Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Foreigner

There are a lot of genres that have a beef about being neglected by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, like Electronic/Dance and Progressive Rock, among others. Yet Arena Rock, the album-oriented rock of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, with its undeniable influence in terms of catchy radio-oriented singles, and successful albums supported by large tours, the picture of success as a contemporary Rock & Roll band, has been notably absent from the inductions to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for reasons that are surely not accidental. Bands like Journey [1], Boston, and others, along with Foreigner, have created songs that have endured for three or four decades through constant radio play and live performance, along with karaoke status, covers, and the like. Foreigner is one of these bands, and a band that is hungrier for critical recognition than most. From its initial naming of itself as Foreigner because as an Anglo-American band, it would always be a foreigner wherever it went [2] to the anecdotes recorded in one of their several successful best-of albums (The Very Best…And Beyond) that demonstrated how Sting [3] supposedly stopped his “Dream Of The Blue Turtles” session to hear Foreigner record their only #1 hit “I Want To Know What Love Is,” and that Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols once made his girlfriend at the time dance all night to “Hot Blooded,” Foreigner has always sought to be given the recognition they have deserved from their popularity, but that critical recognition has often been lacking, even among those who recognize that their success was on the level of such bands as Led Zeppelin and Van Halen [4], both of whom have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and despite the fact that they are still one of the best selling bands in the entire world, with over 80 million albums sold, and even if their music is considered “a wonderful document of what ‘70’s rock looked like in a landscape that was already being shaped with album-oriented acts and AM radio stations that pushed for a much more self-serious brand of pop music [4].”

The Influence Of Foreigner

The influence of Foreigner can be understood in several ways. First, the influence is in the music, whether one looks at the ornate pop of “Cold As Ice,” the edgier fare like “Urgent,” and “Hot Blooded,” or the ballads like “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” “I Want To Know What Love Is,” or “I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love.” Their songs are regularly played on ‘70’s and 80’s radio, and remain enduringly popular to this day as covers. Bands and singers as diverse as Tina Arena (“I Want To Know What Love Is”) to Soul Asylum and Jorn Lande (“Break It Up”) have covered their songs. The second level of influence is in the way that their career has served as a template for many bands to follow after them—record successful and well-crafted singles aimed at a variety of formats, including a balance between mainstream rock and adult contemporary, support these albums and hit singles with long arena tours, and continue touring even after the hits stop coming, and frame the titles and songs of albums around matters of personal drama (this is similar to the behavior of bands like Yes [5] and singers like Taylor Swift) to ensure interest in the personal drama that is behind the music. A third level of influence is in the fact that the band itself, and its music, is a chronicle of the tension between a longing to be respected as a macho and muscular man (“Rev On The Red Line,” “Urgent,” “Hot Blooded”) and the desire to find loyal love among the societal collapse of trust and marital/relationship fidelity (“Dirty White Boy,” “Say You Will”), as well as the harm to one’s peace of mind and health that come from being too driven as musicians (“Long, Long Way From Home,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Juke Box Hero”). Here we have a band with popular and enduring songs, a sustainable career model that continues to bring them a solid income and catalog sales, and a worthwhile place as commentators of contemporary pressures on musicians and men. Together, that is a picture of strong influence, for if their music reflects the influence of time, their ability to sing about it so well influences others in turn.

Why Foreigner Deserves To Be In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

For one, the bands of the caliber of Foreigner during their heyday: Chicago, ELO, Journey, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen are either in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or deserve to be. There is no question here that we are dealing with an elite band with close to a dozen enduring songs that remain mainstays on classic rock radio. Not forgetting that they almost had a top 40 hit in 1996 with “Until The End Of Time [6],” they hit the Top 10 of the Pop, Mainstream Rock, and Adult Contemporary charts with songs like “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “That Was Yesterday,” “Say You Will,” “I Don’t Want To Live Without You,” “Heart Turns to Stone,” “Lowdown And Dirty,” and “Soul Doctor.” Many of these songs remain popular on the radio even today. Turning aside from the hit singles, there is the reality of their stellar album sales, with two multi-platinum and one platinum compilation albums, along with five multi-platinum and one platinum studio album. This is the sort of career success that ought to be a shoe-in for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, regardless of what one thinks about power ballads [7]. Foreigner deserves induction for their music, for the fact that the music touched a nerve with the public and has endured, and for the societal importance of their music and their model being a template of success in the music business.

Why Foreigner Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It’s clear that a lot of the people responsible for nominating Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acts do not like AOR and Arena Rock acts of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, deriding such popular and influential and enduringly loved bands like Foreigner, Journey, and others as “corporate rock.” Clearly, it is only prejudice that stands between Foreigner and everlasting glory of being played in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s jukeboxes in Cleveland, which is where they deserve to be. A band that tries so hard and works so hard, despite a career filled with all kinds of fluke accidents, including a reunion effort cemented by the LA riots in 1992 and band personnel issues due to brain tumors and colorectal cancer, deserves at least some recognition for sheer grit and determination.

