Arena-packing anthem rockers Bon Jovi, soul legend Nina Simone and gritty English pub band Dire Straits on Wednesday won spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
New Wave pop songwriters The Cars, R&B-infused progressive rockers The Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the gospel inspiration for early rockers, rounded up spots in the 2018 class that will enter the shrine to rock culture.
The Hall of Fame, which surveyed some 1,000 historians and music industry players to select the new inductees, will welcome the six artists in a gala concert on April 14 in its home base of Cleveland.
Bon Jovi, the hard rockers from New Jersey led by namesake Jon Bon Jovi, came out on top in a survey that drew 6.8 million fans, whose preferences were taken into account to give an extra vote to five acts.
With a string of quickly memorable hits such as “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Bon Jovi became kings in the 1980s, packing arenas on their exhaustive tours full of pyrotechnics.
Unlike the hair metal bands that were their contemporaries, Bon Jovi preserved a family-friendly image, helping the band win a following in diverse corners of the world.
Bon Jovi was notably the first Western rock group approved to tour the then Soviet Union when the communist system opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms.
Fans will watch closely to see if the Hall of Fame concert will see the band reunite with its longtime guitarist Richie Sambora, who quit in 2013 citing a desire for more personal time.
Changing definition of rock
Simone, who won induction on her first nomination, was widely considered one of the most influential singers of the 20th century who brought the sensibilities of classical music to gospel and jazz.
Raised in segregated North Carolina, Simone became an passionate advocate for racial equality, with her best-known song perhaps the civil rights anthem “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”
Simone died in self-exile in France in 2003. She has enjoyed renewed attention following a 2015 Netflix documentary, “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
Simone’s induction comes as the Hall of Fame increasingly broadens its definition. It honored rappers the last two years, describing rock ‘n’ roll as more attitude than musical genre.
Tharpe, who died in 1973, was chosen for her early influence on rock.
With her confident stage presence and distortion on her guitar, Tharpe took gospel music to new audiences in the 1930s and 1940s, helping set the stage for rock ‘n’ roll after World War II.
She was especially influential to Little Richard, the rock pioneer who was in the Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986, with Tharpe discovering the future star’s voice when he was selling soft drinks at her concert.
Different takes on MTV era
The induction will raise fans’ hopes for a reunion of Dire Straits, who broke up in 1995.
Led by Mark Knopfler, the group emerged from Britain’s so-called pub rock scene of the 1970s, which emphasized blues roots and no-frills musicianship in an era of angry punks and flamboyant glam bands.
Dire Straits paradoxically won a following on newborn MTV with tracks such as “Money for Nothing,” a muscular song, originally with a homophobic slur, from the point of view of working-class men who resent wealthy rockers seen on the music channel.
In its citation, the Hall of Fame credited the London band with its revival of Americana, saying, “Dire Straits dragged rock kicking and screaming back to its gritty, country roots using beefy guitar licks and bluesy vocals.”
The Cars, led by Ric Ocasek, went in a different direction, bringing the quirky electronic effects of New Wave to classically structured pop songs, generating a string of hits such as “You Might Think,” “Shake It Up,” “Just What I Needed” and “Drive.”
The Moody Blues, who still tour regularly, started in R&B but shifted gears sharply with 1967’s concept album “Days of Future Passed.” With its incorporation of classical music, the album helped create progressive rock, with its more ambitious structures.
The Hall of Fame notably did not select Radiohead or Rage Against the Machine. They were nominated in their first year of eligibility, often a strong sign of success.