Courtney Love is legendarily allergic to holding her tongue. The former Hole singer proved it again on Friday (March 17) with yet another broadside aimed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in an op-ed in the Guardian, a follow-up to an Instagram missive earlier this week in which she said she was “so over these ole boys #fixtherockandrollhalloffame.”
The piece, titled, “Why Are Women So Marginalised by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?,” opens with Love describing her lifelong obsession with rock n’ roll by stating, “I got into this business to write great songs and have fun.”
But, she writes, “What no magazine or album could teach me or prepare me for was how exceptional you have to be, as a woman and an artist, to keep your head above water in the music business.” She cites the pioneering work of Big Mama Thornton (“Hound Dog”), who paved the way for Elvis, and, later, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, saying that their songs, and the latter’s “evangelical” guitar playing, changed music forever and helped create rock ‘n’ roll.
She then notes Tharpe didn’t make it into the RRHOF until 2018 — following what she terms a public shaming — more than three decades after 1986’s, all-male group of initial inductees: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
For the record, she adds, Thornton is still not in today, when just 8.48% of inductees are women and only nine women are on the organization’s nominating board. Love also quotes music historian Evelyn McDonnell, a Rock Hall voter, as saying that among the musicians and music industry members on the voting committee, 90% are male.
“If so few women are being inducted into the Rock Hall, then the nominating committee is broken. If so few Black artists, so few women of color, are being inducted, then the voting process needs to be overhauled,” Love writes. “Music is a life force that is constantly evolving – and they can’t keep up.”
Love says this year’s nominations provided another reminder of “just how extraordinary a woman must be to make it into the ol’ boys club,” noting that more women were nominated this year than at any time in the organization’s 40-year history. That group includes Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow and Missy Elliott, as well as the White Stripes’ drummer Meg White and New Order keyboardist Gillian Gilbert.
However, Love wrote, visionary pop iconoclast Bush is on her fourth nomination (after first becoming eligible in 2004), despite being the first female act to hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts with a song she wrote at 19, “Wuthering Heights.” She didn’t make it onto a ballot until 2018, after the Hall of Fame’s co-founder and then-chairman, Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, was inducted in 2004.
“Never mind that she was the first woman in pop history to have written every track on a million-selling debut,” Love wrote of 1978′s The Kick Inside. “A pioneer of synthesisers and music videos, she was discovered last year by a new generation of fans when ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ featured in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. She is still making albums.”
The list goes on: 30 years to induct Nina Simone, the 2014 crowning of Linda Ronstadt, who released her debut album in 1969 — acts are eligible 25 years after the release of their first record — and was the first woman to headline stadiums, not to mention Tina Turner finally being ushered in as a solo act 30 years after her first induction with former husband, bandmate and abuser, Ike Turner.
“You can write the Rock Hall off as a ‘boomer tomb’ and argue that it is building a totem to its own irrelevance,” she writes. “Why should we care who is in and who is not? But as scornful as its inductions have been, the Rock Hall is a bulwark against erasure, which every female artist faces whether they long for the honour or want to spit on it. It is still game recognising game, history made and marked.”
Calling the Rock Hall a “king-making force” in the global music industry that can impact an artist’s concert ticket prices, performance guarantees and quality of their reissue campaigns, Love says getting enshrined can be a “life-changing” experience. “The Rock Hall has covered itself in a sheen of gravitas and longevity that the Grammys do not have,” she adds. “Particularly for veteran female artists, induction confers a status that directly affects the living they are able to make. It is one of the only ways, and certainly the most visible, for these women to have their legacy and impact honoured with immediate material effect.”
Love ticks off seven-time nominee funk icon Chaka Khan as another “tragic” miss in the Hall’s induction history and claims that, “The Rock Hall’s canon-making doesn’t just reek of sexist gatekeeping, but also purposeful ignorance and hostility. This year, one voter told Vulture magazine that they barely knew who Bush was – in a year she had a worldwide No 1 single 38 years after she first released it.”
A spokesperson for the RRHOF had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment at press time. Billboard has not independently confirmed the statistics or numbers cited by Love in the piece.
“If the Rock Hall is not willing to look at the ways it is replicating the violence of structural racism and sexism that artists face in the music industry, if it cannot properly honour what visionary women artists have created, innovated, revolutionised and contributed to popular music – well, then let it go to hell in a handbag,” Love concludes.
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