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Rock Hall Welcomes a Diverse, Influential Class of 2021

Rock Hall 2021 LP.jpg
An artist is eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after releasing their first record. Carole King and Tina Turner have previous been inducted: King for songwriting, and Turner with Ike & Tina. They will be inducted again on Saturday to recognize their solo work. Todd Rundgren and Billy Preston have been eligible for over 20 years, while Foo Fighters -- led by Warren native Dave Grohl -- were first eligible in 2020.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts the Class of 2021 on Saturday. It’s the first time the ceremony will be at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and the first time its being held in-person since 2019.

In the performer category, there are several people being honored for the second time. In 1990, Carole King was inducted as a songwriter. Now, she’s being recognized for her recording career. Similarly, Tina Turner was inducted 30 years ago as part of Ike & Tina Turner – and she now gets a solo induction as well. Warren’s Dave Grohl was inducted with Nirvana -- the band for which he played drums, sang, and wrote songs – in 2014. He’ll get into the hall for a second time on Saturday, as leader of Foo Fighters.

Amanda Rabinowitz visits Dave Grohl's hometown of Warren, in this piece for WKSU's “Shuffle.”

Grohl’s band will be presented by Sir Paul McCartney – a dual honoree himself – and one of several high-profile presenters this year, such as Taylor Swift and Lionel Richie.

Past honorees say one of the best parts of the ceremony is getting to meet the person who welcomes them into the Hall of Fame. The Doors’ Robbie Krieger remembers when Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam inducted his band in 1993.

“To us, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but it sounded fun [because] Eddie Vedder was going to sing with us. He was quite a Doors fan. When we were hanging around the hotel before the show, I went up to his room and hung out. And he just grilled me about everything. He was really into The Doors – especially Jim [Morrison].”

Krieger spoke with WKSU ahead of his appearance with the Hudson Library, promoting his new book, “Set the Night On Fire.”

Fifty years ago
The Doors released their last album with lead singer Jim Morrison in 1971. That’s the same year Todd Rundgren began recording his masterpiece, "Something/Anything?," released the next year.  Although he’s been eligible since the mid-90s, Rundgren has shown little interest in the Rock Hall.

On Friday night, he plays the Canton Palace Theater. On Saturday, he’ll be at ICON Music Center in Cincinnati, instead of in Cleveland for the Rock Hall ceremony. But he’s been a favorite of local audiences since the late 1960s, when his band Nazz made a name for itself on the north coast.

One of his major fans in Northeast Ohio was a young woman from Massillon, who grew up to be the Mayor of Chicago. Last year, during a stop in Akron, Lori Lightfoot spoke of her admiration for Rundgren’s work.

"I think that he is really quite a genius, particularly if you look at some of his early work in the early-to-mid '70s.”

Lightfoot won’t be attending the ceremony, either, but she does plan to catch one of his shows in Chicago next week. After that, Rundgren returns to Northeast Ohio for shows at MGM Northfield Park. On many stops of his current tour, Rundgren recreates his 1973 album "A Wizard, A True Star" — something he also did on his 2009 tour, which stopped at the Akron Civic Theater. WKSU's Jeff St. Clair conducted a lengthy interview at the time. Here’s Rundgren at the old Cleveland Agora in 1978:

God Bless The Go-Gos
Another act which has been eligible for over a decade enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday: The debut Go-Go's LP gave them the distinction of being the first all-female group to write their own songs, play their own instruments and top the album chart.

Lakewood-based author Annie Zaleski has written extensively about The Go-Go’s, including this Salon.com article looking back at the impact of “Beauty and the Beat.” She says the band’s continued success speaks to how things have changed over four decades.

“Rock and roll was such a male-dominated genre that women weren’t given the opportunities. They weren’t necessarily seen as equal to men, or as talented as men. Which, of course, was completely unfair and completely untrue.” Zaleski hopes inducting The Go-Go’s signals that Rock Hall voters have recognized the influence of New Wave acts such as Duran Duran – on whom she wrote a book earlier this year -- The Smiths, and The B-52s.

On Friday, The Go-Go’s will be interviewed live on the Rock Hall’s outdoor stage, followed by a signing for new books from Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock. Details are here.

First ballot inductee
While fans of The Go-Go’s and Todd Rundgren have waited 25 years to see their inductions, hip hop pioneer JAY-Z will enter the Hall on Saturday in his first year of eligibility. (An act can be nominated 25 years after the release of its first record).
He's being represented in the Hall with a painting by New Orleans artist Jerin Beasley. Beasley was in Cleveland for the induction, and says JAY-Z’s impact extends beyond rap.

“He's the best to ever do it, man. The picture says a lot. That's why the painting is the only thing that he chose to be in the Rock Hall: because it says a lot about where he's going, The Tree of Life. He’s branched out and gave a lot of artists different avenues and introduced a lot of artists to -- not just rap -- but the business side of things and how far you can take it. It's bigger than music.”

The inductee exhibit will be up at the Rock Hall until next year.

Musical Excellence
This year’s award recognizing outstanding support performers will go to rapper LL Cool J, legendary heavy metal guitarist Randy Rhoads, and Billy Preston, who worked with The Beatles and Ray Charles, and had several hits of his own. He was also the very first musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” (then titled “NBC’s Saturday Night”) when it debuted on October 11, 1975:

The Hall will also give the Ahmet Ertegun Award to R&B Entrepreneur Clarence Avant on Saturday. Blues musician Charley Patton and electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk are among this year's Early Influence honorees. Ideastream Public Media’s David C. Barnett appeared on 'The Sound of Ideas' this week to to discuss their legacy. And just days after the induction, the band announced their 2022 tour, with a stop at PlayHouse Square on May 29.

Earlier this year, just after the Class of 2021 was announced, Barnett was on the show to discuss the entire class along with ideastream Manager of Arts & Culture Carrie Wise, and WKSU's Amanda Rabinowitz and Kabir Bhatia.

Soul writer-performer Gil Scott-Heron is the final 2021 Early Influence. Here he is on the seventh edition of 'NBC's Saturday Night':

In this week's edition of "Shuffle," Amanda Rabinowitz spoke with concert promoter and Rock Hall Boardmember Alec Wightman about his new book, "Music In My Life: Notes From a Longtime Fan."

Ahmet Ertegun Award
This year's recipient is executive Clarence Avant, who was inducted by Lionel Richie.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.