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What Happened To The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Little Richard and Chuck Berry
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It was 27 years ago tonight (January 23rd, 1986) that the first inductees entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria. The inaugural class of the Hall of Fame featured rock’s forefathers: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Jerry Lee Lewis. Included in the Non-Performer category were Sun Records founder Sam Phillips and seminal disc jockey Alan Freed, whom many credit for actually coining the phrase “Rock And Roll.”

Also inducted that night in the Early Influence category were blues icon Robert Johnson, country’s Jimmie Rogers, and boogie-woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey. Columbia Records’ legendary A&R man John Hammond, who was responsible for discovering Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many others, received the Hall’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

That’s a pretty awe-inspiring group of first inductees. The next several years also included the early influences of rock with artists like Bo Diddley, B.B. King, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and the Who, who were all inducted in the first five years.

But in recent years, Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and the ‘mastermind’ behind the Rock Hall, has started to blur those lines while putting in disco diva Donna Summer this year who joins The Beastie Boys, ABBA and Run D.M.C. who are all already in the Hall of Fame. ABBA?? Really???

Yet bands like Deep Purple, KISS, Judas Priest, Bad Company, Jethro Tull, Yes, Motorhead, Bon Jovi, and SO many others are left on the outside. How did Wenner get so much power and why does he continue to overlook REAL rock bands and influential blues artists who gave birth to rock in favor of rap groups? Maybe they should just rename it the pop music hall of fame.

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