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

On his entertaining video for his ten least favorite songs of 1987, You Tube video blogger Todd In The Shadows, who I am particularly fond of [1], put at #1 Kenny G’s top ten hit “Songbird,” with some expletive-loaded commentary about how terrible the song was and what a disaster it was that he had a big hot.  Unfortunately for him, Kenny G had many more hits than that one, both hit albums (including one album that is among the best-selling albums of all time) as well as hit singles where he was the lead as well as guest artist on.  If you are looking for one of the more unlikely pivotal music figures of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Kenny G is a firm example of an instrumentalist that was able not only to break into the mainstream, but to make it safe for all kinds of “Easy Listening” music to do to the same.  If you are looking at the most consistent musical acts of his era in terms of popular sales and influence on others, there are few people who had a bigger influence on music during that time tan Kenny G.  Whether you consider that a good thing or not depends on where you stand.  We know where Todd In The Shadows stands, but millions of people disagree.

The Influence Of Kenny G

The influence of Kenny G is rather striking consider that he plays the saxophone.  This is not generally something that is conducive for a career as a multi-platinum instrumentalist with numerous top 40 hits and multiple top 10 hits on the pop charts.  In order to properly understand Kenny G’s influence, we have to look first at his own body of work and how immensely successful it was.  Not only do we have to look at his own work, but also at the work he did accompanying other artists at the time, which showed his ability to add a sense of class to other songs.  Both as a sideman and as an artist in his own right, Kenny G had a striking influence on music and on the careers of many artists.  He has some of the few major instrumental hits of all time as part of his repertoire, among the few Easy Listening acts to have broken that far into the mainstream repeatedly.  Whether or not you like his music or its success, one cannot deny or ignore it, try as hard as rock critics might to minimize it and avoid giving recognition to one of the outsized talents of his time.

Why Kenny G belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Kenny G is not one of the more obvious choices one could pick for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Those people who think that dance music (like Madonna) is insufficiently “rock” for induction would give birth to calves before considering Kenny G as an acceptable rock act.  Even fans of the soft rock of the 1970’s and early 1980’s may consider Kenny G to be too soft and easy listening of an act.  Yet Kenny G has a strong case for induction.  Let’s lay out the numbers.  Kenny G’s first ten studio albums were certified at least gold, every studio album he released from 1982’s self titled debut to 2004’s At Last…The Duets Album.  Of those, three were certified platinum, three of them multiplatinum (selling at least 4 million copies), and one, 1992’s Breathless, certified diamond for sales of over 12 million copies.  In addition to this, he had three additional holiday albums certified at least gold, the other two of which went triple-platinum and 8 times platinum between 1994 and 2002, his first live album from 1989 went triple-platinum as well, and he had a triple-platinum greatest hits album [2].  His album sales alone merit induction, but he has further merit as a singles artist.  His domination of the adult contemporary chart is unsurprising, with 2 #1 hits, 6 additional top 10 hits, and 13 top 40’s aside from that.  What is more surprising is his 2 top 10 pop hits (“Songbird” and an instrumental version of “Auld Lang Syne”) along with 4 additional pop top 40 hits (including my favorite song of his, “Silhouette”), along with hits on the R&B charts and rythmic pop hits.  His collaborations are just as impressive, as on his own solo hits he has collaborated with such acts as Smokey Robinson, Peabo Bryston, Aaron Neville, Louis Armstrong, and Earth, Wind, & Fire.  He has also been a successful collaborator with others, turning his musical talents to hits from Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Johnny Gill, Michael Bolton, Whitney Houston [3], and Babyface featuring Mariah Carey [4].  Other musicians have recognized his talents, and it is time for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to as well.

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

Kenny G has a large and appreciative fan base, to be sure, but it is not the sort of fan base that writes about those acts unfairly excluded from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it seems.  As a saxophone musician with no appreciable vocal talents, Kenny G is not a very hip choice for music fans–he wasn’t in his heyday and he certainly isn’t now.  Even among those who respect his fine musicianship, it may be hard to figure out where to place him as an inductee.

Verdict:  Put him in.  At the very least he was an effective sideman who made a lot of smooth music in an important stretch of time between the mid 1980’s and the mid 1990’s, and that alone is worthy of recognition for those who do not want to induct him as a main act.  In both categories, though, he is worthy of induction.

[1] See, for example:





[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_G_discography

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/04/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-whitney-houston/

[4] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/01/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-mariah-carey/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Kenny G

  1. Pingback: I Know This Must Be The Room In Your Heart | Edge Induced Cohesion

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