[Note: ELO was inducted in 2017.]
Eighteen members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are inducted at least twice, and one (Eric Clapton) has been inducted three times . Jeff Lynne has not been inducted a single time: not for his work in Electric Light Orchestra, not for his songwriting and production work or as a solo musician, and not as a member of the quirky supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. In fact, Jeff Lynne is the only member permanent of the Traveling Wilburys to have never been inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at all (Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty have all been inducted, George Harrison twice). Given the somewhat sprawling work of Jeff Lynne as a possible member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, let us look at three possible induction cases for him, for his band ELO, for his work as a producer and songwriter, and for the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ the Traveling Wilbury’s Contribution
Since this is a relatively complicated case for induction (or double or triple induction, as the case may be), let us try to look at the separate worthiness of the three cases for induction. Electric Light Orchestra has sold over 50 million records, released 11 albums, and had 27 top 40 hits in both the UK and the US (19 of which hit the top 20 of the US charts, but none of them #1 in the US) . ELO’s combination of orchestral and progressive rock was groundbreaking and immensely popular with wide audiences. After the band broke up originally, Jeff Lynne went on to produce and write songs for other notable artists (like George Harrison and Tom Petty). Thanks in part to his work as a producer and songwriter, the supergroup Traveling Wilburys was formed (which George Harrison and Jeff Lynne named) and released two albums in addition to their other work. From these combined situations, Jeff Lynne deserves no less than one and possibly as many as three inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, given his work with Electric Light Orchestra, his songwriting and production work (non-performer category), and his work with the Traveling Wilburys. How someone as influential to music as Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at all is mind-boggling.
ELO / Jeff Lynne / The Traveling Wilbury’s Contribution
There are two cases for the induction of Electric Light Orchestra. The first is their contribution to music in general, for their combination of orchestral and progressive tendencies of music, a distinctive contribution to music that has strongly influenced other acts (like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to name one), and the second is their immensely popular and enduring body of work, which includes the following massive hits: Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya, Telephone Line, Turn To Stone, Mr. Blue Sky, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Shine A Little Love, Don’t Bring Me Down, I’m Alive, Xanadu, Hold On Tight, All Over The World, Rock & Roll Is King, and Calling America. Seven of those were top 10 hits in the US, fifteen in the UK. Among ELO albums, five went multi-platinum in the US, and an additional four albums went gold in the US. Between 1972 and 1986, the band had more top 40 hits in the US and the UK than any other band . Together, this body of work is a no-brainer for induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Apart from his work with ELO, the contribution of Jeff Lynne is most notable in his work as a producer and a songwriter. Besides the songs for Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne has been responsible for producing and songwriting for a variety of artists, including writing the song “The Story of Me” for the Everly Brothers’ comeback album EB84, producing songs and albums for such artists and bands as Dave Edmunds, George Harrison (his successful “Cloud Nine” album), Roy Orbison (co-writing and producing his last hit, “You Got It”, along with his posthumous album that followed it), Del Shannon, Tom Petty (producing the whole “Full Moon Fever” album and co-writing the songs “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Running Down A Dream,” the album’s hits, besides also producing the “Into The Great Wide Open” album and co-writing its singles as well), Agnetha Faltskog, Brian Wilson, Duane Eddy, and Randy Newman, performing key work to recreate the Beatles sound on the Beatles Anthology from old John Lennon demos, aside from producing albums for Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. This production and songwriting work itself is worthy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, especially as it was helpful and possibly essential in leading to the induction of Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame themselves as solo artists. As a key element of their later career success, Jeff Lynne deserves a great deal of credit.
The main case for the induction of the Traveling Wilburys into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the fact that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has tended to value supergroups far beyond their particular discography. Bands like The Yardbirds, Faces/Small Faces, and Buffalo Springfield had small discography and modest chart success but were most notable for the fact that their band members were so important for music that rewarding the combination of such talent has seemed obvious to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a whole. With band members like Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, along with drummer Jim Keltner the Traveling Wilburys certainly have worthy star power in the supergroup. They produced two albums of original material (both of which went at least platinum, with a compilation album that went gold as well), and had several top 10 hits on the mainstream rock chart: “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” “She’s My Baby,” “Last Night,” and “Heading For The Light.” That’s enough chart success for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to honor a supergroup, if you compare their discography with other inducted supergroups     .
Why ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys Are A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Electric Light Orchestra is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of its immense run of chart success and for its distinctive blend of orchestral and progressive rock, particularly in its core run of success in the mid-to-late 1970’s. ELO has multiple distinctive signature songs that have endured to this day. Jeff Lynne, even apart from his work with ELO, is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because his songwriting and production work was important in numerous pivotal rock & roll albums in the 1980’s and 1990’s, including the Beatles Anthology. The Traveling Wilburys are a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because they achieved mainstream and creative success as a supergroup of numerous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, who have traditionally been inducted even with modest to nonexistent chart success. How none of these three have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is remarkable. It should be noted in fairness at least that the Traveling Wilburys only become eligible to be nominated in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, though, so perhaps their wait will not be too long.
Why ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys Are A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (Repeated For Emphasis)
Electric Light Orchestra is a no-brainer for its distinctive orchestral sound and its massive success, including a long run of notable success with numerous signature songs. Along with Chicago , ELO is the most popular 1970’s act that has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Jeff Lynne is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, even apart from ELO, because his songs and production work on seminal songs and albums have made an enduring and massive contribution to music, dramatically improving and prolonging the careers of major Rock & Roll acts, including Hall of Fame acts like Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Tom Petty, and George Harrison. Likewise, the Traveling Wilburys is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of the way in which the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame loves to reward those who have already been inducted for their work in supergroups, and by that standard the Traveling Wilburys should not have long to wait for their own induction as soon as they are eligible.
Why Aren’t ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The Traveling Wilburys aren’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because they will not be counted as eligible until 2013. At least that is a straightforward answer. Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his production and songwriting work because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has traditionally honored label heads and studio-based songwriting teams more than actually great producers and songwriters for the most part. And Electric Light Orchestra has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of the longstanding bias against orchestral (Emerson, Lake, And Palmer) and progressive (too many to mention) rock & roll groups. Ultimately speaking, none of these reasons are good enough to keep them out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Verdict: In 2013 the Traveling Wilburys become eligible for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At the very least, honoring ELO (along with some of the other long-denied bands from the 1970’s) and honoring Jeff Lynne for his songwriting and production work would help right the injustice that Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yet at all, which is a travesty in a Hall of Fame that is full of them.