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

At first glance, Bruce Hornsby would not appear to have been an obvious candidate for one of the most versatile and creative artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  If you look at only his hit singles, he still ended up with three successful albums (with backing band The Range) that included six top 40 hits, which would be enough for there to be a conversation about his success as an artist.  Even these hits, though, hint at his startling attitude even when crafting popular music.  His virtuosic piano is in evidence, as is a willingness to tackle serious issues like racism (The Way It Is), abortion (The Valley Road), and pollution (Look Out Any Window).  Hornsby’s range and influence only expand when you look at his broader career, which include a stint as part of the Grateful Dead (for which he was not inducted into the RRHOF when they were), collaborations with a diverse group of artists including Chaka Khan [1], Ricky Skaggs, and Margaret McPartland, as well as immensely successful songs written for other artists, like Jacob’s Ladder (for Huey Lewis & The News [2]) and The End Of The Innocence (for Don Henley’s album of the same title [3]).  When you add to that Hornsby’s solo piano work as well as his work with the Range and the Noisemakers, it becomes very difficult to pigeonhole Hornsby as one kind of artist, given his wide-ranging interest and influence on others, even including soundtrack work like Set Me In Motion for the Backdraft film [4].

The Influence Of Bruce Hornsby

The threads of influence of Hornsby are complex in nature.  For one, we can include that work he wrote under his own name, which includes half a dozen top 40 hits.  Hornsby’s demonstration that one could write jazzy and sophisticated pop-rock numbers that could still be hooky and catchy and popular remains an influence for contemporary artists who desire both popular success as well as the freedom to address serious issues that tackle them.  The fact that Hornsby has been able to achieve a solid career even after the hits dried up suggests his ability to maintain the sort of musical excellence that rewards a loyal (if not particularly massive) fanbase.  Likewise, Hornsby’s influence also includes songs he wrote for others.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, these songs (like Jacob’s Ladder and The End Of Innocence) also reflect Hornsby’s hostility to televangelists and his generally progressive political stance.  In addition to all of this, Hornsby’s influence also includes the wide variety of acts with whom he has collaborated in singles and albums that show an abiding interest in jazz, bluegrass, and other genres.  Combined, all of this suggests that despite not being a celebrity figure, Bruce Hornsby has been able to greatly influence others through his body of work and his serious-minded approach to music.

Why Bruce Hornsby Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Any one of the threads of influence that Bruce Hornsby has had would give him a case for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame–his own hits and body of work in general under his own name (and various backing bands), the songs he wrote for others, his collaborations with other artists, and the impact of his approach to music–which has led his music to be covered and sampled by such artists as Tupac Shakur.  When taken as a whole, Hornsby’s work is an obvious shoo-in for the RRHOF, not least because his lack of focus on personal attention and serious attention to his musical chops and his attention to serious issues is clearly the sort of musicianship that the RRHOF would do well to celebrate and encourage others to adopt for themselves.  The fact that his music has been continually celebrated and awarded and the fact that he has even produced and played piano on the tracks of others [5] suggests the sort of influence that deserves induction.

Why Bruce Hornsby Isn’t Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It’s really unclear why Bruce Hornsby hasn’t been inducted yet.  The most obvious argument would be that his modest popular success in a generation (1980’s rock) that has been largely ignored by the Hall of Fame has simply escaped the attention of the nominating committee.  Likewise, the success that Hornsby has had as a songwriter, producer, and side musician in addition to his own career as a solo pianost and with a variety of backing groups in a variety of genres has made it hard for him to be inducted under just one category.

Verdict:  Ultimately, none of these reasons are good enough.  Bruce Hornsby should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  In fact, he probably should have been included in the induction of The Grateful Dead considering his own tenure with the group throughout the years and his inclusion on numerous Grateful Dead albums.  Some obvious ways that Hornsby could be inducted are in the main category (alongside the Range, with whom he enjoyed his greatest mainstream success), the songwriting category (which would include his songwriting for other artists and his score work with Spike Lee), and the Award for Musical Excellence (which would point to his widespread influence as a whole and his work as a supporting musician and his collaborations with a great many artists, and even his occasional production work).  Whatever category one wants to induct Bruce Hornsby in, his career as a whole is certainly worthy of it.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/12/01/why-arent-they-in-the-hall-of-fame-rufus-featuring-chaka-khan

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-huey-lewis-the-news/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-don-henley/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Hornsby_discography

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Hornsby

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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