Pat Benatar shockingly snubbed by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, Notorious B.I.G. among 2020 inductees

This year’s six inductees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were announced Wednesday morning, and they are Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, the Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails, the Doobie Brothers, and T. Rex.

Notably absent from the Class of 2020, however, was Pat Benatar.

Pat Benatar poses for a portrait in November, 1979 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Pat Benatar poses for a portrait in November, 1979 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The fact that Benatar — one of the most successful female artists of the 1980s, who undoubtedly set the template for female hard rock singers at a time when few female hard rock singers had a presence on the charts or at rock radio — had never been nominated before had been a subject of annual Hall protest. She was widely predicted to be a lock this year, especially considering that last year’s inductee, Janet Jackson, had implored in her Rock Hall acceptance speech to thunderous applause: “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, please, 2020: Induct more women!” (Only three female artists total were on this year’s Hall ballot, the other two being Houston and passed-over four-time nominee Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Women make up less than 8 percent of all Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees.)

Benatar actually came in second in this year’s online Fan Vote. Also not making the Class of 2020 cut were the Dave Matthews Band, who actually topped the Fan Vote by a wide margin. (It is noteworthy that the seven previous winners of the Fan Vote had all been inducted in their years).

Along with Benatar, hard/classic rock in general was passed over, with nominees Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Todd Rundgren, the MC5, and two other artists that made the top five of the Fan Vote, Judas Priest and Soundgarden, all not getting in.

It was also interesting that six-time nominees Kraftwerk were passed over in favor of their logical successors Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, since it could easily be argued that all electronic music can be traced back in some way to the German techno pioneers.

That all being said, below is a breakdown of the actual, very deserving Class of 2020 honorees.

Whitney Houston — This year’s lone female inductee, this pop/soul diva is considered to be one of the best singers of all time, not to mention one of the most successful. A true crossover phenomenon, she is the only artist to ever land seven consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and she has sold 200 million records worldwide. It’s shocking that Houston — the most awarded female artist ever by Guinness World Records, one of music’s best-selling artists, a six-time Grammy-winner, and one of the greatest singers of all time — had, like Benatar, never been up for the Hall before, and that she wasn’t inducted during her lifetime. (She became eligible in 2010, two years before her death.) It is possible that her lack of previous recognition was due to a lack of songwriting credits, or because her music was not “rock.” But considering that powerhouse soul divas like Aretha Franklin and Donna Summer and Houston’s ‘80s pop contemporaries Madonna and Janet Jackson are in the Hall, Houston’s induction is well-deserved and long overdue.

Depeche Mode — The third time was the charm for the band defined the new wave synthpop sound more than any other artist of the 1980s’ Second British Invasion; Q magazine included them on its list of the "50 Bands That Changed the World.” English new wave acts have been largely overlooked by the Hall in the past, but the Cure’s 2019 induction undoubtedly helped open the door for Depeche.

Nine Inch Nails — This was also the third nomination for Trent Reznor’s highly influential alt-rock/industrial band, one of the most important acts of the ‘90s. The eloquent induction speech Reznor delivered at the 2019 ceremony for his heroes the Cure may have helped him win over Hall voters. This year’s Hall ceremony will take place in Cleveland, where Reznor got his start.

The Notorious B.I.G. — Biggie Smalls, who was killed in 1997, was the only rap artist on this year’s ballot, and he held the honor of being the only Class of 2020 artist nominated in a first year of eligibility. He now joins six other hip-hop icons in the Hall: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A, and Tupac Shakur.

T. Rex — Although the glam band only had one bona fide U.S. hit, “Get It On,” their influence on Britain’s metal and new wave artists cannot be overemphasized. At one time, band leader Marc Bolan, who died in a 1977 car accident, was as massive a pop star in the U.K. as his peer David Bowie, or even bigger. The somewhat surprising 2019 induction of Roxy Music likely paved the glittering way for this first-time nominee.

The Doobie Brothers — The hugely successful California soft-/boogie-rockers are known for their musicianship and intricate vocal harmonies. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, but this was their first time being nominated for the Rock Hall.

Jon Landau and Irving Azoff — Landau, a critic, producer, and Bruce Springsteen’s longtime manager, and Azoff, one of the most powerful executives in the music business and manager of the Eagles, will both receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which honors influential industry professionals.

This year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 2.

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