The ballots are in, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2023 will comprise Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, and the Spinners. Twenty-five years after her first recording, Missy Elliott is the only artist in the class to be inducted in her first year of eligibility, and will also be the first female rapper in the Hall.
The Fan Favorite
For the sixth year, the Rock Hall’s website hosted a poll that counts toward the official vote but doesn’t guarantee induction. Michael won the fan vote this year, continuing the trend of poll winners getting into the Hall (only one previous winner, Dave Matthews Band, was shut out). Michael, who died in 2016, is the only posthumously inducted solo performer this year, while Henry Farmbrough, who turns 85 next week, is the only living member of the Spinners’ classic ‘70s lineup that’s being inducted.
The runner-ups for the fan vote, Cyndi Lauper and Warren Zevon, won’t be inducted this year. The most surprising snub, however, is definitely the White Stripes, who were thought to be a shoo-in in their first year of eligibility. Joy Division and New Order, two influential Manchester bands that shared three members, were nominated jointly for the first time in February. They won’t, however, be inducted this year to follow in the footsteps of Parliament-Funkadelic and the Faces/Small Faces, the two previous pairs of bands who entered the Hall as a split entry.
The Side Categories
The Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers will go to the late Soul Train host Don Cornelius this year. The Musical Excellence Award will go to Chaka Khan, session pro/producer Al Kooper, and Elton John songwriter Bernie Taupin. Khan has been nominated for the Hall seven times as a solo artist and as a member of the group Rufus, most recently in 2021.
The 2023 Musical Influence Award will go to late guitar legend Link Wray and DJ Kool Herc, the universally acknowledged founding father of hip-hop.
The New Genre-Agnostic Hall
Nelson and the Spinners, both of whom issued their debut singles in 1961, have been eligible for more than 30 years; Nelson was nominated for the first time this year, while the Spinners got in on their fourth nomination. Nelson’s induction follows fellow country legend Dolly Parton’s inclusion in the 2022 class, which she was initially reluctant to accept before happily welcoming the honor. In January, the Rock Hall released a revised mission statement that sought to articulate a more inclusive direction that placed rappers and country and soul singers on equal footing with guitar bands: “Born from the collision of rhythm & blues, country and gospel, rock ‘n’ roll is a spirit that is ever-changing. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates the sound of youth culture and honors the artists whose music connects us all.”
Rap/rock trailblazers Rage Against the Machine, who reunited and mounted a world tour in 2022, had been nominated five times before finally getting into the Hall this year. Only a handful of artists, including the MC5 and Chuck Willis, have been nominated more times without getting in in some shape or form. Rage guitarist Tom Morello has been actively involved in the Hall in recent years, often advocating for hard rock and metal acts like Judas Priest, who received a Musical Excellence Award in 2022. This year however, Morello’s band is the only hard rock act getting in, while fellow nominees Iron Maiden and Soundgarden came up empty.
The Sexism Debate
Kate Bush, like Rage, has been nominated for the past three consecutive years, with four nominations overall. It seems clear the resurgence of her 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill,” which reached a new peak of No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 last year after appearing in the Netflix series Stranger Things, finally helped Bush over the line. Bush is the only British or non-American act being inducted in 2023, following a few years in which a large number of ‘80s U.K. acts have entered the Hall.
In March, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love wrote an op-ed for The Guardian decrying the “sexist gatekeeping” of the Hall and citing the fact that just 8% of the artists inducted since the its 1986 creation are women. Bush, Crow, and Elliott will help nudge that percentage in the right direction, but the Hall would need to induct more than three or four women a year to approach something resembling gender parity.
The 38th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 3.