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HBO Max's New Special Features a Really Unusual Musical Duo

This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony includes a soon-to-be iconic performance.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was started in 1983 by the legendary music executive Ahmet Ertegun, and people have been arguing about it ever since.

When people complain about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which they do quite often, there’s two major points they tend to come back to.

First, many people complain whenever an artist who does not make guitar-based rock music gets in. These people tend to bray whenever, say, an artist like hip-hop icon Public Enemy or a pop mastermind like Madonna get inducted. 

Some of these complaints are barely disguised rockism, which is the belief that rock music is more inherently authentic than any other form of music, because a person plays a traditional instrument and may or may not have written the songs themselves. But this belief has largely fallen out of fashion in recent times, especially as the commercial popularity of rock music has waned, in comparison to other genres. It should also be noted that a lot of rockism has an undercurrent of sexism or racism to it.

Though, to be fair, there are plenty of people who don’t question the artistic excellence of N.W.A or Janet Jackson, but who just don’t think they qualify as rock music. While the counter argument to this is that Madonna rocks in her own way, the more accurate answer is that if a brand name has endured for four decades, it’s not wise to change it, even if the product has evolved in a different way. (Taco Bell doesn’t just serve tacos, but Taco And Other Items Bell doesn’t have a ring to it, nor does The Popular Music Hall of Fame.)

The second biggest picking point people have with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that their favorite artist isn’t in it while an artist they think doesn’t deserve it as much is in. 

Taste is subjective, but ever since Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner stepped down as the Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, and arguably a few years before that, the voting council has made an effort to be more inclusive, and to address the complaint that the Hall overly favors white men, as well as rock music from the 1960s and 70s, at the expense of women, people of color and music from other genres, music from the ‘90s and artists that had a lasting cultural impact but weren’t commercial superstars. 

(Even Dave Grohl would freely admit that alternative rock pioneers like Pixies, Jane’s Addiction and The Replacements likely deserved to be in the Hall before the Foo Fighters.) 

The arguments about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aren’t likely to ever go away, but neither is the Hall itself, which is now largely overseen by John Sykes, president of entertainment enterprises for the radio giant iHeartMedia, and Joel Peresman, a former Clear Channel executive and the former vice president of concerts for Madison Square Garden.

The 37th annual induction ceremony took place a few weeks ago, and if you didn’t get a chance to make it out to the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, don’t worry, because HBO Max has you covered, as the ceremony will be available to stream starting on November 19th.

The Rock Hall Is Moving Forward

This year’s inductees were a very wide-ranging bunch, including New Wave icons Duran Duran and the Eurythmics, pop star Pat Benator, hip-hop star Eminem, r&b legend Lionel Richie, singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and country star and American treasure Dolly Parton.

Additionally, heavy metal gods Judas Priest and r&b producers (best known for their work with Janet Jackson) Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis received the Musical Excellence Award, Harry Belafonte and Elizabeth Cotten got the Early Influence Award, and executives Allen Grubman, Jimmy Iovine, and Sylvia Robinson received the Ahmet Ertegun Award. 

It’s a very diverse set of inductees, and though you can argue that there are rappers who deserved to be inducted before Eminem (an unquestionably skilled commercial powerhouse), nominating a slew of country, hip-hop, pop and r&b icons shows that the Hall isn’t as hung up on genre as its detractors are.

“We always look to educate people about while the different genres of music that exist today may sound different, their roots are all the same and these inductees have all had major influence on youth culture in their own way and time, and that is rock and roll,” says Peresman.

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame 2 Lead JS 111722

The Rock Hall Is Live Again

The 2020 Rock Hall, which included Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, T. Rex and The Notorious B.I.G., was an extravagant Zoom affair, basically, but the 2021 ceremony saw a return to an in-person event. 

Though covid continues to make live shows difficult for many artists, Peresman notes that “things went very smoothly on that front, with no issues that we were aware of. Great to be back and live in LA,” he says. “Everyone was so happy to be there and those could perform had such a great reaction from the audience.”

One moment that instantly went viral, even before the show was available to watch at home, was the image of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford performing “Jolene” with Dolly Parton, one of those “only at the Rock Hall” moments you hope for every year.

“It was everyone’s idea,” Peresman says, “as he was there for rehearsals and we wanted as many inductees and performers as possible to be part of the encore.”