Rock ‘n’ roll was already 32 years old when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was founded in 1983. A genre born out of the rebellious spirit of youth, it had evolved from an electric fusion of country and blues into sub genres like americana and psychedelic rock in the ‘60s and heavy metal and punk rock in the ‘70s. By the 1980s, rock ‘n’ roll was old enough to look back on its own history.
One would think that an industry filled with inflated egos would relish the idea of another Hall of Fame (The Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), The Songwriters Hall of Fame (1969), and The Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1978) were all pre-existing by the time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was created), but instead, the Hall repulsed many musicians. The major issue artists had with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that it was founded not by artists, but by record company and industry executives (Atlantic Records Founder Ahmet Ertegun, Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, music critic, producer and manager Jon Landau, record executives Seymour Stein and Bob Krasnow and attorneys Allen Grubman and Suzan Evans). Being nominated and voted into a Hall of Fame by your peers is an honour, but to be inducted by label heads and attorneys sounds like a night of selling out.
Rock ‘n’ roll was always the home of wild spirits whose rebellious energy sparked some of the most innovative music of the century. The idea of dressing up in suits to attend an extravagant ballroom dinner and be given a nod of approval by “The Man” is the complete opposite of what rock ‘n’ roll represents. In the words of The Kinks’ lead singer Ray Davies, “…it makes me realize that rock and roll has become respectable. What a bummer.”
Here’s how the induction process currently works: Each year, nominees whose first single or record was released at least 25 years prior to the induction year are selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s nominating committee. These nominees are then voted on by an international voting body of over 600 artists and members of the music industry. The five to seven nominees that receive the highest votes are then inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nominee voting was opened to fans in 2012 but the fan voting barely influences the results of the inductions. The top five nominees voted by fans only receive one ballot entry apiece.
In 1999, Ozzy Osborne wrote an open letter to the Hall saying, “Just take our name off the list. Save the ink. Forget about us. The nomination is meaningless, because it’s not voted on by the fans. It’s voted on by the supposed elite for the industry and the media, who’ve never bought an album or concert ticket in their lives, so their vote is irrelevant to me.” However, when the Hall of Fame inducted Black Sabbath in 2006, Osborne not only attended the ceremony but was humble in his acceptance of the induction.
It’s complicated. On one hand, the induction process is bullshit. What kind of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fails to induct Nine Inch Nails, The Guess Who, Black Flag, Pixies, The Doobie Brothers, Soundgarden, The Smiths, etc.? That list goes on and on. There’s also the confusion of musicians from other genres being inducted. Why is it called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if artists who have nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll music (Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond, ABBA, Donna Summer, etc.) are inducted? On the other hand, to be awarded a place in your craft’s Hall of Fame undeniably cements your legacy in music history so why not show up and take your pat on the back from the industry? Because you’ve got the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll in you and you don’t give a damn, that’s why.
Here’s the list of every inductee since the first ceremony in 1986 who skipped the schmooze fest that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
James Brown was inducted by Steve Winwood during the Hall’s first ever induction ceremony in 1986. His fellow inductees were some of early rock ‘n’ roll’s elite including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Brown boycotted his induction ceremony because he didn’t consider himself to be a rock ‘n’ roll musician. He’s the godfather of soul not the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll!
In 1987 Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was inducted by Keith Richards who had just produced and performed on Franklin’s version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Leave it to the ultimate diva to be a no-show at her own historic induction ceremony. It was reported that her fear of flying kept her from the New York ceremony but Aretha was living in Detroit at the time. No flying required. She just didn’t show.
Diana Ross preferred to skip the induction of the Supremes rather than be in the same room as Mary Wilson. The last time the Supremes had been reunited was at the taping of Motown 25 during which Ross pushed Wilson’s microphone away from her face. Two years later, Wilson released her memoir, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, in which she wrote many negative tales about Ross. It was probably a good thing that Ross avoided another reunion but man, imagine those two fighting for the microphone during their acceptance speech?!
