Handicapping the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

With minimal snark and maximum intuition, we see the odds on this year’s class

Sheryl Crow (Image: Facebook)

I am not here to complain about The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Truly, I’m not.

And putting down any of the inductees or nominees obfuscates this simple fact: Every single artist in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, without exception, worked their asses off to succeed and gave up any semblance of a normal life in order to entertain you and to become a poster on your locker and a symbol of your dreams. Seriously, every single artist in the Hall and every nominee on this list slept in cramped, underheated vans, shared beds in horrific motel rooms with unwashed drummers, scarfed down inedible motorway food and took shits in toilets without doors in Dickensian saloons, just so they could climb on some creaking, dimly lit stage and give you the best night of your life. Every one of these nominees did that, I promise you.  

I honor every single person in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Each and every one of them put up with unforeseen horrors, insults, inconveniences, lewd comments, sleeplessness, constipation, humiliation, and heartbreak just to make music. So: I am not here to indulge in the usual why/why not bullcrap. I am here merely to handicap the current slate of nominees. And to occasionally make fun of the Foo Fighters. 

So here is the 2023 slate of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees, to whom I have applied standard horse racing-type odds. In simplest terms, if I am giving an artist 10/1 odds, that means I am assessing they have a 10 percent chance of getting in the Hall; a 2/5 nominee has, in my estimation, slightly over a 70 percent chance of getting in. Got it?  Five to seven performers from the nominees list are inducted each year. Here we go (in order of likelihood of induction): 


The Locks: Willie Nelson: 1/12; Sheryl Crow: 2/5; Missy Elliott: 5/2

This is a very competitive class this year, and Willie Nelson is this year’s only absolute, dead-to-rights rock-solid lock. Some will say, well, he’s not “rock’n’roll.” But the Hall has long shown a general disregard for these sorts of labels, and Nelson is a classic American performer and celebrity whose profile transcends genre; these kinds of legends don’t come up for nomination all that often (though Dolly Parton did last year), so Nelson is a gimme. It may surprise you to find that I think Sheryl Crow is virtually a lock. But she’s exactly the type of funky/cool yet commercial artist the Hall utterly loves. Crow has instant name recognition, a strong whisp of credibility, a high profile, big sales – man, that has HOF stamped all over it. Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow are the two 2023 inductees  of which I am absolutely certain. Missy Elliott is a deeply talented, diverse, hardworking and deserving nominee, but there’s also this: Each and every year, very reliably, the Hall inducts one female R&B star; and it so happens that in 2023, Missy is the only nominee who meets that criteria. 

Before continuing with our Top Five, I should explain what I mean when I say that someone is the kind of artist the Hall loves (because it does certainly seem like the Hall favors certain kinds of artists, while failing to induct other that are, apparently, worthy). Now, first and foremost, you must think like someone who has taken Rolling Stone magazine seriously since childhood. I know that’s not an easy task. I mean, imagine seeing everything about rock’n’roll through Foo Fighter-colored glasses. My god, the horror, the mewling, soul-crushing weight of mistaking the meaningless for something with meaning.

But the fact is, at heart we are all Rolling Stone readers, we just happen to know the name of a good local ramen joint and can hum a few Daniel Johnston songs. We can’t help it; it’s just the generation we came of age in, those who mistakenly thought revolution meant seeing Cheap Trick on Midnight Special. As soon as we began to assume that pop/rock culture would do our finger-pointing, boycotting, and picket-lining for us, and we began to mistake interesting haircuts and lack of keyboard solos for an actual political movement, rock as an actual tool of progressive and/or activist culture was dead. But that’s another story, really. I’m not trying to put us down, honestly; I’m just saying, to quote the late, great Chris Bailey, “We’ve got new thoughts, new ideas, we’re all so groovy/It’s just a shame we’ve all seen the same old movies.”  To put it a different way, our problem, friends, is we have been conned into thinking the Talking Heads are Lizzy Mercier Descloux. 


