[Note: The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.]
There are a few bands from the late 1970’s/early 1980’s New Wave movement that are absolute no-brainers for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One of these groups is the Cars. Regardless of whether one looks at their groundbreaking blend of new wave sounds with hard rock edge, or their pivotally important music videos (like “Drive”), whether one looks at their critical appeal or popular appeal, the Cars is one of the most important bands of their age. How, more than thirty years after their debut, they are still not enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is a great mystery. It is a mystery that deserves to be solved, though, and soon.
The Cars’ Contribution
The contribution of the Cars to Rock & Roll is a significant one. For one, the Cars were instrumental in combining two of the most important threads of the music of the late 1970’s, the importance of the synth for what became “New Wave,” as well as the move towards hard rock, both of which are tendencies in the Cars’ music, which combined pop hooks with often dark song material. In addition to this, the Cars also had massive popular success over a sustained period of about a decade worth of consistent production. In addition to this, the Cars had innovative music videos (“Magic,” “Drive,” and “You Might Think” among them) that garnered awards and praise from MTV and others . Also, the Cars had two lead vocalists (Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr) whose different voices helped lead to a great deal of musical variety within their popular and critically acclaimed albums. With a contribution that includes band structure, many songs that are still on heavy rotation on rock stations three decades after they came out, influential music videos, and massive popularity, this ought to be one of the easier decisions for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to make.
Why The Cars Are A No Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
The Cars have had five multi-platinum albums, an additional platinum album, and a gold album beside that. Even their most recent album, 2011’s Move Like This, debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 chart more than 30 years after the band’s debut, showing the band’s enduring popularity. The band had thirteen top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and several more that peaked at #41, four of which were top 10 hits, as well as 14 top 40 hits on the rock charts, including 7 top 10 hits and 3 #1 hits . Among their many “essential” songs are the following: Just What I Needed, Good Times Roll, My Best Friend’s Girl, Let’s Go, Shake It Up, You Might Think, Magic, Drive, and Tonight She Comes. Even songs of theirs like “Moving In Stereo,” which were not hits, are vital because of their pop culture value (by appearing in a major scene of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, for example). Their combination of massive and enduring popular success, innovative musical approach, and groundbreaking music videos combine to make a very strong case for influence on multiple fronts.
Why Aren’t The Cars In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?
I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me. The Cars are a puzzling omission from a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that is full of puzzling omissions. What more could the band have done to make them worthy of being recognized? They even made a dramatic video interpretation of a song by The Doors in order to show their artistic ambitions and abilities, aside from their own musical contribution.
Verdict: The Cars are a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Any immensely successful musical act that basically pioneers an approach to music (in this case the fusion of New Wave & Hard Rock), as well as showing how it can be done in an popular and accessible way, with artistic ambitions to boot, ought to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without question. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame could have several years worth of inducting no-brainers, and the Cars would be one of them. Here’s hoping the wait will not be too much longer.