Why Women Have Been Shut Out Of The Rock Hall Of Fame, And How To Change That

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To celebrate the airing of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction this Saturday, 4/29, we’re running a series of essays and features analyzing and highlighting the implications of who was inducted in 2017.

Out of the 317 current inductees of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, only 43 are women or acts that include women. That’s only 13.5%! These include the likes of ABBA (inducted 2010), Joni Mitchell (1997), Blondie (2006), Joan Baez this year, in 2017, Etta James (1993), Heart (2013), The Supremes (1988), and Aretha Franklin (1987), who was the first woman inducted into the Rock Hall in its second year of operations.

13.5% is not at all representative of female influence on rock and roll music throughout history but it’s not a surprise, as women have often been placed on the back burner when it comes to rock and roll. During the ’50s and ’60s when rock music came about, women were labeled as ‘groupies’ and limited to the status of obsessed fan [Editor’s note: Read an incredible corrective to that here, by Amanda Petrusich if you haven’t yet.] If a woman made it into a band, she was often told to learn bass, as this was considered the easiest instrument to pick up. And for the women who did gain popularity in the early years of rock and roll, they were rarely supported in the media, recognized amongst critics, or given awards, like their male cohorts were. If anything, they were made into sex symbols. Back in 2015, Jackie Fox of The Runaways shared an even more harrowing scenario, that of assault carried out by men in the industry with no consequences.

As it stands, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame hasn’t really taken any steps to resolve these stereotypes or reverse the treatment of women in the music industry. Even for those women who have been inducted, not enough of them have been given credit for their solo work. Several men, like Lou Reed (2015), John Lennon (1994), and Paul McCartney (1999) have been honored as members of the Rock Hall twice, for their solo work as well as for their membership in their respective bands. So, why then, is Stevie Nicks only credited for her membership in Fleetwood Mac (1998)? After all, she’s been nominated for eight Grammy’s as a solo artist and her iconic 1981 debut Bella Donna sold over 6 million copies.

Plus, the legendary Nicks isn’t the only artist who hasn’t gotten the recognition she deserves. Carole King was inducted, alongside Gerry Goffin, in 1990 for her songwriting (several inductees in the Rock Hall have songs written by King), but she has never been recognized for her solo work as a performing artist, even after Tapestry stayed on the top album charts for more than six years after it came out in 1971. Still others, such as Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane (1996) and The Great Society, and perhaps Nico, who worked with The Velvet Underground (1996) along with her own solo work are owed acknowledgement by now.

The Rock Hall overlooking women for their solo work isn’t really where the discrepancy ends, either. There are also countless female artists and groups who haven’t been recognized at all who definitely should be at this point. Take Pat Benatar, for example. I mean, come on, is there anyone who doesn’t sing along when they hear “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” or “Heartbreaker”? Even millennials know Benatar’s work. And what about Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Jazz? She won thirteen Grammy Awards during her lifetime and paved the way for African American women in music. Whitney Houston, arguably the most awarded female artist in history, hasn’t been awarded by the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

Even though Kate Bush might have been passed up by Coachella, she doesn’t deserve to be passed up by the Rock Hall, particularly when you consider she was the first female artist to have an album reach number one in the UK album charts. Michael Jackson (2001) and the Jackson 5 (1997) are inductees, but their emblematic little sister Janet Jackson isn’t. Still others like Courtney Love’s badass grunge-rock band Hole, Kim Gordon with Sonic Youth, Sinéad O’Connor, and Björk are more than worthy of induction into the Rock Hall.