Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and T. Rex are the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Cleveland-based museum announced its 2020 slate of inductees on Jan. 15. The artists were selected by voters from a ballot featuring 16 names. The other ten nominees that were not selected for induction were Pat Benatar, the Dave Matthews Band, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motörhead, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Soundgarden, Thin Lizzy and Todd Rundgren. Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first recording.
Depeche Mode were previously nominated in 2017 and 2018. The group was formed in 1980 and are known for their synthesizer heavy sound and series of new wave hits that were highly influential on alternative rock. The group’s dour-but-catchy songs and devoted fanbase made them one of the first bands in the college rock scene to score a Top 40 crossover with “People are People” in 1985. As Depeche Mode’s music grew darker as the 1980s progressed, their popularity exploded, especially in the United States. In 1988, the group sold out the Rose Bowl in California and played to a crowd of 60,000 people, a concert captured in their film and live album 101. Their 1990 album Violator was a best seller and spun off the hits “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy the Silence”, and they continue to tour, record and be an important name in the alternative genre. Their induction this year makes them the second British alternative act in a row to be recognized by the Hall, following The Cure’s long-awaited induction last year.
The Doobie Brothers were on the ballot the first time this year, but have been eligible since 1996. The group were one of the top rock acts of the 1970s, with both their original hippie guitar rock sound and the sophisticated pop style they cultivated when Michael McDonald joined the group in the middle of the decade. The group’s hits, such as “Black Water”, “China Grove” and “What a Fool Believes”, remain radio perennials.
Whitney Houston was one of the top pop and R&B singers of the 1980s and 1990s, scoring seven straight #1 hits from 1985 to 1988 and collecting four more chart-toppers before the end of the 20th century. Her collection of classics includes dance-pop like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and soaring ballads like her famous cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. Her impressive mezzo-soprano voice made her one of the most lauded vocalists of her era. While eligible since 2010, this year marked the first time Houston has been on the ballot.
Essential songs: “How Will I Know” (1985), “The Greatest Love of All” (1986), “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (1987), “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” (1988) “I Will Always Love You” (1992), “I Have Nothing” (1993), “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” (1999)
Nine Inch Nails were nominated in 2015 and 2016 before their induction this year. A one-man band masterminded by Trent Reznor, NIN brought abrasive industrial music to the forefront of the rock scene in the 1990s with best-selling albums like Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral. While Reznor has utilized other musicians live, and his regular collaborator Atticus Ross joined the band as its second official member in 2016, Reznor will be the only member of the group inducted into the hall this year. Reznor was also at last year’s Hall of Fame ceremony to induct the Cure.
The Notorious B.I.G. was eligible for induction for the first time this year. One of the most legendary and acclaimed rappers of the 1990s, Biggie released his landmark debut album Ready to Die in 1994 and followed it up with Life After Death in 1997, released just weeks after he was murdered. Despite his short career, Biggie influenced generations of rappers who followed him and is particularly hailed for his sharp lyricism and smooth flow.
T. Rex have been eligible since 1994, but only gained their first nomination this year. One of the most beloved bands of the early 1970s in the U.K., the Marc Bolan-fronted group helped introduce glam rock to Britain in 1970 with their hit “Ride a White Swan”. T. Rex became one of the biggest groups of the glam boom, scoring four #1 hits. They were less successful in America, where they only reached the Top 40 with their classic rock radio staple “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” in 1972, but they were highly influential in their homeland, with their teenage fans going on to found punk, New Wave and Britpop acts in the years following. The band broke up in 1977 after Bolan was killed in a car accident. Of the four members inducted into the Hall, only drummer Bill Legend is still alive to attend the ceremony.
In addition to the six artists, two non-performers were selected for induction. Irving Azoff is the manager for the Eagles, and a powerful music executive who was the chairman of Ticketmaster who led their merger with Live Nation in 2009. Jon Landau helped bring Bruce Springsteen to prominence first as a rock journalist and then as the Boss’ manager. For what it’s worth, Landau is also the head of the nominating committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled to be held May 2 at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, a few blocks away from the Hall of Fame Museum on the shore of Lake Erie.