Willie Nelson, The White Stripes, Missy Elliott and the late George Michael are among the eight first-time contenders on the list of 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees eligible for induction.
The other four new nominees announced Wednesday morning are Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, Joy Division/New Order and the late Warren Zevon. They join repeat nominees Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, Iron Maiden, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest and Soundgarden.
Matt Cameron, the drummer in Soundgarden, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 as a member of Pearl Jam. Should Soundgarden earn enough votes for induction, Cameron appears set to become the first drummer to be inducted into the hall as a member of two separate bands. Ringo Starr has been inducted twice, once as a member of the Beatles and once as a solo artist.
Country music superstar Nelson, who will celebrate his 90th birthday with an all-star Hollywood Bowl concert on April 29-30, is this year's oldest nominee.
While he he has never claimed to be a rock artist, Nelson's musical appeal cuts across genres and generations, and he has collaborated with numerous rockers over the years. He is also a longtime advocate of marijuana with his own line of cannabis-related products.
It remains to be seen if last November's induction of fellow country music icon Dolly Parton will make voters more, or less, likely to usher Nelson into the hall behind her. But his legacy as a country music outlaw who bucked the system to make his music the way he wanted should help. Ditto the many classic songs he has written and recorded.
Kate Bush back on ballot
This year marks the fifth time Rage Against the Machine is on the ballot, after previously been in contention in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. Kate Bush is on the ballot this year for the fourth time since 2018. The Spinners, who were first nominated in 2012, are also on the ballot for the fourth time.
The White Stripes and Elliott are the only two artists to make the 2023 ballot in their first year of eligibility.
To become eligible for induction, bands or solo artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of their first nomination. Among the acts who became eligible this year but did not make the ballot are Muse, Destiny's Child, Mos Def, Queens of the Stone Age and Switchfoot.
Votes will be cast by more than 1,000 artists, historians, critics and other music industry professionals, including this writer.
Nominees are selected, according to the Rock Hall, on the basis of their "musical impact and influence on other artists, length and depth of career and body of work, as well as innovation and superiority in style and technique...."
This year's slate of 14 nominees is three less than were on last year's ballot. There are usually at least 15 nominees, which suggests the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee did not feel any other artists merited inclusion on this year's ballot. (The committee's membership, which changes periodically, is kept secret — ostensibly to prevent them from being lobbied.)
"This remarkable list of nominees reflects the diverse artists and music that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honors and celebrates," said John Sykes, the hall foundation's chairman, in a statement released Wednesday.
"These artists have created their own sounds that have impacted generations and influenced countless others that have followed in their footsteps."
Inductees will be announced in May, with the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony scheduled for this fall. The date, venue and ticket on-sale information have not yet been announced.
Fans can participate in the induction selection process through a "Fan Vote" that runs through April 28. Fans can vote online daily until then at vote.rockhall.com or in person at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland.
The top five nominees selected by the public will comprise a "fans' ballot." It will be tallied, along with the other ballots, to determine the 2023 inductees. Millions of fans have voted in previous years, although their votes have in the past only been counted as 1% of the final vote.