The 1988 induction of The Beatles would have been the first time the band had made a public appearance together in America since 1966, but McCartney squashed all hopes of a reunion. Moments before the ceremony began a statement was released in the press room citing McCartney’s legal battles within the band as the reason for his absence. He knew that the Hall of Fame had built up the anticipation of a Beatles reunion and he couldn’t have cared less. In his statement he said, “I would feel like a hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion.” Sorry, not sorry.
When Pete Townsend inducted The Rolling Stones into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, Charlie Watts was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t bother to show up or to release a statement saying why he was skipping his induction. Guess he just didn’t give a shit.
Along with Watts, Bill Wyman could’ve cared less about the induction of The Rolling Stones into the Hall of Fame. When asked about why he didn’t show up for the ceremony a few days later, he snapped, “I was busy!” Wyman actually spent the evening working on opening his new restaurant instead of attending his induction ceremony. Burn.
Ike Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 by Phil Spector. Now those are two dudes you don’t want to be left alone in a room with. Turner missed his induction ceremony because he was serving jail time for cocaine possession. That’s some Ike Turner shit, right there.
When Tina Turner was inducted alongside her ex-husband Ike Turner into the Hall of Fame in 1991, she chose not to go. After achieving a massively successful solo career in the ‘80s, Turner didn’t want the public to further associate her with her abusive ex-husband. This guy poured hot coffee on her face and burned her lip with a lit cigarette. It’s not surprising she skipped a public celebration of her life with that bastard. That’s some serious Ike Turner shit.
So get this – Apparently the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was unsuccessful at contacting Pickett about his induction. Are you kidding me? What, did they try to call and there wasn’t an answering machine? How do you not get in touch with a legendary soul singer that you’re inducting into the Hall of Fame? Pickett released albums up until 1999; you’re saying you can’t contact a working, touring legendary musician?! In addition to that huge F you, the Hall of Fame then chose the human mess that is Bobby Brown to induct the legendary Pickett. Pickett’s induction has to be one of the biggest screwups by the Hall of Fame to date.
Any Van Morrison fan won’t be surprised to see his name on this list. Morrison has had his share of battles with the music industry and the thought of thanking a bunch of industry big wigs probably made him ill. What is surprising, is the statement Van Morrison had his presenter Robbie Robertson read aloud during his induction: “Ladies and gentlemen, due to work commitments in Europe beyond my control, I am unable to attend this induction dinner, and personally receive my award. However, thank you very much for inviting me, and I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very enjoyable evening, and hope that everything goes well. Best Wishes, from Van Morrison.” Say what? That’s very un-“Van the Man!”
Rod Stewart is the only artist that has skipped TWO inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994 he was inducted as a solo artist and skipped the ceremony claiming that his children were shaken up from the massive earthquake that had struck L.A. a few days before. Then in 2012, when The Small Faces were inducted into the hall, Stewart also skipped that induction ceremony stating that he had the flu. Stewart, come on. Grow a pair and flip the bird already. We know you want to.
As if you need another reason to love Jerry Garcia. Garcia boycotted The Grateful Dead’s 1994 induction ceremony because he didn’t agree with the concept of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Everybody love everybody! The rest of the band attended though, and brought a cardboard cutout of him onstage with them. Hilarious.
Eric Burdon decided he would rather play gigs in Dusseldorf, Germany than attend the 1994 induction of The Animals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dusseldorf over a Hall of Fame induction? Rock on, Burdon.
Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson had been at each other’s throats for years by the time The Band was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Eric Clapton in 1994. After disbanding in 1976, Robertson refused to join the band when they reformed in 1983. A decade later Helm released his autobiography This Wheel’s on Fire in which he openly criticized Robertson for claiming full writing credits for music that was collaboratively created by The Band. While the rest of the surviving members of The Band attended the ceremony, Helm refused to accept the induction alongside Robertson. Might as well take full credit for this too, Robbie.