VIDEO: Lizzie Mercer Descloux “Fire”

Sidestepping flippancy (for the most part), I’m not here to get on a soapbox (or whatever the viral equivalent is) and harangue you with a shpiel about what the Hall should or shouldn’t do; I think the whole thing is multi-flawed in concept and execution, and all our social media posts about the MC5 are not going to change that. So, accepting the Hall exactly as it is, in this piece I am simply trying to handicap the current slate of nominees, based on my experience, knowledge, and intuition. This intuition is based, to some degree, on the fact that there is a fairly predictable pattern to the Hall’s inductions. Generally, each year the Hall inducts one undeniable legend/ celebrity (i.e., Tina Turner or Dolly Parton); one high-skilled woman performer/singer-songwriter who is both credible and a household name (such as Carole King or Carly Simon); one R&B performer, generally but not always female, from the mainstream side of the spectrum; one R&B performer, generally but not always male, from the urban side of the spectrum; and one “wild card” high-profile cult figure (Todd Rundgren is a perfect example). There is also a revolving (that is, non-constant) slot for one mainstream alternative/KROQ-type artist (think Duran Duran, The Cure, or the Go-Go’s); and a more infrequent revolving slot for a hard rock type artist. Got it? If you check this assessment against the last decade (or more) of inductions, it pretty much works. 

Let’s continue, shall we, with the bottom half of the Top Five. 


The White Stripes: 3/2; Warren Zevon: 2/1.  

You may be surprised I rate the White Stripes so high; believe me, it’s not my personal opinion, because I maintain that Jack White ain’t fit to re-set the height on Dexter Romweber’s mic stand or coil Jon Spencer’s guitar cables. BUT STILL. Unlike past years, there isn’t a no-brainer KROQ-type nominee this year, so, I think the opening that would normally go to a KROQ-type artist will go to a Grunge Adjacent artist. My (strong) hunch is that the White Stripes have the edge over Soundgarden and the utterly deserving Rage Against the Machine; it’s a little hard to quantify why, but it just feels like The White Stripes are more of a “Hall” type act than Soundgarden, and frankly, the Hall and HBO would be terrified of what Rage might say in the induction ceremony. I think it’s that the White Stripes have an extroverted “showbusiness” quality that’s more harmonious with the Hall/Rolling Stone aesthetic. As for Warren Zevon, there’s a rather significant public wave behind the idea that Zevon belongs in the Hall. Usually these things don’t work, but in Zevon’s case, I think it will. 

Warren Zevon on the cover of Rolling Stone from March 19, 1981 (Image: Warren Zevon’s website)

Now, if the Hall limits itself to five inductees this year, I feel those five – Willie, Sheryl, White Stripes, Zevon, and Missy Elliott (with an outside shot of Soundgarden swapping out for White Stripes) – will be the 2023 class. But if they expand the inductee roll to six or seven (and I suspect they might, because I think there will be a notable groundswell to induct Kate Bush and/or Cyndi Lauper and/or Soundgarden), the following artists could make it in. So we will call this next grouping…


The Dark Horses

Soundgarden: 4/1; Cyndi Lauper: 9/2; Kate Bush: 9/2; A Tribe Called Quest: 5/1. 

If I am over-estimating the chances the White Stripes have for induction (and heck, I could be), then Soundgarden definitely have a chance. Also, if they expand to seven inductees, they stand a very strong shot of getting in. But what do I know? I supported Tom Harkin for President in 1992. Cyndi Lauper is so (deservedly) well-liked, and such a ubiquitous figure to those who grew up with MTV and came of age in the 1980s, that I could see her getting the nod if any one of the following happens: a) the Hall inducts more than five acts; b) I’m wrong about Zevon; and c) neither White Stripes nor Soundgarden make it in. Due to the MTV factor, Cyndi’s likability and media visibility, and the fact that she’s not British (the Hall has a long-standing bias against British acts)–if a spot does open up–I am giving Cyndi the edge over Kate Bush. Along with Iron Maiden, Kate Bush is one of the Hall’s most egregious omissions; she is, without any doubt, one of the most original, influential, and iconic women artists of all time. As mega-deserving as she is (and as much as her American profile has increased in the last year), the only way Kate Bush gets in the Hall in 2023 is if none of the Grunge-adjacent acts get in, the Zevon wave doesn’t materialize, I am overestimating Cyndi’s chances, and the Hall inducts more than five artists this year. I mean, it could happen, but I don’t think the math is there. 

However, I would not rule out Kate Bush getting inducted in a non-performer category, like Musical Excellence. In previous years, when the Hall knows an artist really, truly ought to be in the Hall but the math or the politicking doesn’t quite work out, they’ve slid them in under this heading. As for A Tribe Called Quest, I may be rating them a little high, but I do so because a younger generation of voters may come in (deservedly) strong for them; and if the Hall sticks hard to habit there’s a chance that they could slip in under the “male r’n’b” opening. 


