Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: MC5

MC5 is one of those groups that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee has been signalling as belonging in the RRHOF for some time, but the voters as a whole have not bought it.  Looking at their career, it’s not hard to see why.  Even those who are not opposed to the strident left-wing politicking of the band can point to their nonexistent success on the charts and their distinct lack of material as being serious cases against induction under the artist category.  Nevertheless, given the fact that the group was immensely influential in punk rock acts that came later on, it is clear that MC5 can make a strong case as being an “early influence” even though they were certainly in the Rock & Roll Period, and as that would not require being balloted on by all eligible voters, it appears that this would be the most obvious and acceptable way to account for the sort of influence that MC5 had.  They didn’t play for a long time, and they didn’t hit the charts, but a lot of later artists saw their anarchical left-wing approach as being a good template to follow and decided to run with it on their own, and if some of us are not as fond about that as others, it still is influence, even so.

The Influence Of MC5

What kind of influence did MC5 have?  Well, for one, they have the sort of influence that makes them notable to journalists and other sympathizers with the left.  They are the sort of band that rock critics droll over and praise for their importance, and even before their debut album was released they received a cover article on the Rolling Stone [1].  Obviously, then, they are the sort of band that has powerful friends when it comes to cultural importance even if the band never had mass appeal of any kind.  Really, it was their influence to punk bands and the way that the group, even after dissolving, managed to find themselves involved with performing in bands or, in the case of guitarist Fred Smith, marrying other influential musicians, namely Patti Smith.

Why MC5 Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Again, I do not personally think that the MC5 released enough material to warrant induction as an act in the main category, and this opinion appears to be widely shared among those who have votes for the RRHOF.  That said, a strong case can be made for them as an early influence.  Their politics certainly resonated with music critics both at the time and later on, and other bands clearly saw the anti-establishment attitude and general scruffiness as a worthwhile template for themselves to follow, which they did a decade later to greater success.  The most important parts of the band’s career in terms of history has been their political purposes, their hostility to drug laws, their longing to “raise consciousness,” their involvement in the White Panther party, and so on.  Their musical success consists of a live album that sold modestly well and two studio follow ups that had pretty terrible sales.  Only one of their singles, 1969’s “Kick Out The Jams,” even hit the Billboard Hot 100.  This is a band that one supports for the activism and hipster appeal, and that is where their fanbase happens to be.

Why MC5 Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It’s not too hard to understand why MC5 isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  They represented a particularly virulent strain of left-wing counterculture music from Detroit, and never had mass success and could not stay together long enough to create a large enough body of work that would make it easy to champion them.  Their appeal is to those who appreciate their politically strident approach, and this has never been enough voters to the RRHOF to get them into the hall.

Verdict:  Put them in as an early influence for punk, because they’re likely not to be voted in ever.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MC5

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 American History, History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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