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Radiohead, Rage vie for first time for Rock Hall of Fame

by Shaun TANDON Experimental icons Radiohead and rock-activists Rage Against the Machine were nominated Thursday for the first time to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, vying in a field that includes singing legend Nina Simone.

Two British acts who were major cultural forces in the 1980s — New Wave duo Eurythmics and the darkly emotive Kate Bush — were also in the running for the first time for spots in the shrine to rock culture, which will induct its latest class on April 14 in Cleveland.

Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine received nominations in their first year of eligibility — 25 years after releasing their first recording — often a sign of good chances at making the cut. Winners will be announced in December after voting by more than 900 artists, historians and others in the music industry, along with an online fan poll that accounts for one ballot.

Radiohead emerged in the guitar-driven alternative scene of the early 1990s but helped reshape the direction of rock with 1997’s “OK Computer” and “Kid A” three years later. 

On the albums, the Oxford, England-based band led by Thom Yorke presciently sensed the growing power of the internet, embracing electronics in the music all the while warning of technology’s corrosive effects on society.

Rage Against the Machine was a frontrunner in merging metal and hip-hop but became most identified with left-wing politics. With a punk spirit, Rage’s frontman Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello have vociferously attacked US foreign policy and capitalism itself, while shedding an international spotlight on the campaign of Mexico’s Zapatista insurgents.

The nomination of Simone comes as the Hall of Fame gradually expands the definition of rock ‘n’ roll. As Ice Cube said while being inducted with gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. last year, rock “is not even a style of music” but instead “a spirit.”

Simone, who died in 2003 in France, brought a classical sensibility to Gospel and jazz to become one of the 20th century’s defining singers. She was also a passionate advocate for racial equality, with civil rights songs such as “Young, Gifted and Black.”

She has enjoyed a renewed spotlight following a 2015 Netflix documentary, “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

– Singers who influenced generations -Another late singer nominated for the first time was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Gospel singer of the 1930s and 1940s whose melodic voice and engaging stage presence influenced early rockers.

Kate Bush in a later era also become a model for a generation of singers with the yelping cries of her dramatic soprano voice and an artistic approach that cared little about pop hits.

Eurythmics, on the other hand, found worldwide success starting with the 1983 album “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These).” Singer Annie Lennox, who performed with producer David A. Stewart, has since been outspoken as an advocate for human rights and global development.

Also receiving their first nominations were three British bands — hit-making blues rockers Dire Straits, R&B-influenced prog-rockers The Moody Blues and theatrical metalheads Judas Priest.

Ten other acts are in the running who have been nominated before. Among them is The J. Geils Band, the feel-good rockers behind the hit “Centerfold” whose namesake guitarist died in April.

Other rock acts in the running are arena-packing anthem-writers Bon Jovi, Detroit punk forerunners MC5, British Invasion-era group The Zombies and late guitarist Link Wray, who popularized the three-fingered “power chord” so prevalent in metal.

Depeche Mode, which has generated a string of synth-pop hits while maintaining an underground appeal, was nominated for a second straight year. 

Other nominees were rapper LL Cool J, New Wavers The Cars, Chaka Khan’s Chicago funk greats Rufus, and The Meters, the New Orleans funk band that backed up late R&B legend Allen Toussaint.

One notable absence was disco greats Chic, who have been nominated a record 11 times without winning. But Chic’s main force, guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers, was inducted this year in a special category for his supporting role in music. DM

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