Courtney Love is calling out the lack of female artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — as well as the lack of women on the institution’s nomination board and voting body — in a scathing new op-ed the Hole singer penned in the Guardian. “The Rock Hall’s canon-making doesn’t just reek of sexist gatekeeping, but also purposeful ignorance and hostility,” she wrote.
Love, herself now eligible for Rock Hall consideration, noted that of all of the inductees, just 8.48% are women, while adding that “the Rock Hall voters, among them musicians and industry elites, are 90% male.”
“The nominations for this year’s class, announced last month, offered the annual reminder of just how extraordinary a woman must be to make it into the ol’ boys club,” Love wrote.
“More women were nominated in one year than at any time in its 40-year history. There were the iconoclasts: Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Missy Elliott; two women in era-defining bands: Meg White of the White Stripes and Gillian Gilbert of New Order; and a woman who subverted the boys club: Sheryl Crow.”
Love put special focus on Bush’s Rock Hall credentials and how the Rock Hall overlooked the one-of-a-kind artist for decades of eligibility before finally landing on the ballot in 2018; four inductions later, Bush still hasn’t received the honor.
“Never mind that she was the first woman in pop history to have written every track on a million-selling debut,” Love wrote of Bush. “A pioneer of synthesizers and music videos, she was discovered last year by a new generation of fans when ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ featured in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. She is still making albums. And yet there is no guarantee of her being a shoo-in this year.”
Love also pinpointed other inexcusable Rock Hall errors: “It took the Rock Hall 30-plus years to induct Nina Simone and Carole King. Linda Ronstadt released her debut in 1969 and became the first woman to headline stadiums, yet she was inducted alongside Nirvana in 2014. Most egregiously, Tina Turner was inducted as a solo artist three decades after making the grade alongside her abuser, Ike.”
Love also wrote that the uphill battle for female artists to be inducted is even harder for Black artists like Chaka Khan, who has been eligible since 2003 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time.
“For all her exceptional talent and accomplishments – and if there is one thing women in music must be, it is endlessly exceptional – Khan has not convinced the Rock Hall,” Love wrote. “Her credits, her Grammys, her longevity, her craft, her tenacity to survive being a young Black woman with a mind of her own in the 70s music business, the bridge to Close the Door – none of it merits canonization. Or so sayeth the Rock Hall.”
Love added in conclusion, “If the Rock Hall is not willing to look at the ways it is replicating the violence of structural racism and sexism that artists face in the music industry, if it cannot properly honor what visionary women artists have created, innovated, revolutionized and contributed to popular music – well, then let it go to hell in a handbag.”
Hours after Love’s op-ed, the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, who was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2005, was similarly critical of her own induction experience on social media. “I don’t even wanna be associated with it. It’s just more establishment backslapping,” Hynde wrote. “Other than Neil Young’s participation in the induction process, the whole thing was, and is, total bollocks. It’s absolutely nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll and anyone who thinks it is is a fool.”