This evening the progressive-rock trio and self-styled underdogs Rush will rightfully be inducted into the performers wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It took a long time for the priests of the hallowed halls in Cleveland to recognize the merits of Willowdale’s finest, but it has now happened, and we can move on.
But move on to what? Which Canadian act or artist should next be championed as worthy of a plaque in Ohio? Surely it will be the Guess Who, the wheatfield-soul heroes from Manitoba. They were famously disdainful of American women, but they rocked, which should be (but isn’t) a prerequisite for entry, and they were tough lads, not taking sugar with their coffee or their tea, and all that.
Plus, Burton Cummings had his own way to rock, which should count for something.
John Kay and Steppenwolf are worthy as well, but the Guess Who’s chances increase if we piggyback them in with Bachman-Turner Overdrive. After all, their sardonic anthem Takin’ Care of Business is the possible inspiration for generations of rockers, all consumed with the notion of a musician’s job being as easy as fishin.’ (Fishing is hard, actually – shout out, cod industry!)
As for other contenders, I don’t see anyone waiting in the wings behind Rush, the Band, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. (And the Halifax-born Denny Doherty, one of the Mamas & the Papas.)
Today, Canada Post announced it newest edition of stamps in a series that commemorates Canadian musicians. The 2013 class includes the aforementioned Rush and the Guess Who, plus the Tragically Hip and Beau Dommage, the so-called Beatles of Quebec in the 1970s. (Does that make the Tragically Hip the Pearl Jam of Ontario?)
Previous artists honoured by the national mail service include Bryan Adams. As we all know, everywhere he went, the kids wanted to rock. I’m not sure, however, he rocked hard enough himself for inclusion into the glass pyramid on Lake Erie. Plus, confusion with singer-songwriter Ryan Adams might splinter his vote a bit.
Robbie Robertson has a stamp of approval from Canada Post and the Rock Hall already. The Stampeders do not have a stamp – it would seem a natural, right? – but Bruce Cockburn does. And although the Ottawa-native folk-rocked with ferocity and is a dazzling guitarist, he’ll need a rocket launcher to get through the doors in Cleveland.
The scarcity issue when it comes to hall-of-fame status isn’t just a Canadian one. In 1986, the initial class of inductees included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. It’s been a slow decline in the merit threshold ever since, to the point that Randy Newman and Donna Summer will join Public Enemy, Heart and Albert King in enshrinement on Thursday. Newman and Summer are exquisite talents who rolled enough, but didn’t rock.
The music industry is struggling and few rock giants still walk the earth and fill the stadiums. Iconic acts and artists are fewer and farther between. It’s a different world; standards as to hall-of-fame status will continue to drop. With that in mind, here is a list of candidates for future acceptance-speech-giving in Cleveland, in descending order of likelihood, and not restricted to the hall’s performer wing.
Guess Who/Bachman Turner Overdrive: Probably will have to wait until after Grand Funk Railroad gets in.
Steppenwolf: The Canadian-American acid rockers were born to be wild and ride magic carpets.
Paul Anka: Hey, Ricky Nelson is in, and he didn’t write My Way, a tune tougher than anything the Dave Clark Five ever came up with.
Daniel Lanois: An accomplished musician and songwriter, but if he gets in, it will be the non-performer’s wing as a producer for U2, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel and others.
Bryan Adams: Stranger things have happened.
Michael Cohl: The rock-tour impresario changed the whole game.
Hank Snow: The country star went everywhere, man – why not Cleveland, in the early influences wing?
Feist: One, two, three, four – open up the Hall of Fame door (in a few decades)?
Arcade Fire: Years away from eligibility, the Montreal alt-rock conceptualists have a strong start upon which to build their candidacy.
Drake: The rap star started from the bottom. Who knows where he’ll be in 2035, the first year of his eligibility.