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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Pat Benatar, Thin Lizzy, T. Rex and Motörhead among new names nominated to the Rock Hall

Pat Benatar performs her 1980 hit "I Need a Lover," written by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp.

Lot of new faces in the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction nominees announced today—nine of 16, to be exact.

Of the newbies, Pat Benatar is the most overdue—and as a pure rocker from the late 1970s and ‘80s, one with maybe the best shot of going in as a first-timer. Then again, pop/R&B superstar and fellow first-timer Whitney Houston could join her--if voters have short memories, and are impressed by Houston’s huge non-rock hits and are sentimentally swayed by her tragic demise.

Of the other freshmen—all men, by the way—Motörhead seems the strongest candidate, as the memory of beloved frontman Lemmy, who died four years ago, is still fresh, and they rocked way harder than competing frosh Dave Matthews Band and the Doobie Brothers. Thin Lizzy is deserving, but not as well-remembered as T. Rex, whose immortal 1971 anthem “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” is forever embedded in the collective consciousness. That leaves The Notorious B.I.G. and Soundgarden, both having the advantage of being relatively recent, with B.I.G. further aided by being the only hip-hopper—and like Houston, tragically deceased at a young age.

Which brings us to the returning nominees. Depeche Mode, with two previous nominations, remains popular and is highly regarded critically, but so is fellow previous two-timer Nine Inch Nails, and both, either, or neither could go in. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan has been nominated three times, and benefits by being the only R&B artist besides Houston—and the only female-fronted act besides her and Benatar.

Pioneering electronic band Kraftwerk has been nominated five previous times, but probably needs at least a sixth before making it in. It’s the second time around for Todd Rundgren, also probably not enough to clear the field this time, but it is probably only a matter of time for the deserving artist and producer. Fellow second-timer and heavy metal icon Judas Priest is matched only by Motörhead in terms of hard rock, but frontman Rob Halford lacks the endearment of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, although he’s no less astonishing.

Last but certainly not least—and the most worthy of this year’s bunch--is now five-time nominee MC5. Since they’re the only 1960s act standing, they have a clear path to victory this time out.

And speaking of the ‘60s, it should be noted that one group that has never been nominated and in a perfect Rock and Roll Hall of Fame world would be a shoo-in—The Turtles—is in fact anonymously represented in the nominations. That legendary hitmaking band’s singers and founding partners Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman have supplied backup vocals for everyone from John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen to Frank Zappa to The Ramones to…T. Rex. Yes, that’s their voices on the chorus of “Bang a Gong,” and why T. Rex has a good chance of going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Kaylan and Volman have never even been nominated is one of life’s great mysteries.



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