Always a subject of intense discussion, the list of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees is almost more of a sore spot than the actual inductees end up being. I guess us music freaks are resigned to the fact that the eventual inductees will end up containing more than a couple of head-scratchers. I also think that many of us music fans have officially concluded that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is essentially Jann Wenner’s personal clubhouse and his buddies tend to have carte blanche when it comes to getting inducted or even nominated.

With that said, this year’s group of nominees contains a few of my all-time favorite singers, songwriters, rockers and rappers. It’s an eclectic list that encompasses “rock and roll” in all it’s forms-from new wave to metal to dance/pop to hip-hop. While the list of omissions is still a mile wide, I’ve gotta say this is the most interesting list of potential nominees I’ve seen in some time…and most of these folks are deserving as well.

So without further ado, this year’s 15 candidates, of which five to seven will be inducted:

Beastie Boys: Previously nominated. They are the longest-running successful hip-hop act in history. Several classic albums to their name. Successful in several divergent musical styles. Successful comeback this year with Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. This will probably be their year.

The Cure: First nomination, although they’ve been eligible for well over half a decade. One of the most influential alternative rock bands in the history. Brought goth to the mainstream. Long-standing critical success with a fair amount of commercial success as well. “Love Song” has been remade by more people than I can count. A possibility, but I feel like they may have to wait a couple of years.

Donovan: Previously nominated. Handful of hippy-dippy hits in the Sixties, then faded from view. If inducted this year, may provide unintended awkwardness if The Beasties’ Ad Rock crosses path with Donovan’s daughter, Ione Skye (the two were married). Has been nominated several times-might just get in this time. Not so sure he deserves it, though.

Eric B. & Rakim: First nomination. Second year of eligibility (if my calculations are correct). The greatest emcee in the history of music. And Eric B. Not so sure these guys should get in before LL Cool J (who got bypassed on this year’s nominations list) or Public Enemy (who should be eligible this year as well). Probably not their year, and I’d be interested to see if they *ever* wind up getting in.

Guns ‘N Roses-First nomination, first year of eligibility. The most commercially successful hard rock band of the late Eighties and Nineties. It could be argued that their (lack of) work post-1993 (and Axl Rose’s general craziness) should hinder their induction. However, their star burned so brightly when they were big that I’d argue they should get in. And they probably will. On their first ballot.

Heart: Nominated previously.Pioneering female-fronted rock band. Staples of classic rock radio, a format on which you don’t find very many singers without penises. Two successful runs-first in the Seventies as a straight-up rock band and then in the late Eighties and early Nineties as a slicker pop ensemble. Nancy and Ann Wilson both have incredible pipes. I’d vote for them to get in…they just might this year.

Joan Jett and The Blackhearts: First nomination. Eligible for quite some time. Most influential female rocker of all time? Janis Joplin. Second most influential? Tina Turner. But then there’s Joan Jett. Still rocks hard, still looks hot. I feel like either Heart or Jett will get in this year. But not both. I’d probably vote Joan in over The Runaways.

Freddie King: First nomination (I believe), has been eligible for many years. The one artist here I’m pretty unfamiliar with. Blues guitarist. They have an “early influences” entry every year, right? He’ll get in through that.

Laura Nyro: Previously nominated. Influential (and excellent) singer/songwriter. Probably not well-known enough to get in.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Previously nominated. Surprisingly enduring L.A. punk/funk combo whose latest album is quickly approaching Gold status. Commercial acceptance came in 1991 with Rick Rubin-produced Blood Sugar Sex Magik album and “Under the Bridge” single. Critical consensus divided on last decade or so of music. Stage might not be big enough for all the band’s former guitarists. 50/50 chance of getting in this year.

Rufus with Chaka Khan: First nomination. Eligible for over a decade. My favorite female singer of all time. Wildly influential soul/rock/funk band, many of whom went on to become session musicians for the biggest hits of the ’80s. Rufus’s catalog is pretty solid as well. Chaka is also eligible as a solo artist. I’d love for her to get in. Don’t know if it’s gonna happen, though.

The Small Faces/The Faces: First nomination that I’m aware of, but they HAVE to have been nominated before, right? Have been eligible for close to a decade and a half. Before Rod Stewart was Rod Stewart, he was one of The Faces. Prior to Rod joining, they were just The Small Faces. Lots of rock royalty here: Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan. Rod and Ron (as a member of The Rolling Stones) are already in. Don’t know if that might turn off some voters reluctant to vote them in twice. But it didn’t stop anyone from voting in Clapton three times, eh?

The Spinners: First nomination that I’m aware of. Eligible since the early Nineties. Classic Philly soul outfit with a wealth of hits written by Thom Bell: “The Rubberband Man”, “Then Came You”, “It’s a Shame” (whoops, Stevie Wonder wrote that one). Hitmakers for a solid decade. The R&R HOF loves soul vocal groups. The Dells are in, right? Why can’t The Spinners be in?

Donna Summer: Multiple nominations. Eligible for a little over a decade. Queen of Disco. Went on to outlast “disco” (even though it never really died) and achieve fame in the more conventional dance/pop category, although she boasts one of the strongest voices of any female pop singer of note in the past 40 years and can sing anything from gospel to opera. Madonna owes an incredible debt of gratitude to Donna. Bonus; played Steve Urkel’s aunt on “Family Matters”.

War: Multiple nominations, also eligible since the mid Nineties. Multi-culti funk band, initially led by The Animals’ Eric Burdon. Successful during the Seventies, with one great song that’s become ubiquitous (“Why Can’t We Be Friends?”) and one horrible song that’s become ubiquitous (“Low Rider”).

Still M.I.A. (and deserving): LL Cool J, Hall & Oates, Chicago, Chic, Depeche Mode, New Order/Joy Division, Duran Duran, Janet Jackson, The Replacements, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Joe Jackson and yes…Kiss and Rush.

My Top 5 to get in (based purely on personal like) would be Rufus, The Beastie Boys, G’n R, The Chili Peppers and Heart. Four of those five will probably get in for real. Add in The Small Faces and Freddie King, and you have your most star-packed HOF in recent years. Sorry, Chaka. Maybe next year.

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