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Published on Sunday, March 16, 2008 
Where Is The Soul Music Hall Of Fame?

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 something different:

What about the Soul Music Hall Of Fame?

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 Wilson. 

But that is just my point. 

Most of 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 or Labelle.

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." 

Let's 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? 

I am 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.


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