by Kevin Burton
Hope I’m not too early but I want to be the first to congratulate The Carpenters on their 2023 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It has to happen now, right?
I say this because some committee just voted Dolly Parton of all people, into the hall. Keeping The Carpenters out based on the style of music they played just became that much more ludicrous.
You can’t have Dolly Parton in and keep the Carpenters out, can you?
The Carpenters exclusion is an injustice, but it’s an injustice with a small i, a very small one. We as a human race, and in the subset of the music-loving human race, have bigger issues to tackle for sure.
That makes this a fun argument. I won’t be unfriending anybody who disagrees with me, even though they are 100 percent wrong.
Your record collection, playlist, whatever, is your personal hall of fame ballot. The people who have wrongly kept The Carpenters out can’t stop anyone from enjoying their music. I’ve been to the rock hall twice and enjoyed it. At no time did I think about who wasn’t in the hall.
Consider also, the problem with the hall argument is the more you talk about it the more you are forced to define rock and roll.
Good luck with that.
But now, to make the case for the Carpenters as hall-worthy, I don’t have to measure them against Steely Dan or The Rolling Stones, I just have to measure them against Dolly.
The soft rock that The Carpenters played at least was rock. Dolly Parton plays country music and has never considered herself a rock artist.
Dolly should be let into just about anything with the label Hall of Fame on it. By the time you go from music to movies to theme parks, you’re pretty famous.
But rock and roll?
“Parton, 76, had said in March that she was ‘extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated’ but didn’t feel that she had ‘earned that right’ to be recognized as a rock artist at the expense of others,” wrote Joe Coscarelli in the New York Times.
I agreed with her original assessment.
“Ballots, however, had already been sent to voters, and the hall said they would remain unchanged, noting that the organization was ‘not defined by any one genre’ and had deep roots in country and rhythm and blues,” Coscarelli wrote.
The next rock and roll record Dolly does will be her first. This can be said using just about everybody’s definition of rock and roll, including her own. She’s in the hall now, nevertheless.
The Carpenters ruled the first half of the 70s and only their much-chronicled medical issues kept them from greater heights. They invented the power ballad with 1972’s “Goodbye To Love.” Their credentials should be plenty good enough.
Really it’s hard to know where to start in these hall snub discussions because Glen Campbell isn’t in the hall either. He should be in on his work as a session musician alone. The Association isn’t in. That’s a worse snub than the others I have mentioned.
“Nat King Cole and Neil Diamond and Miles Davis are already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and none of them were rock & roll,” wrote Nathan Albright on the Edge Induced Cohesion blog in 2012. “So the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has already established by its inductees that it is not recognizing those who fit some (arbitrary) definition of Rock & Roll, but honoring the most significant and influential artists of the Rock & Roll era, from 1954 onward.”
“And by that standard, The Carpenters certainly qualify on several grounds, specifically their influence on future artists and the popularity of contralto voices, the enduring value of their musical record and immense popularity, and their larger social significance,” Albright wrote.
Others have speculated that the Carpenter family’s political leanings and Richard and Karen’s lack of hotel room-trashing rocker behavior have kept the group out. They weren’t and their sound wasn’t cool enough for some people.
They are cool enough for me. And if they didn’t out-rock The Who, they out-rocked Dolly Parton for sure.