Mary J. Blige
With R&B and hip-hop hits like “Real Love” and “Not Goin’ Cry,” Mary J. Blige has sold 80 million records worldwide, won nine Grammys and became the first person nominated for acting and songwriting Oscars in the same year for the film “Mudbound” (2017).
This British rocker was discovered by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who helped her cut a demo tape, sparking a fierce career with 25 hits making the Top 40 in the UK and earning her first nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2018.
The new-wave genre wouldn’t be the same without Devo from Akron, Ohio, who catapulted to mainstream stardom with the 1980 smash hit “Whip It,” the kitschy music video that dominated the early days of MTV.
Virginia native Dave Grohl has already been inducted as the drummer of Nirvana, but he seeks to become a two-time inductee as the frontman of the Foo Fighters after a prolific run with hits in multiple decades, including “Everlong,” “Learn to Fly,” “My Hero” and “Times Like These.”
Fronted by Belinda Carlisle, The Go-Go’s were the first all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard albums chart, providing the soundtrack to life in the ’80s with “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.”
You can’t write the history of heavy metal without the British badasses of Iron Maiden, who have steadily rattled off 40 albums with hits like “Run to the Hills,” “Flight of Icarus” and their iconic anthem “The Trooper.”
Seven rappers have been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A., 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G.), but Jay-Z has staked his claim by winning 22 Grammys and selling 50 million albums worldwide, not to mention becoming the first rapper inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Hailed as the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka Khan began in the ’70s as the lead vocalist of the funk band Rufus with hits like “Tell Me Something Good” before breaking out solo for hits like “I’m Every Woman” en route to winning 10 Grammys, selling 70 millions records worldwide and ranking No. 17 in VH1’s original list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.
In 1990, she was inducted as a songwriting duo with ex-husband Gerry Goffin for penning a string of golden oldies (i.e. “The Loco-Motion”). But Carole King now hopes to make it in as a solo artist for an iconic career, including one of the best albums of all time in “Tapestry” (“It’s Too Late,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Natural Woman”), capped by the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize in 2013 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015.
He may not have the name recognition as Jay-Z, but this Nigerian multi-instrumentalist invented the genre of Afrobeat by combining traditional Yoruba, Afro-Cuban, funk and jazz, while waging wars of ideas as a determined political activist who cofounded the Kalakuta Republic, which was eventually destroyed in a military junta raid in 1977.
LL Cool J
In 2017, LL Cool J became the first rapper ever to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, cementing a legacy that began on the streets of Queens in the ’80s by pioneering hip-hop with “Rock the Bells” and “Mama Said Knock You Out,” sliding into R&B with “I Need Love” and “Around the Way Girl.” He transitioned into acting in films (“Any Given Sunday”) and television (“NCIS”) and regularly hosting the Grammys award shows.
New York Dolls
This enigmatic band rivaled the Velvet Underground as pioneers of the early punk rock scene in 1970s New York City. They turned heads with an androgynous wardrobe of high heels, spandex and dresses that would later influence the glam metal movement, while their sound would pave the way for the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Gun N’ Roses and The Smiths.
Rage Against the Machine
No band came harder than Rage Against the Machine, blending hard rock with rap metal for hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name,” featuring the searing vocals of Zack de la Rocha and insane shredding of guitarist Tom Morello, gloriously sliding his open hand across the strings.
Stadium anthems don’t get much catchier than “Bang the Drum All Day,” but Philadelphia native Todd Rudgren was so much more than a sports soundtrack, pioneering electronic music, progressive rock, interactive TV concerts and early Internet downloads. Hits like “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light” are still played on classic rock stations today.
In 1991, Tina Turner was induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a duo with Ike Turner. But the “Queen of Rock ‘n Roll” now hopes for a solo induction after winning 12 Grammys, earning a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015 and selling over 100 million records with hits like “Proud Mary,” “Simply The Best” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which became a hit movie starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.
It’s hard to believe this is Dionne Warwick’s first time ever on the ballot as one of the most-charted female vocalists of all time. Warwick famously recorded “I Say A Little Prayer” before Aretha Franklin and won Grammys for “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Déjà Vu” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” a collaboration with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder.
WTOP’s Jason Fraley salutes the 2021 nominees (Part 2)
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