For their 2021 double-interview feature in SPIN, I said this about Amy Ray and Emily Saliers:
“Since they exploded onto the scene with their self-titled, major-label debut in 1989, they’ve been helping us all, by example, give insight between black and white, and take life less seriously—and moreso when needed. Amy and Emily have always been consistently, unapologetically exactly who they are: compassionate roving troubadours with a message of peace, progress, and togetherness.” I went on to say talk about how they “went on to reinvent their own version of folk-duo stardom, at a time when no one could have known they were exactly what we needed, a break from the little bit of everything the ‘80s bouncy pop charts offered—this was something else.”
At the time, it seemed shocking to me that they could be unaware of their obvious influence over music and culture: a revolutionary folk-pop album that broke through the cacophony of dance-ready singles to help us think and feel. Their success wasn’t a sure thing, but built on purposeful, powerful, unignorable songwriting and beautiful harmonies. Their eponymous platinum-selling second album—the one that houses “Closer to Fine” and earned them the Best Contemporary Folk Recording Grammy—was released mere weeks after Ronald Reagan passed the presidential torch to George H. W. Bush in 1989. In an era defined by its conservatism and open intolerance, the Indigo Girls fiercely and gently persisted.
This being my fourth Rock Hall letter, I can already hear the arguments against this. Let’s go through them together:
They’re not rock ‘n roll. From inductees like Dolly Parton to Joan Baez, the Rock Hall consistently honors artists in a broad spectrum of genres.
They haven’t had that many “hits.” If you still think that an artist’s career is defined by chart success, I can’t help you. Their 16 albums so far have earned an array of gold, platinum, and double-platinum statuses—and they’re icons. They’re music is inspirational and anthemic. That should be enough.
“[INSERT ANOTHER WOMAN’S NAME HERE] first!” This is perhaps the most common and the most damaging. It’s true that in the past there hasn’t been much room for women in the music industry, let alone the Rock Hall. Though you likely don’t mean to, by saying this you’re perpetuating the problem. I love the way these letters inspire people to advocate for the artists they love most, but by saying another woman should be inducted first further cements the notion that there’s only room for one woman artist.
Why couldn’t an entire Rock Hall class be all women inductees?
It’s about fucking time.