The Record
4:28 am
Thu April 18, 2013

The Diverse Influence Of The 2013 Rock Hall Inductees

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 11:22 am

Tonight, six new performers will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Public Enemy, Randy Newman, Rush, Albert King, Donna Summer and Heart. According to the Hall's own language, one of the criteria for induction is "an artist's musical influence on other artists." That influence is built into each year's ceremony: Musicians are inducted by younger artists who display some of their qualities. (Tonight, Donna Summer will be inducted by Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera.) But if a musician makes it to the level of the Rock Hall, that influence has likely spread to unlikely corners.

In the mid-1980s, Vernon Reid co-founded Living Colour, and with it, a movement that came to be called the Black Rock Coalition, which promoted black musicians playing rock music. Reid, who was raised on heavy metal, jazz and funk and whose music showed all of those influences, first saw Rush, the power trio from Toronto, on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert on television. He says he was floored by the sound the singer made.

"Geddy Lee's voice was so unusual — high and reedy and declamatory. I dug it," Reid says. "There's this kind of idea of the individual versus society. And I just thought there's something in what the music is talking about that was just very appealing to me."

"I think the music that hits you when you're innocent stains your soul," says music journalist Holly Gleason. In other words, the songs you hear as a kid stay with you. Some of this year's inductees have a clear line of musical DNA that leads to today's stars.

"You can't deny the impact Donna Summer had on Madonna or Beyonce or, to an extent, Rihanna," Gleason says. "Donna put it out there, and all of those women picked it up."

The influence of blues master Albert King has been similarly well-documented. King has inspired legions of guitarists since his 1967 Stax hit "Born Under a Bad Sign." Performers ranging from Eric Clapton to John Mayer have cited King's impact on them (Mayer will induct King into the Hall), but Gleason says she has learned to measure the influence of legendary musicians through the music younger bands listen to on the road.

"You might be at a Kenny Chesney show and you'll hear Albert King coming off one of the band buses," she says. Or another of this year's inductees: "You'll be backstage at a show with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and they may be listening to Randy Newman, of all things. You don't expect it, but when you step back and look at what they do, you can usually get a broken line into, 'Oh yeah, that makes sense.' "

Sometimes the influence of a musician sneaks up over time — other times, it grabs hold immediately. When Vijay Iyer was a teenager in Rochester, N.Y., he listened to a steady diet of pop and rock on the radio. But then he heard Public Enemy in college.

"There was an edge to it, just sonically, that was really intense," the jazz pianist says. "They had that kind of incantatory quality that was really arresting — especially for me as an adolescent at that time."

Elements of that sound, as well as Public Enemy's mission, made their way into his own music. "I think in intensity and density and sonic thrust, you can hear it in certain aspects of my trio music," Iyer says. He adds that the music he plays today has a lot to do with helping him understand who he was, as a child of Indian immigrants growing up in the lily-white suburbs. "For me it was more about becoming a 'person' in America, which meant finding a space to be accepted as an individual and not a type," he says.

Sometimes you don't have to look any further than home to find your role models. Gleason says the Seattle-based '70s band Heart, led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, was an unlikely influence on a bunch of Pacific Northwest grunge rockers 20 years later.

"When you look at all the bands that came out of Seattle — the Nirvanas, the Pearl Jams — they are huge fans of those girls," Gleason says. "I was talking to someone up there who's a critic, and I said, 'This makes no sense. They hate gloss. They hate slick. They hate shiny.' And the guy looked at me and said, 'No. They rock.' "

When you get down to it, maybe it's just that simple.

Copyright 2013 Cleveland Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wcpn.org.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, six new performers will be inducted, tonight, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Public Enemy, Randy Newman, Rush, Albert King, Donna Summer and Heart. Somehow, Carly Rae Jepson was excluded, but there's still time. Now, one of the criteria for induction is an artist's lasting impact on other musicians.

From member station WCPN, David C. Barnett reports on how these six musicians and groups influenced others.

DAVID C. BARNETT, BYLINE: In the mid-1980s, Vernon Reid co-founded Living Colour, and with it, a movement that came to be called the Black Rock Coalition, which promoted black musicians playing rock music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CULT OF PERSONALITY")

LIVING COLOUR: (Singing) Look in my eyes, what do you see? The cult of personality...

BARNETT: Living Colour's music featured a blend of heavy metal, jazz and funk. And Reid says, as a teenager, he was raised with all of those influences. Then, one night, he saw a long-haired, power trio from Canada on "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN THE MOOD")

GEDDY LEE: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Won't you come along with me for a little while...

BARNETT: The group was Rush, and Reid says he was floored by the sound of the lead singer.

VERNON REID: Geddy Lee's voice was so unusual - high and reedy, and declamatory - I dug it.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG, "TOM SAWYER")

LEE: (Singing) What you say about his company? Is what you say about society? Catch the mist, catch the myth, catch the mystery, catch the drift...

