This year’s class of musicmakers who have been raising their voice in song for at least a quarter of a century are: Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, KISS, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens. (Gabriel was already inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 as a member of Genesis.)
The induction ceremony will be held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 10, 2014. For the first time, tickets will be available to the general public. For those not able to attend in person, HBO will air the kudofest in May.
After reading the official bios of the honorees below, vote in our poll as to which of these artists are you most thrilled to see inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Then sound off with your thoughts in our music forum here.
Peter Gabriel’s influence is so widespread we may take it for granted. When the rest of rock was simplifying in the new wave days, the former Genesis frontman blended synthesizers and a signature gated drum sound with an emotional honesty learned from soul music to create a sensibility that would influence artists from U2 and Arcade Fire to Depeche Mode. With extraordinary ambition, Gabriel transitioned from cult artist to multimedia pop star to global rock icon. His WOMAD festival has been a 33-year laboratory for musical cross-pollination. The epic song “Biko” directly inspired the Artists Against Apartheid movement as he spearheaded the Amnesty International A Conspiracy Of Hope and Human Rights Now tours. His brilliant stage shows inspired U2’s and Flaming Lips’ and expanded the visual vocabulary of music videos with clips such as “Sledgehammer,” “Shock The Monkey” and “Big Time.” In addition, he wrote songs like “Don’t Give Up,” “Red Rain” and “In Your Eyes” that put heart and soul on the radio at a time when those values were in short supply. Four decades on as a solo artist, Gabriel continues to push the boundaries of popular music and challenge audiences across the globe.
Hall and Oates
Daryl Hall and John Oates created an original mix of soul and rock that made them the most successful pop duo in history. As songwriters, singers and producers, they embraced the pop mainstream, bringing passion and creativity back to the 3-minute single. Over the course of their career, they have recorded six Number One hits and put 34 songs in the Billboard Top 100. Deeply rooted in lush Philly soul, Hall and Oates mixed smooth vocal harmonies and the romantic vulnerability of soul with edgy hard rock and new wave riffs to create some of the finest pop music of the 1980s. They teamed up in the early 1970s in Philadelphia, and landed a deal with Atlantic. On their first three albums they searched for the right style for their talents as they experimented with soul, folk and hard rock. They finally hit with “Sara Smile” in 1976, an irresistible sexy soul ballad that showcased their vocals, songwriting and guitar playing. After their subsequent string of hits (“Rich Girl,” “She’s Gone,” “Wait For Me”) they were energized by new wave and dance music. The result was an incredible run of original songs that topped the pop and R&B charts throughout the 1980s: “Kiss On My List,” “Private Eyes,” “You Make My Dreams” and “I Can’t Go For That” combined the best of both rock and R&B, setting the stage for the important crossover work of Madonna and Prince. They continue to record and attract new young audiences, and their influence can be felt in the work of contemporary artists like Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.
Few bands short of the Beatles inspired more kids to pick up the guitar than KISS. With their signature makeup, explosive stage show and anthems like “Rock And Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” they are the very personification of rock stars. Original members Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons came together in New York in 1972. While their first two records did not generate many sales, they quickly gained a national following for their bombastic, pyro-filled stage show. Their 1975 live disc Alive! captured that energy and reached Number Nine on the charts, quickly making them one of the most popular bands of the 1970s – scoring countless hit singles, sold-out tours and appearing everywhere from comic books to lunch boxes to their very own TV movie. Frehley and Criss left in the early 1980s and the group took their make-up off for 1983’s Lick It Up. They continued to be a popular live draw, but in 1996 the original quartet reformed (and they put their make-up back on) and KISS mania was reborn. In 2009, KISS released Sonic Boom, their first album of new material in eleven 11 years. They released Monster in 2012.
It only takes one song to start a rock revolution. That trigger, in late 1991, was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” an exhilarating blast of punk-rock confrontation by Nirvana, a scruffy trio from Seattle. “Teen Spirit,” its moshpit-party video and Nirvana’s kinetic live shows propelled their second album, Nevermind, to Number One and turned singer-guitarist-songwriter Kurt Cobain into the voice and conscience of an alternative-rock nation sick of hair metal and the conservative grip of the Reagan-Bush ‘80s. Founded by Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in the logging town of Aberdeen, Washington, Nirvana were underground stars when they made 1989’s Bleach with drummer Chad Channing. Moving from the indie Sub Pop label to Geffen, the band – with drummer Dave Grohl – packed Cobain’s corrosive riffs, emotionally acute writing and twin passions for the Beatles and post-punk bands like the Melvins and the Pixies into Nevermind. A multi-platinum seller, it included the hits “Come As You Are” and “Lithium” and opened the mainstream gates for Green Day, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins. In 1993, Nirvana released the caustic masterpiece, In Utero, and gave a historic performance on MTV’s Unplugged. But in April 1994, Cobain – suffering from drug addiction and severe doubts about his stardom – took his own life. Like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, Cobain was 27, in his creative prime, when he died. Also like them, he and Nirvana remain an enduring influence and challenge – proof that the right band with the right noise can change the world.
Linda Ronstadt dominated popular music in the 1970s with a voice of tremendous range and power. She was one of the most important voices in the creation of country rock, in part because she understood how to sing traditional country songs like “Silver Threads And Golden Needles.” She regularly crossed over to the country charts in the ’70s, a rarity for rock singers. Working with producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt crafted a repertoire of songs that roamed throughout rock history that she interpreted with beautiful, precise phrasing. Ronstadt was especially good at singing early rock and roll; she had a long string of hits that revived interest in rock’s pioneers: Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” and Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” among them. She was equally comfortable with Motown music and the beginning of new wave. Her finest work was the run of four consecutive platinum albums in the mid -70s: Heart Like A Wheel (1974), Prisoner In Disguise (1975), Hasten Down The Wind (1976) and Simple Dreams (1977). In the 1980s, she expanded her musical vocabulary by recording songs from the classic American songbook (What’s New, Lush Life) and Mexican music that she heard growing up in Tucson, Arizona (Canciones De Mi Padre). That work proved as successful as her rock albums; she is the only artist to win a Grammy Award in the categories of pop, country, Mexican American and Tropical Latin. That diversity reflects her approach to singing: she was always looking for the best song, regardless of category.
The musical odyssey of Cat Stevens is well documented, from teenage London art school songsmith (“The First Cut Is The Deepest,” the Tremeloes’ “Here Comes My Baby”) to introspective cornerstone of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement. Who can measure the courage it took him in the late ’70s, after seven years of multi-platinum success in the U.S. (and over a decade in the UK) to convert to Islam, amidst the wave of turmoil and confusion that was engulfing the world? He left his touring and recording life behind and named himself Yusuf Islam. Inevitably, many long-time fans abandoned him, and he found certain international borders closed and worse yet, controversies laid aton his doorstep despite his humanist background. It was 17 difficult years between his final LP as Cat Stevens (1978’s Back To Earth), and the first CD as Yusuf and more than a decade until his first pop album in nearly 30 years (An Other Cup in 2006). “When I accepted Islam,” he told Rolling Stone, “a lot of people couldn’t understand. To my fans it seemed that my entering Islam was the direct cause of me leaving the music business, so many people were upset. However, I had found the spiritual home I’d been seeking for most of my life. And if you listen to my music and lyrics, like ‘Peace Train’ and ‘On The Road To Find Out,’ it clearly shows my yearning for direction and the spiritual path I was travelling.” The musical gifts that he has shared with the world are an important chapter in rock history – a beacon of hope that will never be extinguished.