I find most awards irritating at best, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is certainly as irritating as any. There are so many problems with the Hall … even the idea makes me stop, because I don’t think I ever wanted the music to be canonized in this way. The selections are often terrible … it’s not so much that it’s biased, it’s that the biases are so narrow. I don’t want in this post to single out the artists who don’t seem to belong in this Hall of Fame. But in checking out some information about Patti Smith, I came across her acceptance speech when she was inducted, and I realized that for all its problems, there is a reason why something the like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exists. Here are a few of the induction speeches that stand out for me.
First, there’s the Sex Pistols. They rejected the honor, and faxed a reply that pretty much expressed my own thoughts. I guess Jann Wenner thought he was being cool when he read that fax as a substitute for the absent band’s acceptance speech:
Sex Pistols (“Rock and roll and that Hall of Fame is a piss stain.”)
When The Clash was inducted, not long after Joe Strummer died, they took a more conciliatory tone. More importantly, they noted the value of artists with their background having their work recognized (“I accept this honor on behalf of all the garage bands.”)
One of the biggest problems with the Hall is its general exclusion of entire groups of performers. Which is why it mattered when Public Enemy was inducted (“Some people thinking, there goes the musical neighborhood. Let us not forget, we all come from the damn blues.”):
And why it mattered to Bonnie Raitt as well (“Let’s hope this marks the beginning of lots more women getting out of the kitchen and into the kick-ass fire.”):
But Patti Smith says it best, when she tells an anecdote from her years with Fred “Sonic” Smith:
And here she is performing after her induction: