Tuesday, May 31, 2016
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Published: Tuesday, 3/22/2005

Still rockin' and rollin'

ROCK 'n' roll started out as rebel music. Now it has its own museum and a fancy annual party at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Is this any way to treat the wild offspring of gospel shouters, country music pickers, blues travelers, and American folk singers?

Last week, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductions turned 20. While the music itself is firmly ensconced in middle age, the 50-something art form isn't anywhere close to dead. It may qualify for an AARP card, but, like Tina Turner, it's still capable of showing a little leg and exciting the masses.

This year, the Irish quartet U2, the Pretenders, the O'Jays, Buddy Guy, and Percy Sledge were inducted into the rock 'n' roll pantheon.

No one can seriously argue with these choices, though that's half the fun of debating the list every year.

The artists who were nominated this time but didn't win are a who's who of influential performers themselves. Certainly Randy Newman, the Patti Smith Group, Gram Parsons, and Grandmaster Flash are as deserving of induction as the artists who made the cut.

While we're musing over the fairness of who got in and who didn't, let's not forget the irony at the heart of the institution's very existence.

Is something so conventional and, well, establishment as a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame a crass betrayal of music with a hard edge built upon rebellion and the excesses of youth?

If the genre is now domesticated enough to play in elevators and supermarkets, is it still rock 'n' roll?

Let's see. Chuck Berry accepted his induction into the hall with pride, as did every other pioneer who was alive at the time of induction.

Maybe that means Buddy Holly and Elvis aren't spinning in their graves after all.

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