David Bowie had better things to do than to spend a night reliving the past at his 1996 induction ceremony – he was busy paving the way of the future. In the same year that Madonna inducted him into the Hall of Fame, Bowie released the first ever downloadable single from the internet by a major artist. “Telling Lies” was downloaded 350,000 times in America in 1996. To addition to the download, Bowie hosted an online chat in relation to the “Telling Lies” theme where he and two mystery Bowies answered questions from fans. Bowie answered with the truth and the two fake Bowies answered with lies. At the end of the chat session the audience was asked to vote for who they thought the real Bowie was. The real Bowie came in 3rd place. This was in 1996. Again, 1996. Bowie is way too cool for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Surprise, surprise, Roger Waters refuses to join Pink Floyd in ANYTHING! After leaving the band in 1983, Waters took David Gilmour and Nick Mason to court in 1986 in hopes of dissolving the trio’s partnership and revoking their right to use the name Pink Floyd. Waters lost his suit and Gilmour, Mason and keyboardist Rick Wright continued to release successful albums and tour as Pink Floyd up until their induction in 1996. Waters boycotted the ceremony and pouted at home instead.
Grace Slick’s reason for refusing to attend the 1996 induction of Jefferson Airplane into the Hall of Fame might just be the best one on this list: “All rock and rollers over age 50 look stupid and should retire.” You do you, Grace. You. Do. You.
Neil Young is rock ‘n’ roll. He doesn’t give one shit. He’ll play songs about GMOs with five-minute-long guitar jam sessions in the middle of them when he knows that most of his audience just wants to hear his old classic hits. He’ll write books about energy efficient cars and capturing the quality of analog recording on digital media players. But most of all, he stands up to The Man like the best rock stars do. And he does it loudly. After attending his first solo induction into the Hall of Fame in 1995, Young boycotted Buffalo Springfield’s induction in 1997 – the first year that the ceremony was being edited and broadcast on VH1. Young wrote a two-page letter addressed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame’s co-chairman and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, fellow Buffalo Springfield members and the Hall of Fame’s broadcasting station VH1. In the letter he said, “The VH1 Hall of Fame presentation has nothing to do with the spirit of Rock and Roll. It has everything to do with making money. Inductees are severely limited in the amount of guests they can bring. They are forced to be on a TV show, for which they are not paid, and whatever comments they would like to make, dirty laundry they would like to air, thanks they would like to give, are all subject to the VH1 editor. Someone who has absolutely no right to interfere. At over a thousand dollars a seat, many of the inductees can not even afford to bring the family members they would like to accompany them to see the event. For these reasons I regretfully will not be present to accept the honors along with my brothers in the Buffalo Springfield.” Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Neil.
Joni Mitchell is the kind of woman who is simultaneously vulnerable, fearless, compelling and intimidating. She is an authentic artist who hides nothing and sacrifices anything. One of her most painful sacrifices was giving up her daughter for adoption when she was 21 years old. Mitchell had reunited with her daughter, Kilauren, in the same year that she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mitchell, never really one for award ceremonies, blew off her induction so she could spend her first Mother’s Day with her daughter and grandson.
The Sex Pistols
In true punk rock spirit, The Sex Pistols basically told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to take their induction and shove it. In response to their 2006 induction, they posted a note handwritten by lead singer Johnny Rotten, misspellings and all, onto their website that read: “Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL.” Preach, Sex Pistols! Preach!
Alex Van Halen
Alex Van Halen straight up skipped Van Halen’s induction ceremony in 2007. His brother Eddie had just entered rehab and was unable to attend so Alex chose to skip the induction as well. Only two out of the five inducted members of Van Halen attended the ceremony – Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar.
David Lee Roth
David Lee Roth was pissed with the Hall of Fame about Van Halen’s induction ceremony. After both Eddie and Alex made it clear to the Hall that they were not going to be attending the ceremony, event coordinators for the Hall of Fall scheduled Velvet Revolver to perform Van Halen songs the night of the induction. In response to the Hall of Fame’s decision, Roth boycotted the ceremony. “It’s just not an option for me to go and watch some other band – who are only performing because they have some new record coming out – do our music,” Roth said. “I have nothing against Velvet Revolver – I’m not familiar with their music – but that was my 3 minutes and 22 seconds up there.” Who knows if Roth was misinformed, tricked or if it was a last-minute decision, but the attending Van Halen members Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar did in fact perform at the ceremony. It’s too bad that Roth didn’t attend, it would have been pretty entertaining to watch two lead singers of the same band attempt to share the same stage.
