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15 Most Overlooked Artists by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

New York Dolls in 1973
New York Dolls on AVRO’s TopPop (Dutch television show) in 1973. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Beeld en Geluidwiki

Lately, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been making up for so many artists that have previously been overlooked, but they’ve still got a long way to go to right some very obvious wrongs in their choices. Here are our picks for the Top 15 most overlooked artists that have yet to make it into Cleveland’s most exclusive club.

15 New York Dolls

The New York Dolls may have only been on the punk scene for their first two albums beginning in 1973, but they defined punk before the term even existed. One of the first bands to use an androgynous look, they also made their mark on the fashion landscape and are arguably just as influential as The Stooges and Velvet Underground. Overlooked for 20 years, maybe the Rock Hall will at least find the guts to nominate these glam rockers.


14 MC5

At least MC5 got on the short list this year. Epitomizing the counterculture of the late 60’s, the MC5 were anti-establishment to their core. Even their first album set them apart – it was recorded live over two nights at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. Featuring the title track “Kick Out The Jams,” it was the first of only three records the band released, but is often cited as one of the most important American hard rock albums of the era. Guitarist Wayne Kramer is philosophical about their omission from the Rock Hall. “It’s just so awkward because it seems as if the people that kicked the MC5 out of the music business are some of the same people that run the Rock Hall. Maybe there’s been a turnover and there’s a new generation that sees the significance of what me and my friends did a long time ago, I don’t know.”


13 Motörhead

Motörhead’s omission from the Rock Hall is glaring, as they’ve influenced pretty much every hard rock band you know. The prototypical thrash band, Motörhead were as consistent as they were influential, and sold over 30 million records to boot. Sadly, the classic lineup of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister on bass and vocals, “Fast” Eddie Clarke on guitar and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor on drums have all passed away in the last three years, so their induction would be bittersweet.


12 The Guess Who

Revered in their home country of Canada, The Guess Who hold the distinction of becoming the first band from up North to make serious headway South of the border. In fact, their single “American Woman” was the first song from a Canadian band to top the Billboard Hot 100. Add in “These Eyes,” “No Sugar Tonight” and “No Time” and maybe the Rock Hall voters will give them a fighting chance.


11 Judas Priest

Just missing the cut this year, Judas Priest pretty much defines where commercial metal began. Songs from “Screaming For Vengeance”, “British Steel” and “Defenders of the Faith” have pushed sales of their albums past the 50 million mark and influenced countless metal bands after them. On their diss this year, leather-clad lead singer Rob Halford says, “Personally, I would love it. I think we deserve it. We put our 10,000 hours in and more – and beyond that, we just feel that heavy metal deserves more space in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. We were thrilled and honoured to be nominated, so it’s bittersweet. We got the nomination which is something of a recognition for the work that you’ve done, but we didn’t quite get in this time. But I’m hopeful that eventually we’ll get some more metal.”


10 Sammy Hagar

Sure, Sammy’s in the Hall of Fame with Van Halen, but there’s so much more to his career – the legendary debut album from Montrose (“Bad Motor Scooter,” “Rock Candy,” “Rock The Nation” and “Space Station #5), his solo projects (“There’s Only One Way To Rock,” “I Can’t Drive 55,” “Remember The Heroes,” “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy” and “Eagles Fly”), and his recent work with Chickenfoot. He’s a rock radio staple, and still on the concert circuit, even though he’s made himself a zillionaire through Cabo Wabo Tequila and his restaurant franchise.


09 Joe Cocker

Cocker’s raspy voice and unique delivery have redefined some of the greatest songs of all-time while scoring some of his own unique hits, too. His versions of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “You Are So Beautiful,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Cry Me a River” and “The Letter” can make your forget the originals. Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and other legends have voiced their support for his induction.


08 Mott the Hoople

Mott the Hoople set the template for a brand of mainstream rock that influenced everyone from Bad Company to Cheap Trick. Their career was cemented when Bowie gave them the gift of “All The Young Dudes.”

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07 Iron Maiden

Without Iron Maiden, there is no Metallica. And you could say that about any number of metal bands as Maiden is the standard bearer of “pure” heavy metal – no comprises ever. Despite very limited commercial radio or television support, Maiden has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, and continues to sell out stadiums internationally still to this day.


06 Warren Zevon

With songs like “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money” you’d think David Letterman’s favorite artist would have been a shoe-in for a nomination. And, as a songwriter, Zevon deserves to be mentioned with many artists already in the Rock Hall. When he found out he was dying, Zevon recruited just a few of his close friends for his final album: Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty and Dwight Yoakam. That kind of love and respect should put him into serious contention, right?


05 Roxy Music

Roxy Music’s pioneering of glam rock had a huge impact on the likes of David Bowie, Duran Duran and many other “new wave” acts in the 70’s and 80’s. Co-founded by music powerhouses Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno, many feel Roxy Music is the second most influential UK band, after the Beatles. As The Guardian states, “Somehow, in a landscape dominated by Led Zeppelin at one end and The Osmonds at the other, Roxy Music managed to reach the Top 10 with a heady mixture of futurism, retro rock ’n’ roll, camp, funny noises, silly outfits, art techniques, film references and oboe solos. And although their popularity has ebbed and flowed, their influence has been strikingly consistent.”


04 Soundgarden

Believe it or not, Soundgarden was the earliest arrival on the scene of the “Big 4” bands out of Seattle, the others being Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice and Chains. As such, their influence rubbed off on many of their peers. At the height of their fame, they stepped away for almost 13 years, but then returned to greatness when they reunited. It would be another bittersweet addition to the Rock Hall after the death of leader Chris Cornell.


03 Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy’s already been inducted into the Rock Hall with Black Sabbath, but so far, 21 artists have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame multiple times and arguably he should be #22. His solo career helped establish metal during the 1980s and his influence on musicians (Ozzfest anyone?) has been great.

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02 Def Leppard

Any band that has sold 20 millions copies of their albums has got to be a consideration for the Rock Hall. But Def Leppard accomplished these from sales only in the U.S., and only with two albums – Pyromania and Hysteria. (Their total sales are over 100 million worldwide.) They are one of only five rock bands with two original studio albums selling over 10 million copies in the U.S. – the others being Van Halen, The Eagles, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin – all of whom are in the Rock Hall. They defined the melodic hard rock of the 80s and should be honored.

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01 Doobie Brothers

There are three incarnations of the band – the Tom Johnston years (1969-1975), the Michael McDonald years (1975 – 1982), and the band’s reincarnation in 1987 to the present, and they’re all great. Can you think of a band with better vocal harmonies? From “Listen To The Music” to “China Grove” to “Minute By Minute” to “It Keeps You Running,” the hits are too numerous to count. The Doobie Brothers have won four Grammy Awards and sold more than 48 million records worldwide, including three multi-platinum, seven platinum, and 14 gold albums. Perhaps Rock Hall voters haven’t chosen the Doobies because of all of the different members the group has had over the years and the way their sound changed. But the enduring legacy of their songs should change their minds.

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