Pat Boone is one of the most controversial of the names for acceptance into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that he is generally derided as someone whose music was simply a copy of popular black music of the time, or someone whose later Christian music career has obscured his fundamental role in making rock & roll music appealing to a white middle class audience. We may lament the fact that it was necessary for someone to serve as a gatekeeper for rock music for mainstream pop audiences that behaved in such a way as to be nonthreatening in a way that was not the case for Elvis Presley or others. Ironically enough, the nonthreatening mass appeal of Pat Boone might just be the biggest factor that has denied him the popular recognition his musical influence merits, as he was the second most successful rock & roll musician of his era on the mainstream charts after Elvis Presley. It seems shocking that someone as massively influential at the foundational period of rock & roll, with a pivotal role in providing mass acceptance of rock & roll at its start has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but that is the case with Pat Boone.
Pat Boone’s Contribution
What was Pat Boone’s contribution to rock & roll? Given that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame claims to look at influence as the major point in deciding whether a band is worthy of induction, it might be worthwhile to point out that influence comes in several ways. Few people nowadays are likely to say that Pat Boone is an influence on their music style. However, the role that Pat Boone served in making what was an edgy and urban style of music and making it acceptable to be appreciated by upstanding and normal citizens is a role that has paved the way for just about every rock & roll band with mass commercial aspirations. By making rock & roll acceptable to mass audiences without the rebelliousness of 50’s teenagers and without the marginal social position of Southern rockabilly musicians or urban minorities, Pat Boone made it possible for rock musicians to have carrerist ambitions and to dream of mainstream appeal including product endorsements . This vision is certainly not shared by all musicians, but most people would wish to make a decent living and have the respect and honor of their neighbors, even if they are involved in the arts, and by making rock & roll music respectable, Pat Boone was one of the key figures that made it possible for there to be enough mass appeal for rock & roll to have a museum. We may lament that America was so racist in the late 1950’s that it needed a figure like Pat Boone to break open the doors for black musicians to have their songs played on mainstream pop radio stations, but in light of this fact Pat Boone performed a service to music that ought to be remembered any time a rap act or rock act is played on pop radio–such genres are acceptable to mainstream artists largely because of Pat Boone, who made it acceptable for mainstream audiences to hear and appreciate the sounds of the urban music scene.
Pat Boone’s Contribution
One aspect of Pat Boone’s contribution to music history is the way that his cover versions of black music allowed that music to enter mainstream pop stations and to influence the musical tastes of the general public as well as provide a palatable version of urban music that allowed other mainstream pop artists like Frank Sinatra the freedom to cover rock & roll songs without losing their mainstream pop credibility. Likewise, Pat Boone brought along Elvis Presley as an opening act early in Presley’s career, helping provide Presley with some mainstream exposure at a critical early period, and he also hosted a variety show that provided an opportunity for mainstream television audiences during the early period of rock & roll to receive some television attention. For his role in providing the logistics and infrastructure of mainstream rock & roll success, Pat Boone’s worth is unquestionable. Beyond that, though, one must also examine his record of musical success. During the course of his music career, Pat Boone had six #1 hits on mainstream pop radio (Ain’t That A Shame, I Almost Lost My Mind, Don’t Forbid Me, Love Letters In The Sand, April Love, and Moody River). In addition, he had eleven other top 10 hits, as well as twenty top 40 hits aside from those and numerous other songs that hit the Christian and R&B charts . His body of work, whatever one thinks of his times, is one that give him an ironclad case for Rock & Roll induction in any era, apart from his vital role as the man who gave rock & roll mass commercial appeal to mainstream audiences.
Why Pat Boone Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Pat Boone’s musical career gave him more than 35 top 40 hits, including 17 top 10 hits and 6 #1 hits. His broader interests in music provided the avenue for other rock & roll artists to receive television exposure as well as opening acts on his successful tours. His cover versions of black rock & roll musicians provided an opportunity for these songs to receive airplay in a form that was appealing and acceptable to mainstream pop audiences who were alienated by the urban nature of early rock & roll. For any of these aspects alone, Pat Boone would be a shoo-in for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in a remotely just world. When one adds together all of these factors, Pat Boone jumps towards the head of the line in the most obvious omissions from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for what appear to be reasons of political correctness, which is not a just reason to deny anyone the recognition that their career deserves. Inducing Pat Boone would be a good step in beginning the induction of worthy Christian pop & rock acts (one of the many genres that has not received its just recognition in contemporary music history), as well as a step for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to educate modern fans of rock & roll about the process by which rock & roll music received the popular mainstream success that allows contemporary artists to have ambitions of relative fame and fortune and the respect of general society, much of which is thanks to the work of Pat Boone in the mid-to-late 1950’s. No more Mr. Nice Guy, it’s time to give Pat Boone the credit he deserves.
Why Pat Boone Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
There are really only two reasons why Pat Boone isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For one, he certainly isn’t considered “cool” enough to be accepted by those who presume to be the gatekeepers of rock & roll legitimacy. He isn’t even as cool as Frank Sinatra, who has also been long excluded and who deserves to be inducted in the early influences category (to be the subject of a future blog entry, as time and energy permit). Still, coolness and influence are completely different matters. The fact that Pat Boone blazed a trail, like his famous ancestor Daniel Boone, in expanding the cultural mindset of his time draws attention to some aspects of American culture in the 1950’s that are not pleasant to admit or accept. We may lament the fact that it was necessary for an artist like Pat Boone to exist to make the black music of the cities acceptable to the white mainstream audiences of the time, but it was necessary, and Pat Boone served his task in a way that drew praise from those within the urban music scene itself, which means that to deny his induction for reasons of political correctness or cultural snobbery are deeply unjust.
Verdict: Put Pat Boone in. He’s still alive to appreciate the well-earned, if belated, induction, and to give the proper thanks to God for the honor that is due to him for making rock & roll music acceptable to the masses and not only the urban audiences or cool kids, since some of us are neither hip nor hipster.