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

One of the unfortunate casualties of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s decision to skip and disregard much of the music of the 1980’s is the candidacy of Robert Palmer.  Whether one is looking at his career as a solo artist, which goes back into the mid-1970’s where he had his earliest success with such songs as “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” and the top 20 hit “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor),” which remains one of his signature hits, or whether one is looking at his work with Power Station, he has a lot to offer.  For myself, I don’t think that Power Station on its own had enough success with its 3 top 40 hits to be worthy of induction, although they were three good songs, although such an effort does make Robert Palmer’s case stronger overall by demonstrating that his influence extended not only to recording songs on his own but also in working with others and in bringing the work of others to the attention of new generations.  And it is both elements that we should focus on when we look at Robert Palmer as a musician.  Not only do his songs endure, but he also recorded songs that later became popular for others as well as created an aesthetic, especially in his core 1980’s work, that endures as an essential aspect of music video production.  And when someone has that kind of influence, they obviously deserve induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The Influence of Robert Palmer

With Robert Palmer, the influence goes both ways.  On the one hand, he was fond of recording covers and did so throughout his career, showing his influences through interpreting their music for new audiences.  Whether one looks at his cover of the calypso song “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” which was his first hit on the Hot 100, or his work with Power Station and their hit cover of T-Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” or his last top 40 hit in the United States, 1991’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) / I Want You,” a cover of a Marvin Gaye hit, Palmer was someone who wore his influences on his sleeve and gave credit to those artists who inspired him throughout his career.  On the other hand, he also clearly influenced others.  He sang “Some Guys Have All The Luck” a couple of years before it was turned into a hit by Rod Stewart.  Even more importantly, his music video aesthetic for 1980’s hits like “Addicted To Love,” “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On,” and “Simply Irrestible,” all of which were top ten hits in both the US and UK, has been imitated by a great many artists ranging from Tone Loc to Shania Twain.  Not only has Palmer’s music endured but even his approach to making music videos has endured, showing his larger influence on the approach of others to making music.

Why Robert Palmer Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Having already seen that his influence of other artists is particularly strong and that he was honest about how he was influenced by the music of previous generations of rock and R&B artists, how did Robert Palmer do in his own career?  If we look at his album sales [1], he had one multi-platinum solo album, two platinum solo albums (one studio album and one compilation) as well as a platinum album with Power Station.  It is unclear if any of his albums have certifications that have not yet been recognized, but this is demonstrative of his peak of popularity in the mid-to-late 1980’s, and shows that he was generally very popular throughout the Anglophone world.  Aside from his two top 10 singles and one additional top 40 hits with Power Station he had a #1 hit (“Addicted To Love”) as well as two #2 hits (“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” and “Simply Irrestitible”) on the Hot 100 as well as top 20 hits with “Every Kinda People” (a #16 hit in 1978), 1979’s “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor Doctor),” 1988’s “Early In The Morning,” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) / I Want You” in 1991.  He also had top 40 hits with 1990’s “You’re Amazing” and 1986’s “Hyperactive.”  This indicates a period of mainstream success that lasted a good fifteen years or so, which is an impressive run.   Besides his own solo work he even managed to have a top ten hit in the UK alongside UB40, demonstrating considerable range in the process.

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

It’s admittedly a bit of a mystery why Robert Palmer isn’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I know of no particularly hostility that Palmer had with any magazine editors or journalists or record executives in particular.  He lived a quiet life, at least to the extent that I knew of it, and died a bit of a tax exile in Switzerland far too young.  But his music is not reviled or hated and his aesthetic for his music videos is openly aped and admired.  It’s hard to know what the deal is about Robert Palmer not getting the recognition he deserves.

Verdict:  Put him in.

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

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.

2 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Robert Palmer

  1. mothfire says:

    There was actually a bit of controversy on the Addicted to Love video with a line of blank-faced models behind him. I think there was a bit of satire at play there, but it reminded me of an interview of Ingmar Bergman in the mid 1970s where he described European pinup girls of having no emotional depth or eroticism. They were just basically mannequins.
    That said, Simply Irresistible has, perhaps, the funniest lines in rock music:
    “She’s so fine, there’s no telling where the money went.”
    Yeah, put him in.

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