Peter Gabriel shut down any hopes of a Genesis reunion when he refused to attend the 2010 induction of Genesis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Stating scheduling conflicts with his European tour, he skipped the ceremony. The night would have marked the first time Genesis would have been together on stage in 30 years. The attending members of Genesis watched as Phish performed their music. Ouch.
Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha “Anna“ Faltskog of ABBA
Only once, in 2005 at the “Mama Mia!” gala in Stockholm, have all four members of ABBA made a public appearance together since their disbandment in 1983. After turning down an alleged billion-dollar offer for a reunion tour, it wasn’t shocking that the band failed to reunite for the ceremony. If a billion-dollar offer isn’t going to entice a reunion, the Hall of Fame sure as hell isn’t either.
Axl Rose revealed his decision to boycott the induction of Guns N’ Roses into the Hall of Fame by releasing a letter three days before the ceremony. With years of tension and no communication between Rose and Slash, it had been uncertain whether a Guns N’ Roses reunion would occur for their induction, however, the letter quickly answered that question. Addressed to “The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N’ Roses Fans and Whom It May Concern,” the letter stated that Rose felt that “the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn’t appear to be somewhere I’m actually wanted or respected… That said, I won’t be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N’ Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf. Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am included in any purported induction of ‘Guns N’ Roses’.” Regardless of his written request, Axl Rose has indeed been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside the other Guns N’ Roses members. Damn The Man!
Andrew Loog Oldham
The most recent addition to this list is Andrew Loog Oldham’s boycott of his 2014 induction ceremony. The Rolling Stones manager had more than one issue with his induction. The fact that he and Beatles manager Brian Epstein were scheduled to be inducted together and the way the Hall of Fame ceremony had changed over the years caused Oldham’s decision to boycott his induction. He explained further by stating, “without Brian Epstein securing a recording contract for the Beatles none of us would be having this conversation. By having both Brian (whom I worked for doing PR for the Beatles until I met the Rolling Stones) and myself squeezed into one ‘British Invasion managers class of ’64’ segment, that would seem to be failing to address the reason we are being inducted: our artists. … I think the honor is in the work and so, with all these factors: no input, no discussion, just an attitude of ‘show up, smile, read your speech and enjoy the evening,’ I decided it was not for me and at the beginning of last month I wrote the [Hall of Fame] that I would not be attending. I did not go into detail, I just said ‘due to circumstances…’. They just wrote back and asked for an address to send the trophy. It is a long way from the Waldorf-Astoria [where the first induction ceremonies were held] and I do understand that the [Hall of Fame] has to dance to a new beat to survive but it’s hardly rock ‘n’ roll.” If there was ever a reason to boycott an induction, being slotted in alongside a peer instead of being given a rightful personal induction and then being treated with insensitive disregard is a damn good one. If you’re going to have a “Non Performer” category, be prepared to give them their due inductions.
With 26 artists intentionally skipping their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in the Hall’s 29 years of inductions, it’s certain that there will be more names added to this list in the near future.
Below is the list of inductees who were alive during their inductions but were prevented by illness from attending their ceremonies.
Absent Due to Illness
Syd Barrett – Barrett had been living as a recluse since the ’70s and was struggling with mental illness and diabetes when Pink Floyd was inducted in 1996.
Little Richard – Little Richard was recovering from a car accident when he was inducted in 1986.
Linda Ronstadt – Ronstadt was battling Parkinson’s disease when she was inducted in 2014.
Curtis Mayfield – Mayfield was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – first in 1991 with The Impressions and secondly in 1999 as a solo artist. After a lighting scaffold fell onto him during an outdoor concert in 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down. In 1991, he gave his acceptance speech from his home via Satellite. He had hoped to attend the ceremony in 1999 but his deteriorating health restricted him from going at the last minute.
Adam Yauch – When the Beastie Boys were inducted in 2012, Yauch was in a severe battle with cancer and succumbed to the disease a month after their induction.
This piece, written by SBTS Founder Stephanie Horak, was also published by Noisey | Music by VICE on September 28, 2015.