Two key figures in music are speaking out against what they deem a history of “sexist gatekeeping” and “establishment backslapping” regarding the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, pointing out how few women have been nominated and inducted since the organization was founded in 1983.
On Friday (March 17), Courtney Love published an op-ed for The Guardian entitled “Why are women so marginalised by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?” In it, she decried the fact that only 8.48% of all inductees are women artists.
Love’s article followed her Instagram outcry on March 14, in which she shared a post from music journalist/filmmaker Jessica Hopper regarding the status quo at the Rock Hall. The Hole frontwoman responded, “So over these ole boys” and with the hashtag, “#fixtherockandrollhalloffame.” In the same post, Love shared a screenshot of a text she sent Dave Grohl ahead of one of his induction appearances, asking him to “hold the seats of Tina Turner and Carole King.”
For her Guardian opinion piece, Love begins by talking about her love of music and wanting to “write great songs and have fun.” But, she adds, “What no magazine or album could teach me or prepare me for was how exceptional you have to be, as a woman and an artist, to keep your head above water in the music business.”
Love quickly points out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s overlooking of two pioneering artists, Big Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose songs were pilfered and made famous by male artists including Elvis Presley. Critics have claimed Tharpe was only inducted in 2018 after the Rock Hall was “shamed” into doing so.
Fast forward to 2023, and Love adds in the article, “The nominations for this year’s class, announced last month, offered the annual reminder of just how extraordinary a woman must be to make it into the ol’ boys club.” Though a good number were nominated this year, including Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Missy Elliott, Sheryl Crow, Meg White (as part of tThe White Stripes), and Gillian Gilbert (as part of New Order), many have been waiting for years past their eligibility period to be considered. As Love says, “This year’s list featured several legendary women who have had to cool their jets waiting to be noticed.”
In 2022, several key women were finally inducted, including Carly Simon, Pat Benatar, and Dolly Parton.
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The op-ed also points out to that the Rock Hall governing board and voters also sway heavily male. As Love states, “Of the 31 people on the nominating board, just nine are women. According to the music historian Evelyn McDonnell, the Rock Hall voters, among them musicians and industry elites, are 90% male.”
Love also takes issue with the lack of diversity among nominees and inductees. “The Rock Hall’s canon-making doesn’t just reek of sexist gatekeeping, but also purposeful ignorance and hostility,” she says. “If the Rock Hall is not willing to look at the ways it is replicating the violence of structural racism and sexism that artists face in the music industry, if it cannot properly honour what visionary women artists have created, innovated, revolutionised and contributed to popular music – well, then let it go to hell in a handbag.”
Love’s take on the situation was quickly echoed by Chrissie Hynde. In a Facebook post yesterday, the Pretenders frontwoman calls the Rock Hall “just more establishment backslapping.” Though the Pretenders were inducted in 2005, Hynde says in her post, “If anyone wants my position in the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame they are welcome to it. I don’t even wanna be associated with it.” Hynde also adds, “Other than Neil Young’s participation in the induction process, the whole thing was, and is, total bollocks. It’s absolutely nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll and anyone who thinks it is is a fool.”
Voting for nominees is currently ongoing, with the Rock Hall noting that inductees will formally be announced in May, along with information about the 2023 induction ceremony.