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Rock Hall inducts 2018 class

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The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has announced its 2018 class.  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees include - Left: Nina Simone; Right: Bon Jovi; and Below: Moody Guitarist and singer Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge from the Moody Blues. The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has announced its 2018 class. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees include - Left: Nina Simone; Right: Bon Jovi; and Below: Moody Guitarist and singer Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge from the Moody Blues. (Photos by Rene Perez/AP/File; Jason DeCrow/AP/File; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Social media was set alight last week, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released the names of inductees for the class of 2018: Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Nina Simone. Also scheduled for induction in the “Early Influence” category is rock pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Bon Jovi

Leading the pack is New Jersey’s Bon Jovi, a second-time rock hall nominee. Formed in Sayreville, New Jersey in 1983, the band achieved widespread commercial success with their 1986 album “Slippery When Wet” and hit singles, “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

“It’s about…time” is how lead singer Jon Bon Jovi phrased his reaction to the rock hall news during an interview with the New York Times (minus a playful vulgarity which was deleted).

As a band, Bon Jovi has maintained a fairly consistent lineup since 1983, with a few exceptions. Original lead guitarist Dave Sabo (Skid Row, Anthrax) was replaced by Richie Sambora in 1983. Sambora made headlines when he walked out on the band mid-tour in 2013. Bassist Alec John Such was dismissed in 1994.

To his credit, Jon Bon Jovi says he hopes to share the hall spotlight (and stage) with Sambora and Such once again when the band is formally inducted next April.

The Cars

After band leader Ric Ocasek and singer Benjamin Orr formed a musical bond in Cleveland in the 1960s, The Cars formally grouped in Boston in 1976. With their quirkily contagious blend of rock, new wave and melodic power pop, the band released six albums before splitting in 1988.

Fusing ‘60s pop rock with late ‘70s new wave gave The Cars a unique signature sound derived from a variety of disparate influences, including The Beatles, Todd Rundgren (later to front an Ocasek-less version of the band dubbed “The New Cars”), The Raspberries, Big Star, Lou Reed, David Bowie and The Who, among others.

Singer and bassist Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer in October of 2000 at age 53.

In 2010, the founding members of The Cars reunited for an album (“Move Like This”) and a short tour conducted in 2011.

Ric Ocasek confirmed last week that the band will likely regroup to perform during next April’s ceremony, but was uncertain about the content. He also floated the possibility of a new album recorded with the band’s surviving members but cautioned that, without Benjamin Orr, the band “feels different.”

The Moody Blues

Eligible for induction to the rock hall since 1989, The Moody Blues, formed in Birmingham, England, in 1964, are one of the last major British bands from the ‘60s to receive the honor. Drummer Graeme Edge, a member from the beginning, told me during an interview in 2004 that he didn’t waste much time wondering why his group continued to be snubbed year after year.

Guitarist and singer Justin Hayward told Rolling Stone last week that he can’t explain why it took so long, only that he is delighted that the day is almost here, citing the band’s enormous and vocal fan base who never lost faith that it would happen.

The Moody Blues formed as rhythm and blues band and landed a top-10 US hit with “Go Now” in 1965, featuring original lead singer Denny Laine (later of Paul McCartney’s Wings).

In late 1966, The Moody Blues shifted gears by adding new members Justin Hayward and John Lodge, and recorded what many consider the group’s real debut album - “Days of Future Passed,” rock’s first successful fling with symphonic music - in 1967. With 16 studio albums and global sales approaching 80 million, the band maintains a heavy touring schedule to this day.

Current Moody Blues members say they are hopeful that former members Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas will be able to rejoin the band for induction ceremonies next spring.

Dire Straits

Formed in London in 1977, Dire Straits - led by guitarist and lead singer Mark Knopfler - issued their debut album the following year.

The band’s breakthrough song cut through 1978’s disco-din with a Dylan-esque vocal and some crafty Chet Atkins-style guitar, making “Sultans of Swing” one of the year’s tastiest, albeit unlikely, hits.

The band endured multiple lineup changes, recording five further albums, peaking in popularity with 1985’s “Brothers In Arms,” containing the hits “Money For Nothing” and “Walk of Life.”

Dire Straits played their final concert 25 years ago, with Knopfler devoting his time to movie soundtracks and well-received solo albums.

Some sort of Dire Straits reunion will probably unfold at the ceremony but not even the band members know now what that might look like.

Nina Simone

Releasing her first record in 1958, Nina Simone was eligible for induction at the inaugural ceremony in 1986. Sadly, she passed away in 2003 before she was even considered.

A key player in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Simone was an astonishingly gifted singer, songwriter and performer in multiple genres. 

She preferred to think of herself as a folk singer, but then she could take a song by a Beatle and make it her own.

She did it all, from blues and jazz to gospel and even songs for children, all of them performed from the soul, filtered through a prism of classical training.

When she covered a song, her version became the one that everyone else emulated.

The one inductee in 2018’s class that may prompt many observers to ask “Who?” is one who should have been inducted at the beginning.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Like Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s induction is long overdue.

Immeasurably influential on rock’s early pioneers, Tharpe literally did it all.

Listen to her 1944 recording “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” A precursor to 1954’s “Rock Around The Clock” and Roy Brown’s 1947 hit “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (variously cited as the first real rock and roll songs), Sister Rosetta Tharpe was kickin’ out the jams before anyone knew what the jams were.

Born Rosetta Nubin in 1915, Tharpe passed away in 1973, years before the mainstream could get a grip on what she had accomplished during her short lifetime. 

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