There has been a lot of talk this past week over the fact that Madonna
did not perform at her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall
Of Fame. While some looked at her actions as further proof
that she wasn't worthy of such an honor, it made me think of
What about the Soul Music Hall Of
Yes, there are some soul artists in the Cleveland
museum: most of the Stax and Motown artists, heavy hitters like
Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and the
Isley Brothers, as well as pioneers like Sam Cooke and Jackie
But that is just my point.
the soul artists recognized by the Hall reached their artistic
peak by 1972. Here we are watching the beginning of 80s
pop acts receive nominations but there is still no Meters, War, Kool
And The Gang, Commodores, or influential acts like Mandrill
It is my belief that the critics and gatekeepers
who control media outlets dedicated to determining "the best" music of all
time and institutions like the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame are infatuated
with soul music from the 1960s through 1972, but are either alienated
or intimidated by the emergence of funk, rap, and other black styles
from the mid 70s on through today. This can be seen as far back as
the first edition of The
Rolling Stone Record Guide, where, with the exception of some
Philly soul releases, almost every black music record after Let's Get
It On gets dismissed as "mindless boogie."
not forget the controversy that ensued surrounding the recent nominations
of Chic and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Despite having a
much more profound impact on the music scene than 2008 inductee John
Mellencamp, Chic was dismissed as too lightweight for consideration.
But another 2008 inductee, Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five,
stated his own music “had no message. It was just supposed to be
about fun and good times.” And who can forget that when Grandmaster
Flash and the Furious Five got enough votes for induction, critics claimed
that the vote was fixed, essentially saying they were beneficiaries of
a kind of musical affirmative action?
not denying the potency of Otis Redding or the
Impressions. They should definitely be members of the Hall Of
Fame. But seeing how the cut-off point for black artists tends to
end so early, I believe these critics have such fond memories of
sixties soul because it reminds them of their youth, and they are
considering social context as an additional factor in giving some acts
consideration. It is easier for them to respect the assimiliationist
tendencies of the Motown machine than the indepedent black
consciousness that birthed funk and hip hop, genres that
were not concerned with crossing over. I would not hold out
much hope for many black acts to be recognized by the Hall in the future.
With that said, I feel it's imperative that we formulate our own
Hall. There is the much-needed Rhythm And Blues Foundation, but
its emphasis is on financial and medical assistance and their Pioneer
Awards do not receive much attention. They also do not have
a facility to commemorate their honorees. A proposed R & B
Hall Of Fame has been spearheaded by Kenny Gamble for years, but work
hasn't even begun on the building. The closest thing we have is the Stax Museum, but
that is understandably limited to their contributions to soul.
Let's hope that Gamble's efforts succeed, because a R & B Hall
Of Fame would go a long way towards correcting the omissions of the Rock
and Roll Hall Of Fame and prove that their validation isn't
needed, for we know who our true legends are.