Postponed Rock Hall Induction: What Could We Have Seen?
The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was originally scheduled to take place tonight (May 2) at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland. Like most events in 2020, it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic before the presenters and performers were , but that doesn’t stop us from envisioning what the ceremony could have looked like.
This year’s class, which was revealed in early January, featured an assortment of vaunted artists from across the musical landscape. For the first time in years the event was also going to be broadcast live (via HBO), meaning fans wouldn't have to wait months to watch edited highlights.
Perhaps no inductee was more overdue for the honor than the Doobie Brothers. The band’s self-titled debut album arrived in 1971, making them eligible for the Rock Hall since 1996. Still, for years the rockers were denied, despite selling more than 40 million albums worldwide, including six LPs between 1972-80 which were certified platinum or better.
Singer Michael McDonald, who fronted the Doobie Brothers from 1975-82, expressed his excitement when the band got the call. "It's been one of the great honors of my life to share the stage with all these guys over the years," McDonald asserted. "To see the band receive this honor is wonderful to say the least."
The Hall of Fame induction was set to kick off a year long celebration for the Doobies. The band recently announced a 50th anniversary reunion tour with McDonald, which will mark the first time in nearly 25 years that he, Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons and John McFee hit the road together. The tour is currently scheduled to kick off on June 9, but is obviously in danger of being postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If induction was belated for the Doobie Brothers, it was unexpected for Nine Inch Nails. Not that the band was lacking credentials. The group, which has essentially existed as frontman Trent Reznor with a revolving door of musicians, was never easy to pigeonhole after breaking through with their industrial-rock sound. "When I look back at how Nine Inch Nails are received, it always seems like we fall between the cracks or we’re not in this category or 'that thing,'” Reznor confessed to Rolling Stone. “I don’t know if it’s a defense mechanism, but I just assumed we’d stay in that category, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see us acknowledged." The frontman, who had previously been critical of the Rock Hall, admitted he was “pretty freaked out” and “quite in shock” when he found out he’d be inducted.
A Nine Inch Nails performance could have possibly featured Atticus Ross, the songwriter and producer who has collaborated with Reznor on NIN material, as well as the Oscar-winning score to The Social Network. Other former contributors who could have appeared include Richard Patrick (Filter), Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle) and acclaimed session drummer Josh Fresse (Guns N’ Roses, Weezer). Reznor also inducted the Cure during their 2019 induction, so perhaps some reciprocity would have been in the cards from their frontman, Robert Smith.
Like NIN, Depeche Mode were pleasantly surprised by the announcement of their induction. "We're incredibly honored to be included as one of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, and to stand alongside the other incredible acts in the Rock Hall and those joining this year,” the band said via statement shortly after the 2020 class was revealed. "A huge thank-you to everyone who has supported us and our music over the years [and] who have made this possible."
Depeche Mode’s induction could have brought all five of their most prominent members together for the first time. While core bandmates Dave Gahan, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore have steadfastly remained in the group - even while pursuing their own solo or side projects - founding member Vince Clarke departed in 1981, eventually going on to the synth-pop duo Erasure. His replacement, Alan Wilder, stayed in Depeche Mode until 1995, leaving due to what he perceived as a lack of “respect and acknowledgement” for his contributions.
Glam rockers T-Rex deservedly received their Hall call in 2020. Sadly, only one member of the group, drummer Bill Legend, is still with us. Enigmatic frontman Marc Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, bassist Steve Currie was killed in a car crash in 1981 and percussionist Mickey Finn died of liver problems in 2003. A T-Rex performance, thus, may have included some kind of all-star band, likely assembled of musicians who were influenced by their work. Elton John, U2, Joan Jett, Perry Farrell and Todd Rundgren all appear on an upcoming T-Rex tribute album, so it's easy to envision some or all involved in the band’s induction performance.
Likewise, the ceremonies for Whitney Houston and Notorious B.I.G. would have celebrated the careers of two performers whose lives tragically ended too soon. The previous induction of rapper Tupac Shakur provides a blueprint for what Biggie’s moment might have looked like. That event, which took place in 2017, included performances by Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and T.I. An appearance by Notorious B.I.G.’s friend and longtime collaborator Puff Daddy would have been all but guaranteed.
A celebration of Houston’s life would have been more complex. The acclaimed singer, who died in 2012, was married to Bobby Brown between 1992 and 2007. Their relationship was fraught with drug abuse, infidelity and accusations of abuse. As such, any kind of involvement from Brown during the Hall ceremony could have possibly been deemed disrespectful. Jennifer Hudson, John Legend and Yolanda Adams are among the many artists who have performed tributes to Houston since her passing.
There’s no doubt the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony would have been a joyous occasion, with the careers of many worthy inductees receiving their well-earned moment of enshrinement. The event has been rescheduled to Nov. 7, and the hope is that the state of the world will have improved to a point that musicians and fans can once again unite to celebrate these artists’ incredible impact.