Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Earth, Wind and Fire. Madonna. The Notorious B.I.G. Whitney Houston. Leonard Cohen.
Let's make one thing clear: all of these are fantastic artists who will be remembered throughout history for creating some brilliant music. However, across their range of styles, they've all got one thing in common:
They're not rock and roll.
In fairness, neither are most of the inductees; it'd be a much smaller building if it only housed the true rock and rollers from the 1950s and 1960s. However, as time went on, rock and roll developed. Guitars became distorted, drummers became more aggressive and artists looked to push the boundaries of what they could do. Rock and roll became rock, hard rock, and with Black Sabbath in 1970, heavy metal.
There can be no doubt that heavy metal is a direct descendant of rock and roll. Without the likes of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, who knows where guitar music would have gone? But it always evolved and finally led to the birth of metal.
So why, then, is the hall of fame so intent on ignoring such a big part of rock and roll history? There are only two bonafide metal bands in the hall of fame: Sabbath and Metallica, who were inducted in 2006 and 2009 respectively. Outside of those two, the closest bands you get are Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, KISS and Van Halen, none of which quite cross the threshold.
It seems bizarre, particularly when you consider the size and impact of some of these bands. Iron Maiden have sold over 100 million records worldwide and have legions of devoted fans, with fans in Scandinavia and South America often describing their following of Maiden as a "religion". Judas Priest have also sold tens of millions, and their frontman Rob Halford made history in 1998 by becoming the first openly gay member of a heavy metal band.
How about the rest of the 'Big Four' of thrash metal, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth? Or Living Colour, the first all-black metal band who made waves with their gelling of styles and social-political lyrics? Rage Against The Machine, again for the impact they made with their lyrics, funk-metal style and live performances?
How these bands continue to be overlooked is a mystery. In 2019, a 1960s band called The Zombies were inducted. Overall, they had three hit singles, a couple of decent albums and...that's it. Without meaning to show any disrespect to the band, they have been inducted to the hall of fame despite achieving far less than many others, including plenty of heavy metal bands.
Heavy metal is a huge genre. Though it isn't a part of the mainstream, receiving very little radio airplay outside of dedicated radio stations, it still manages to amass armies of fans worldwide. There are multiple large-scale festivals dedicated to heavy metal, and Spotify released figures in 2015 which showed that metal fans are the most loyal of any genre. The devotion that comes with metal and its lifestyle is unique to it, easily deserving of higher recognition. Metal is already a bit of a joke genre at mainstream awards ceremonies, but better is expected of an institution which is meant to dedicate itself to rock-based genres.
Why heavy metal bands keep being being completely ignored remains a mystery, but surely it can't go on forever. These bands have made an undeniable impact in the history of rock and roll, and music in general. They more than deserve a place in the hall of fame, and in time, let's hope that the people who choose the inductees come to their senses.