Verdict: This is a no-brainer. Foreigner deserves to be in. Specifically, the original six members of the band (Lou Gramm, Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, Ed Gagliardi, Dennis Elliott, and Al Greenwood, along with replacement bassist Rick Willis [8]) deserve to be inducted, which would include all of the core members from their first album in 1976 to 1991’s Unusual Heat, except for temporary replacement singer Johnny Edwards. Again, it’s not that complicated. If one wanted to throw in inductions for Bruce Turgon and Jeff Jacobs as well, who were with the band for 1994’s Mr. Moonlight and the next decade after that, that would be fine too. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. The core seven of the band’s most popular period, though, definitely merit induction.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-journey/

[2] http://web.archive.org/web/20120321191538/http://www.foreignerfiles.com/overview/faq/part1.htm

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-sting/

[4] http://www.popmatters.com/review/188289-foreigner-the-complete-atlantic-studio-albums-1977-1991/

[5] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-yes/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreigner_discography

[7] For the record, I happen to like them a lot:


[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreigner_(band)

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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26 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Foreigner

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  11. Mary Miniard says:

    I saw forenger at Nashville Tennessee ampitheater
    40 th Anneversary tour and these boys have not
    Lost their touch!! They are all accomplished musicians and deserve to be in the rock and roll
    Hall of fame ! It was the best concert I’ve seen in years and these boys played continuously without
    A break the ampitheater echoed their music perfectly and brought us back to our hay days!!!

  12. Patricia Vincent says:

    Foreigner sincerely deserves to be in the RRHOF!! Please, please make this a reality!!!!

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  14. Rob Scott says:

    I was a child at the time Foreigner started their meteoric rise to fame. However, my brother who was 5 years older than me introduced me to bands like KISS, Queen, Led Zeppelin, ELO, Foreigner, Pink Floyd, and on and on. It shaped my musical taste for the last 40 years. During the 80s, because of the musical influence of the acts above, led me to bands like Van Halen, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, White Lion, Poison, and other heavy metal acts. Was Foreigner’s music influential in my life? Hell yes! I loved all their music and have seen them in concert 3 times. They musically shaped my childhood and it has been one of the greatest loves of my life next to my wife and children. They should DEFINITELY be in the Hall of Fame. Shame on them for ostracizing them!

    • While my own experience was different (largely because I was born during the “Four” period of Foreigner), I think a lot of people agree with you. Their music is certainly easy to love, and I have detailed analyses of their first seven studio albums on my blog :).

  15. Foreigner deserves their place in the Rock Hall of Fame. They’ve had tremendous hits that rock you or pierce your heart. They have traveled the world and put in their time and remain doing so today. It’s unfair to be overlooked when they have given fans so much enjoyment. They’ve endured through sickness and near death events but have been true to their music and their fans. 2019 is the year to induct this band. Don’t deny this talent any longer please.

  16. Chris Scott says:

    Yes I strongly agree with you. The reason I signed up on line with the Hall of Fame, was to give them hell for not putting Foreigner in. Thank you for your opinion.

  17. mothfire says:

    There are four criteria that I have for voting a performer or band in the RRHOF:
    Music that stands out from the crowd.
    Great lyrics. Lyrics that don’t parrot other lyrics and are not cliched.
    Longevity. They should be around for awhile. Around 10 years.
    Influence. Their work has a positive influence on bands or the music industry as a whole.

    Hits and Gold and Platinum records and Grammies are nice, but they usually reflect the above attributes.
    Bands like The Cars and The Doobie Brothers and Boston had all of these attributes. Some don’t but that, in my mind doesn’t disqualify them.
    For instance, Joe Satriani, in his latest records, doesn’t have any lyric. Yet his music is so powerful that it makes up for the lack of lyrics. He has both both longevity and influence and I think he should be in the RRHOF. Jim Croce didn’t have longevity, but he had incredibly good music and lyrics and he should also be in the RRHOF.

    Foreigner had some impressive music, longevity, and some influence (not necessarily good). However, their lyric sucked. Badly. I cringe every time I hear them. I heard “Cold as Ice” and I laughed at how stupid it was. I was only 16 at the time and it left a (bad) impression of me. Dana Carvey did a standup routine, sitting at the piano, mocking Cold as Ice with his version called Chopping Broccoli. A year or so later I heard the tracks Hot Blooded and Double Vision from their Double Vision album. Hot Blooded was a stupid mess and Double Vision was not much better. Their isn’t one hit song of theirs that isn’t soaked with idiotic lyrics or cliches. Jukebox Hero? Jukeboxes went out of style in the mid 1970s. How stupid is that?
    As for influences, Blue Oyster Cult’s Mirrors album was compared to Cheap Trick and Foreigner.
    Foreigner should not be let in anywhere near the RRHOF.

    • I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to be compared to Cheap Trick or Foreigner. I may indeed write an essay on Blue Oyster Cult in the future. As far as the RRHOF goes, their main criterion is “influence,” and I view that as a broad spectrum that can include one or both of the measures of having a lot of influence on other artists or having a lot of general cultural influence, in which hit singles and successful albums are definitely a reflection, as are cover versions by others and appearances of songs in soundtracks for film and television as well as theatrical productions. I don’t penalize acts who rely on outside songwriters but are skilled interpreters of songs but I give bonus to those acts that show immense creativity as well as immense skill in instrument playing, singing, songwriting, and production, for example. Everyone, though, has their own standards of who they consider worth recognizing and respecting.

    • Mike Desert says:

      Double Vision is a great song with good lyrics, I yawn when The Cars play Shake it Up, but to each his own.

      • Yes, everyone has their own tastes. I reviewed the box set of the first seven foreigner studio albums so my own thoughts of the group are fairly open and generally positive.

      • mothfire says:

        No, it isn’t. It has a catchy sound with below average lyrics. It may be better than Hot Blooded, but that is a low bar. Shake It Up is not among my favorites but it is upbeat and danceable and does pretend to be any more than that. However, the lyrics of Foreigner, including Double Vision, don’t hold a candle to any of the Cars songs, including Panorama.

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