By Randy Lewis/ Los Angeles Times
The hip-hop legend the Notorious B.I.G., pop-R&B queen Whitney Houston, Seattle grunge band Soundgarden, the jam group the Dave Matthews Band, pioneering German electronic music ensemble Kraftwerk and powerhouse rock singer Pat Benatar are among the diverse slate of 16 music acts nominated for induction next year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The 2020 nominees also include Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Motör-head, Thin Lizzy, MC5, Nine Inch Nails, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Judas Priest and T. Rex.
Inductees are expected to be announced in January after the hall’s 1,000-plus voting members cast their ballots. As has been the case in recent years, fans also can vote for their favorites on the Rock Hall’s website. Fan balloting adds only one vote apiece for the top five vote-getters, but public sentiment can affect the hall’s voting membership, which consists of artists, managers, record industry personnel and music critics.
Since the hall’s inception in 1983 and first class of inductees in 1986, it has taken criticism at times for what some have seen as under-representation for women, hip-hop, new wave, heavy metal, progressive rock and others working outside the traditional rock framework. The nonprofit organization has diversified its board of directors and voting membership in recent years to better reflect the makers of and audience for contemporary popular music.
The Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, is one of nine nominees who made the ballot for the first time, along with Houston, Matthews, the Doobies, Motörhead, T. Rex, Benatar, Soundgarden and Thin Lizzy.
If inducted, Biggie, who was killed in 1997, would join six other rap artists who previously have made the Rock Hall: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, N.W.A, Tupac Shakur, the Beastie Boys, Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy.
Biggie also is the only act among the nominees to make that list in his first year of eligibility. This is the sixth year that the nominees include Kraftwerk, whose 1970s recordings laid the foundation for much of subsequent dance and electronic music. It’s the fifth for Detroit proto-punk band MC5, the fourth for funk-R&B group Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and the third for both industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails and British alternative pioneers Depeche Mode. Judas Priest and Rundgren were each nominated once previously, in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The 2020 induction ceremony, slated for May 2 in Cleveland, where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is located, will usher in a new era for the organization after the departure Jan. 1 of Chairman and former Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner. Wenner is handing over the reins to John Sykes, a longtime board member who also is iHeartMedia’s president of entertainment.
In an interview in September with The Times, Sykes pledged to continue and expand the hall’s efforts to include a diverse group of musicians and genres. That means making changes to the organization’s board to better reflect the various strains of popular music that resonate with listeners.
“The most important mandate is to rebuild our board,” he said.
“We have to modernize the way we think and create a more diverse board to reflect the artists who are becoming eligible. It’s no longer the artists of the ’50s and ’60s, and we have to have a board with knowledge that speaks to that.”