This year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is more like the MTV Hall of Fame: The newly-minted inductees are ’80s pop icons Pat Benatar, Lionel Richie, Duran Duran and Eurythmics, plus Carly Simon and country icon Dolly Parton, who also had ‘80s pop hits. The one outlier: rap superstar Eminem. But according to the Hall of Fame’s head honcho, it’s all rock ‘n roll.
“Rock and roll has never been one thing,” says Rock Hall President and CEO Greg Harris. “It’s always been changing. It’s heavily influenced by the youth culture of the era and drives people to think differently, to act differently, to dress differently, to really believe in things.”
“We are seeing that in a big way with this class for the 1980s, but we’ll see it for subsequent decades as time marches on and and we continue to evolve,” he adds. “We’re not stuck in any one sound, but it’s all rock and roll in our book.”
According to the Rock Hall, those honored with induction have created music with “originality, impact and influence [that] has changed the course of rock ‘n roll.” So how do these ’80s pop stars fit in?
Harris says Pat Benatar “really set a path for lots of female artists to come after her, because she was “in control, uncompromising” and has an “unbelievable vocal range.” He feels Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, among others, show her influence.
As for Duran Duran, Harris cites as influential their “infectious melodies” and “complex musical arrangements,” as well as their mixture of guitar and synths, naming The Killers as just one band who followed in their footsteps.
And speaking of guitars and synths, Harris says Eurythmics took those and made it “really funky,” adding that Annie Lennox‘s “unbelievable voice,” really brought “sixties soul into the eighties.” Regarding soul, Harris says, “Lionel Richie is hitting just as hard as Marvin Gaye, in a different era,” noting that acts ranging from Babyface to country superstar Tim McGraw have cited Lionel as an influence.
As for Carly Simon, Harris names Taylor Swift and Alanis Morissette as a few of the women who’ve been impacted by “the honesty of her music and her delivery.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction will be held November 5 at LA’s Microsoft Theater, and will air later on HBO and stream on HBO Max.