Hands Down Dolly Parton Should Be In the Rock Hall
On February 2, Dolly Parton was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with 16 other accomplished artists in The Hall's fan vote contest. Yet, yesterday morning, via Twitter, Dolly said that while extremely flattered and grateful for the nomination she doesn't feel she's earned the right. And that she doesn't want votes to be split because of her, so she's bowing out.
If that's not one of the sweetest things I've ever seen a rock or country superstar ever do, I don't know what is. It's also wholly unnecessary. Because Dolly Parton deserves to be any popular music hall of fame.
And let's not split hairs, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is really, truly, the Popular Music Hall of Fame. It's a repository for everything that popular music was, and has evolved into over the years. It's called The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because when it was built and when it actually became a thing, music was generally marketed as Rock 'N' Roll.
You'd find Michael Jackson and Madonna next to Van Halen and Guns 'N' Roses. And MTV blurred those lines even further. You see, Disco music never really died. It became dance music and its assorted subgenres. And they marketed it to you and me under terms like pop/rock, or funk, and in our local record stores. At least until the emergence of hip/hop and alternative music, we didn't subcategorize music genres to death.
Of course, I get it. Country Music's always largely been its own thing. It has its own Hall of Fame. Its own radio formats. It's always been separate from rock unless you go way, way, back. And perhaps, that's a point you can argue. Except Dolly Parton's career transcends Country music. And the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's own bio on Dolly Parton argues why she should be seriously considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
A living legend and a paragon of female empowerment, Parton is beloved not only for her prolific body of work, quintessential style, and philanthropic efforts, but for the humor, wit, and self-deprecating grace that shine through everything she does. Her crossover success broadened the audience for country music and expanded the horizons for countless artists who followed.
Additionally, according to the Future Rock Legends website, quoting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's induction criteria, their definition of what rock and roll is, is pretty broad and ambiguous:
The only formal criteria for the performance category is that an artist has to have had their first record 25 years ago. That said, candidates are reviewed and discussed relative to their impact on this music that we broadly call rock and roll. The innovation and influence of these artists is also critical. Gold records, number one hits, and million sellers are really not appropriate standards for evaluation.
To think that Dolly Parton hasn't had significant success in pop/rock music is to deny that you heard "9 to 5" or "Islands in the Stream" on the radio station you grew up listening to. And I bet you did. It's to deny Whitney Houston making Dolly's "I Will Always Love You" a monster hit. It's denying that Dolly Parton has made it easier for generations of women in the music business through her business success. It's denying that she has inspired many to take up the guitar, sing, or express themselves through music.
No, the problem isn't Dolly Parton at all. Or her credentials. The problem is a perception problem the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has with some music fans. And that is a narrow definition of what constitutes Rock & Roll. Or the spirit of rock and roll. Because I think honestly, the spirit of rock and roll, the rebelliousness of rock and roll, it's an attitude. And Dolly Parton has that swagger. And bowing out gracefully is just the latest example of it.