Count These Out  

Iron Maiden: 7/1; Joy Division/New Order: 8/1; Rage Against the Machine: 8/1; The Spinners: 9/1; George Michael: 25/1. 

Iron Maiden are, inarguably, one of the biggest and most embarrassing omissions from the Hall. The average 70-year-old former Rolling Stone editor who’s never heard of Porcupine Tree or Opeth (much less Bongripper) might not know this, but Maiden are one of the biggest rock acts, by any criteria, of the last 40 years. To my mind, you must consider Maiden right up there with U2 or Metallica (and most definitely equivalent in status, skill and fireworks to Rush), and if the Hall didn’t have an irrational dislike of metal and British acts, they would have gotten into the Hall long ago.

Having gotten that out of my system, I don’t think Maiden stand a chance this year. The competition is too strong, and the voting logic just doesn’t line up behind them. Even if the voters surprise me and put two hard rock acts in the top five or top seven, it’s likely to be Soundgarden and White Stripes; and if I am completely wrong about a couple of my Top Five or Top Seven acts, the open space(s) would likely go to Cyndi Lauper or Kate Bush. (P.S., Bongripper’s Miserable is one of the best albums of the century, says the guys who discovered Hootie & the Blowfish, not that we were talking about Bongripper.) 



Of course, Joy Division/New Order belong in the Hall; but this year’s very competitive nominee stack leaves virtually zero opening for them. However – and this is a big “How?ever” – New Order are the only legacy KROQ-type act nominated this year, and that could mean, well, something. If the voters feel the need to vote for a legacy KROQ act – which could happen? – New Order could be a dark horse’s dark horse. But don’t count on it.

If White Stripes and Soundgarden weren’t up this year, the amazing, deeply powerful and influential Rage Against the Machine would stand a far, far better chance. I think their realistic odds are lower than 8/1 – perhaps 12/1 – but I’m giving them a wee bump because they truly deserve to be in, and maybe, just maybe, enough voters out there agree. As for The Spinners, I could be slightly off here, and rating them a little low; there may be enough older voters who are lovers of legacy mainstream soul/funk to push this one up to “Tertiary Dark Horse” territory. 

Finally, there’s George Michael. There’s no way this happens; in fact, I’d go as far to say that (regardless of all my logic and reasoning) every single artist on this list stands some remote chance of the mathematic dominoes and politicking falling their way…except for poor, wonderful, underrated George Michael. 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice is one hell of an album, by the way, and you should own it. 

So where does that leave us? Here’s my final call: If the Hall inducts five artists this year, my money is on Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, White Stripes, Warren Zevon and Missy Elliott. If the list expands to six or seven, I’ll add Cyndi Lauper and Soundgarden, and I predict they’ll give a Musical Excellence induction to Kate Bush. And my “long shot” bet would be on Joy Division/New Order. 


VIDEO: New Order “Love Vigilantes”



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Tim Sommer

Tim Sommer is a musician, record producer, former Atlantic Records A&R representative, WNYO DJ, MTV News correspondent, VH1 VJ, and founding member of the band Hugo Largo. He is the author of Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish and has written for publications such as Trouser Press, the Observer and The Village Voice. Learn more at Tim Sommer Writing.

36 thoughts on “Handicapping the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

  • February 7, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    Glad you mentioned the constipation.

    • February 24, 2023 at 11:19 pm

      No B52s. No J Geils Band. No credibility it’s a true HOF.

    • February 28, 2023 at 5:58 pm

      No Ozzy as a solo artist, no Maiden, no Rage, etc., etc.
      More of the same bullshit from these people. Hell, Sabbath invented, or if you prefer brought to the people, an entire genre of rock music and they didn’t get for the first 10 years of eligibility.

  • February 7, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    i have wrote the president of the foundation and I was saying that why not barry manilow and jim croce should be considered for the 2024 inductee list it is really sad that these two gentlemen are still not on that list they both are deserving in the discussion

    • February 19, 2023 at 5:27 am

      Doors are being slam shut on a lot of true Rock and Roll music stars when We are seeing artist being selected with very little Rock and Roll material. But No! “Can’t find love after Sunset. Twang! Twang!” or messages inciting gang violence gets into the Hall.

