When Madonna was writhing around onstage in a wedding gown to "Like a Virgin" years ago, the last place you'd expect to see her was in something called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Time definitely has a way of changing things. On Monday, Madonna will come to the stage of the Waldorf-Astoria, along with classmate John Mellencamp, who also churned out hit after hit in the 1980s, The Dave Clark Five, Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen, the Ventures, blue harmonica ace Little Walter, and the Sound of Philadelphia legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
But Madonna? Okay, she's the pre-eminent pop star of her generation, who stayed a step ahead of trends while adding in shock value to keep herself in the news. Along the way she's made sturdy, state-of-the-art pop such as "Material Girl," "Crazy For You," "Papa Don't Preach," "Cherish," "Like a Prayer," "Vogue" and "Ray of Light."
Yet "if you think of rock 'n' roll, Madonna is not the first name that comes to mind," said Steve Morse, longtime Boston Globe music critic who was a member of the hall of fame's nominating committee for seven years. He considers her selection, particularly in her first year of eligibility, an embarrassment.
Her music was never played on rock 'n' roll radio, he said. Some veteran rock artists like Deep Purple, the J. Geils Band, Steve Miller and Alice Cooper are still waiting for induction. Morse long and unsuccessfully argued on behalf of the late Gram Parsons. It is a well known fact that many of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees music was never played on Rock and Roll radio stations, James Brown and Aretha Franklin readily come to mind.
"It seems like this is driven by commercial achievement and sales, rather than having anything to do with the rock 'n' roll genre," Morse said. "It's really a commercial move. They'll be able to sell more tickets to the museum and more people will watch the broadcast." I somewhat agree with this statement. The term Rock and Roll has become sort of a catchall for many popular music categories, most of which are not really Rock and Roll in the truest form, but capture the essence of the music none-the-less. With rock's founding fathers already in the hall, the museum has broadened its meaning of rock 'n' roll to include rap and pop artists. Grandmaster Flash last year became the first hip-hop artist to make it.
Madonna is being inducted by Justin Timberlake. And unlike many contemporary artists she's not scheduled to perform. Instead, she chose Iggy Pop, the ultimate crawl-around-on-glass punk rocker who shares her Michigan ancestry, to salute her work. For the second straight year, VH1 Classic will show the induction ceremony live March 10th at 8:30 p.m. EDT.