his premature death from mesothelioma with the same sardonic wit and cynicism he’d evinced all throughout his career.

2. King Crimson

An ongoing project of musical mad genius Robert Fripp, King Crimson is the cornerstone band of progressive rock. From Peter Gabriel to Tool to Kurt Cobain, countless prominent musicians have been inspired by the band. King Crimson’s virtuosos introduced the world to the mellotron, recorded some of rock’s biggest and most bombastic symphonies, toyed with gamelan and new wave, and even put a stamp on heavy metal. Through all their lineup changes, genre flirtations and totally uncompromised art, they’ve been just about everywhere but the Hall of Fame.

1. Deep Purple

Deep Purple’s exclusion is almost comical. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – if that is its real name – really ought to know better. Widely considered one of the three formative groups of heavy metal, along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple was also successful as a pop group in the late-60s. Prior to their first lineup change, which brought about the Mark II formation famous for hits like Highway Star and Smoke on the Water, the band had a smash with the classic Hush.

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