REID: There's this kind of idea of the individual versus society. And I just thought there's something in what the music is talking about, that was just very appealing to me.

BARNETT: Themes that Reid and Living Colour picked up on in their music.

HOLLY GLEASON: I think the music that hits you when you're innocent, stains your soul.

BARNETT: Music journalist Holly Gleason says that means the songs you hear as a kid stay with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT STUFF")

BARNETT: Remember getting sweaty with Donna Summer?

GLEASON: And, with some of today's artists, you can't deny the impact Donna Summer had on Madonna or Beyonce, or to an extent, Rihanna. I mean Donna put it out there and all of those women picked it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT STUFF")

DONNA SUMMER: (Singing) Looking for some hot stuff, baby, this evening. I need some hot stuff, baby, tonight. I want some hot stuff, baby, this evening. Got to have some hot stuff. Got to have some love tonight.

BARNETT: The influence of another of this year's inductees has been well-documented. Blues master Albert King has inspired legions of guitarists ever since his 1967 Stax hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNDER A BAD SIGN")

ALBERT KING: (Singing) Born under a bad sign. Since I been down since I begin to crawl. If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all...

BARNETT: While performers ranging from Eric Clapton to John Mayer have all cited King's impact on them, Holly Gleason says she's learned to measure the influence of legendary musicians through the music younger bands listen to on the road.

GLEASON: You might be at a Kenny Chesney show, and you'll hear Albert King coming off of one of the band buses. Or you'll be backstage at a show with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and they may be listening to Randy Newman - of all things. You don't expect it, but when you step back and look at what they do, you can usually get a broken line into, oh yeah, that makes sense.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE L.A.")

RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) Look at that mountain. Look at those trees. Look at that bum over there, man, he's down on his knees. Look at these women, ain't nothing like them nowhere. Century Boulevard...

CHORUS: (Singing) We love it.

NEWMAN: (Singing) Victory Boulevard...

CHORUS: (Singing) We love it.

NEWMAN: (Singing) Santa Monica Boulevard...

CHORUS: (Singing) We love it.

NEWMAN: (Singing) Sixth Street...

CHORUS: (Singing) We love it. We love it. We love it. Woo...

NEWMAN: (Singing) We love L.A...

BARNETT: The radio in Rochester, New York fed a teenaged Vijay Iyer a steady diet of pop and rock, in the 1980s. But it was the music of Public Enemy that turned Iyer's head, once he hit college.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIGHT THE POWER")

PUBLIC ENEMY: (Singing) Nineteen-eighty-nine, that number another summer, get down. Sound of the funky drummer. Music hitting your heart, 'cause I know you got soul. Brothers and sisters

VIJAY IYER: There was an edge to it that, just sonically, that was really intense. They had that kind of incantatory quality that was really arresting, especially for me as an adolescent at that time.

BARNETT: Today, Iyer is an acclaimed jazz pianist and says he's still carrying Public Enemy with him in his own music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

IYER: I think a sort of intensity and density, and sonic kind of thrust, you can hear it in certain aspects of my trio music.

BARNETT: Vijay Iyer adds that the music he plays today has a lot to do with helping him understand who he was, as child of Indian immigrants, growing-up in the lily-white suburbs.

IYER: For me it was more about becoming a person in America...

(LAUGHTER)

IYER: And which meant kind of finding a space to be accepted as an individual, and not a type. You know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIGHT THE POWER")

ENEMY: (Singing) All the same. No one not the same 'cause we don't know the game. What we need is awareness. We can't get careless. You say: What is this...

BARNETT: Sometimes, you don't have to look any further than home to find your role models, even if they are of a different gender. Writer Holly Gleason says that Heart, the Seattle-based band, founded by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson in the 1970s, proved to a bunch of Pacific Northwest grunge rockers 20 years later that women could front a band on their own terms.

GLEASON: When you look at all the bands that came out of Seattle - the Nirvanas, the Pearl Jams - they are all huge fans of those girls. I was talking to somebody up there that's a critic. And I'm going, this makes no sense. They hate gloss, they hate slick, they hate shiny. And the guy looked at me and went, no, they rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARRACUDA")

BARNETT: And, when you get right down to it, maybe it's just that simple. For all the analysis about tracing the impact of music through insightful lyrics or innovative time signatures, maybe the influence of a performer is best measured by his or her ability to rock.

For NPR News, I'm DCB, in Cleveland.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARRACUDA")

ANN WILSON: (Singing) So this ain't the end. I saw you again today, I had to turn my heart away...

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARRACUDA")

WILSON: (Singing) Smile like the sun, kisses for everyone. And tails, it never fails. You lying so low in the weeds. I bet you going to ambush me. You'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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