Class of 2020 Cheated as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony Canceled

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony originally slated to take place May 2 was moved to November 7 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Now the entire spectacular has pretty much been abandoned altogether, with organizers opting instead for an “exclusive special” televised on the latter date on HBO.

“Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns and for the health and safety of our rock & roll family, the live 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony concert scheduled for this November in Cleveland, Ohio is canceled,” the Hall said in a statement. “In place of the live event, the 2020 Inductees will be honored with an exclusive special that will air on HBO…celebrating the impact, influence and music of Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., T-Rex and Ahmet Ertegun Award honorees Jon Landau and Irving Azoff.”

“To protect the health and safety of our inductees, their families, crews and our attendees, we’ve made the decision that the scheduled live event is not possible,” added John Sykes, Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in a statement. “Together with HBO…we will still create an exciting program honoring our 2020 inductees, by telling the stories of their incredible contributions to music and impact on a generation of artists that followed them.”

Scuttling the live show completely is understandable given the current situation. Unfortunately, it means fans won’t get to see any of the artists who went from nomination to induction in a groundbreaking year for the institution. It also misses the opportunity for in the moment speeches and once in a lifetime performances.

The Rock Hall Class of 2020 was notable for giving the nod to Depeche Mode and Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, once again redefining what falls under the banner “rock and roll,” as both relied mainly on electronics to illustrate their early sound. Add that to Biggie Smalls and Whitney Houston being two names that hardly conjure up the term “rock” in the majority of people’s minds, and you have a fantastic debate akin to when hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash was inducted in 2007, or when rappers Run-DMC followed two years later.

Almost every other concert tour and music festival scheduled for this year are being bumped to 2021, hoping for the best and intending to retain the spirit and participants who were originally scheduled given a Covid-19 vaccination is found. Why is the Rock Hall being any different? They could follow suit and either make next year a great big Class of 2020 and 2021 spectacular, or press pause like the rest.  

“While we might not be able to rock out together in 2020, we are excited to announce that in fall of 2021, the Induction Ceremony returns to Cleveland for a live concert and celebration,” their official statement continued. “More details about the 2021 Ceremony, and Induction Week will be provided at a later date.” That Wednesday announcement has already drawn an immense amount of negative reaction from fans of the respective artists slated for induction who want them to get their just due and recognition on the big stage. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a Zoom performance by Trent Reznor is going to cut it. Hopefully organizers at the Rock Hall realize their misstep and take one back.

This article appeared in yesterday’s print edition of The Daily Times in my weekly Rock Music Menu column under the title “Class of 2020 cheated as Rock Hall ceremony canceled.”

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