Rock Hall Snubs: Ahmet Ertegun Award and Award for Musical Excellence

You’ve made it to the end, weary traveler! Check out this short list of non-performers who deserve to be enshrined in the Rock Hall. There is very little difference in the two awards, the only difference being a “major influence” on rock music (Ahmet Ertegun Award) or having “dedicated their lives” to progressing music and who have “achieved a level of timeless distinction” (Award for Musical Excellence). Perhaps the AME is broader in its scope and more prestigious in its latter requirement. Regardless, here are just a few of the individuals who deserve recognition for their rock music contributions.

Ahmet Ertegun Award

Jesse Ed Davis [guitarist]
Jesse Ed Davis was a highly-regarded session musician and a quietly influential guitarist. He worked with everyone from Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton to John Lennon, George Harrison, and Faces. His debut album was a staple for the Native activists who occupied Alcatraz in the spark point for the American Indian Movement (AIM). Davis later collaborated with AIM leader John Trudell on an album with his music and Trudell’s poetry. Davis would add much needed Native representation in the Rock Hall, along with representation for oft-forgotten session musicians.

Casey Kasem [creator of, disk jockey for American Top 40]
Casey Kasem, perhaps best known for his role as Shaggy in the Scooby Doo universe, was also a popular deejay. Kasem helped to revive top-40 radio at a time when progressive rock was dominating the medium. Hallmarks of his tenure as the American Top 40 host included telling music history related to songs or artists, reading letters from fans who told of encounters or experiences with artists, and signing off the show with “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

The Higher at Warped Tour in Miami, Florida, July 15, 2009. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Kevin Lyman [founder, Warped Tour]
Kevin Lyman founded the Warped Tour (sponsored by Vans for most of its run) in 1995. The festival is best known for featuring punk, punk pop, and indie rock artists – especially up-and-coming bands. The Warped tour helped a generation of kids and teens to connect with music, experience live shows, and form communities.

Robert Pittman [creator of MTV]
Robert Pittman and his team created MTV and launched it in 1981 with “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles (which, by the way, is inexplicably missing from the Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list for that very reason). Pittman is likely held back from recognition because of initial reluctance to feature black artists’ videos, though he later changed course and heavily featured artists like Michael Jackson and Tina Turner. His whole team should be credited and receive the award.

Todd Rundgren [innovator]
Todd Rundgren is nominated as a performer this year, though he could probably be inducted in both that category and this one. He released his first single in 1968, making him eligible for the Hall as a performer in 1984. Though his music was popular and influential, his most prominent work has been as a producer with innovation in production techniques and adoption of digital music before it became the norm. Don’t be surprised if he gets in the Rock Hall once as a performer and again in this category. Update: he was inducted as a performer in the 2021 class!

Chris Griffin, left, and Ed Sullivan on the set of The Ed Sullivan Show on October 27, 1963. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ed Sullivan [television host, The Ed Sullivan Show]
Ed Sullivan hosted his show from 1948 to 1971, on which he promoted all the talent he could find – from comedians, to dancers, to musicians. Sullivan was a supporter of rock n’ roll, soul, R&B, blues, and country before it was fashionable. He fought hard to have black artists on his show, and even harder to depict them with the respect white men gave only each other at the time. His show included many notable and influential performances, including Elvis, The Beatles, The Supremes, and more – exposing Americans to all kinds of music, but most importantly rock n’ roll. Without his promotion, many artists might not have found the success they did, and rock music might not have become as popular. He should already be in the Rock Hall.

Award for Musical Excellence

Brian Eno [innovator]
Brian Eno is a similar case to Todd Rundgren, wherein he could probably be inducted as both a performer and in a non-performer category. Eno is regarded as one of the most influential artists and producers in the history of music, let alone rock music, through his experimentation with sound and production techniques. He released his first solo music in 1974, making him eligible for the Hall as a performer in 2000. He will be in the Rock Hall in at least one capacity someday.

Quincy Jones [producer and composer]
Quincy Jones is regarded as one of the greatest producers and composers of all time. He has already been inducted to the Rock Hall with the Ahmet Ertegun Award and it’s unclear why he got that award instead of this one, or instead of both. Either way, Jones fits the bill.

Back to the beginning of the series: The Introduction!

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