An Open Letter to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Women Merit Conversation

By Desarae Gabrielle and Lily Grae

Recently, Inspirer released a series on the women the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has overlooked. This week, the corresponding video featuring the women in the series went viral, with nearly 100,000 shares and 5 million views and counting.

Our video has been acknowledged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they are currently meeting to discuss the attention it has received. While they’ve reached out to us and stated that they view our conversation as important, they also stated that women who are included in our series who have previously been inducted as part of ensembles do not merit conversation. When we didn’t back down, the latter statement was retracted as a poorly worded response which was unintentional by their representative.

The RRHOF has invited us to debate with one of their staff ‘educators’ on the facts we presented to them in our email exchange regarding the lack of women in the Rock Hall. Facts we pulled off their own website, facts readily available to the public released by the museum itself. How can we debate with an institution that tells us their facts, when reiterated back to them, are simply opinions?

A little history on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s female inductions:

1983: RRHOF is established.
1986: Inaugural induction class consists of all men, including Elvis who gained fame from covers and influence of women of the blues who have yet to be inducted 30 years later.
1987: 22 inductees, Aretha Franklin is the first and only woman inducted.
1988: The Supremes were inducted.
1989: Bessie Smith was inducted.
1990: Ma Rainey is inducted. Carole King is inducted alongside Gerry Goffin.
1991: Tina Turner is inducted with Ike, Laverne Baker is the only solo female.
1992: There are 12 inductees, none of which are women. Eric Clapton is inducted for the first time with Yardbirds.
1993: Dinah Washington, Etta James, and Ruth Brown. Eric Clapton inducted again with Cream.
1994: No women are inducted. John Lennon is recognized for the second time in less than a decade by the Rock Hall (this time as a solo artist).
1995: Janis Joplin & Martha and the Vandellas are recognized.
1996: The Shirelles are the only all female group recognized. Grace Slick is inducted as a member of Jefferson Airplane. Gladys Knight inducted with Gladys Knight & the Pips.
1997: Neil Young is recognized for the second time in two years as a member of Buffalo Springfield (inducted solo in ‘95). Joni Mitchell, Mahalia Jackson are inducted. Crosby Stills Nash are inducted, meaning Stephen Stills is recognized twice in the same induction year.
1998: Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie are inducted as members of Fleetwood Mac, Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips are inducted with Mama and Papas. No solo female artists.
1999: Dusty Springfield is the only solo female artist inducted, Cleotha and Yvonne Staples inducted as members of Staples Singers group. Paul McCartney recognized a second time.
2000: Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt inducted. Eric Clapton is recognized for the third time in 8 years, this time as a solo artist.
2001: No women inductees. Michael Jackson is recognized a second time, this time as a solo artist.
2002: Brenda Lee is inducted as a solo artist. Tina Weymouth inducted with Talking Heads.
2003: No women inductees.
2004: No women inductees. George Harrison is recognized as a solo act outside of the Beatles.
2005: Chrissie Hynde is inducted as member of the Pretenders.
2006: Blondie is inducted.
2007: Patti Smith & the Ronettes inducted.
2008: Madonna is inducted.
2009: Wanda Jackson is inducted. Jeff Beck is recognized a second time, as a solo artist outside of the Yardbirds.
2010: No female solo acts — ABBA, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwhich and Jeff Barry are inducted as various ensembles.
2011: Darlene Love is inducted.
2012: Laura Nyro is the only female inductee out of 17 inductees.
2013: Donna Summer and Heart are inducted.
2014: Linda Ronstadt is inducted.
2015: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts inducted. Ringo Starr is inducted a second time, as a recipient of the award for musical excellence.
2016: No female inductees.
2017: Joan Baez is inducted.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice a trend of the same men being inducted more than once — one even three times. Yet, the RRHOF didn’t induct a single woman in ’86,’92, ’94, 2001, 2003, 2004, or 2016. Why are they inducting the same male musicians/songwriters year after year, but not honoring women who’ve changed the landscape of rock & roll? Not a single female has been inducted more than once, but Eric Clapton’s three separate inductions are justified by the institution, somehow. There is not a shortage of female singers and songwriters in the music industry that are eligible for induction, per the Rock Hall’s rules, but the institution is making it pretty clear they have no interest in incorporating equality into their nomination process.

As of 2017, 22 male performers have been inducted twice or more. Out of the Rock Hall’s 300+ inductees, only 47 are female performers. Of those 47 inductions, only 16 were recognized as solo artists, while 31 were inducted within ensembles or a duo. Carole King, Ellie Greenwhich & Cynthia Weil were inducted in the ‘non-performing’ category alongside their male counterparts.

It’s time to shine a light on the problem – there are more than 16 female solo artists that are worthy of the ‘honor’ of being inducted into the RRHOF.

All we’re asking to see is change. That’s it. It’s not that hard. We care greatly about music. We should be on the same team; we shouldn’t care more than the Rock Hall, and yet, we obviously do.

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Desarae, editor-in-chief & founder of Inspirer, is a music writer and software engineer residing in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to launching Inspirer, she spent 3 years as a feature and festival contributor for YahooTv! Inspirer is published by Desarae Gabrielle and Ashley McFaul and is circulated by Curtis Circulation internationally in both specialty and wholesale markets.
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