  • February 9, 2023 at 2:31 am

    if i say “sound reasoning”, would you believe i wasn’t just punning?
    only 2 cents worth chipping in is that us intellectual iconos and journos may want to ‘jam econo’ (the minutemen, you virgins!) but still will headbang to rush when “spirit of the radio” comes over the AM. but, see, you got a few on me (couldn’t tell you one cut by rage against the machine or new order–ask me about joy division) so i’ll give you extra street cred. the votes come from what record companies put out there for us and…we liked it. then these votes are for the most likable people in pop, right? a popularity contest? as you said, all props to their truckstops, but that’s what it am. this is the “HALL Of FAME”…not of indie eclat.
    but WTF does this mean? “To put it a different way, our problem, friends, is we have been conned into thinking the Talking Heads are Lizzy Mercier Descloux.”

    • February 18, 2023 at 3:34 am

      Are the Ventures in the hall and if so when were they inducted…And how bout George Martin..is he in there?

      • March 1, 2023 at 1:51 pm

        I think the Ventures are, but no Johnny Rivers! Goodshoter

    • February 18, 2023 at 10:03 am

      Why has Diana Ross been inducted for her solo career? Her solo career has been far more influential than many are listed or inducted?

  • February 11, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    Where is Peter Frampton? Can see someone explain why The Man Who Comes Alive is not in the Rock Hall? Humble Pie and the biggest live album of all time? Am I wrong to think this, I don’t think so.

    • February 16, 2023 at 1:55 pm

      There are so many worthy performers who should be in the RNRHOF.
      Peter Frampton
      Jethro Tull
      Steppin Wolf
      Kate Bush
      3 dog night
      Blood sweat n tears
      There are acts that should be in three. However its a new generation and its not about talent its about so much more.
      To let the public put them in – hello 1/2 will never go.

      • March 8, 2023 at 9:01 am

        Good list, I’d add Guess Who.

    • February 18, 2023 at 3:40 am

      Ya man for sure…he shold have been inducted a long ago..twice with Humble Pie and solo…wen he comes into the lead guitar solo on Do You Feel like I Do…he rips it up..Totally super cool…

  • February 11, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    Its sad that Cher has not made the list. She should of already been inducted years ago.

  • February 11, 2023 at 8:09 pm

    All of the following singers/bands belong in the RRHOF while most of current and recent nominees are not even close to comparable!
    Guess Who, The
    Jethro Tull
    Branigan, Laura
    Grass Roots, The
    Tommy James and the Shondells
    Monkees, The
    Three Dog Night
    Blood, Sweat and Tears

    • February 11, 2023 at 10:32 pm

      Your list is good add Styx and a few metal band and it’s great

    • February 15, 2023 at 3:31 am

      Amen brother on all these great bands!

    • February 20, 2023 at 7:53 pm

      How is Jethro Tull not in Please explain Pleeeeeeeze what a joke Missy Eliot are you kidding

      • March 2, 2023 at 11:44 am

        This article is a farce,this writer is a clown at best. Maybe the circus is his calling

    • February 21, 2023 at 10:24 am

      How right you are Roy!!! I couldn’t agree with you more! FOREIGNER IS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE BAND, AS WELL AS CHER & SO MANY MORE! Hard to believe they haven’t been inducted. Wish “the public” had a say in who got inducted by votes! Never mind this nameless group that has us all wondering how some of these inductees got in. Voting by the public would be much more fair! Love all the groups & people you named Roy!!

  • February 12, 2023 at 4:37 am

    Glaring omissions:
    THE B52’S

    • February 21, 2023 at 2:57 pm

      The Smiths were offered the opportunity and name forwarded twice 2015/2016 but Johnny Marr said he would not perform with the others or attend with them so they will not be asked (nominated) again. They would have been inducted if they played nice with each other and played live at induction (others were willing) but Johnny Marr refused in fact he also stated he needed no recognition and wants no recognition from industry sh1ts so that being said will most likely never be nominated again….till maybe they’re dead.

  • February 12, 2023 at 10:28 am

    I live 30 miles away and have boycotted and I will never go to this useless museum because it is illegitimate. Quit having all of music voting and limit the voting to only those from rock and roll. They have been scraping the bottom of the barrell for years with crap that is not rock and roll. When a dog is suffering, it is put to sleep. Time to do the same to this sick puppy and tear it down as it has become an embarassment!

  • February 12, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    My God this is a travesty. Every year you people have omitted the band that all other GREAT musicians revered. LITTLE FEAT. Lowell George was idolized by fill in the blank! Please stop voting with your crotch and vote with your soul. I’m beginning to think you have lost your way when it comes to what knowing RocknRoll.

  • February 12, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    the hall of fame to not have peter Frampton is ridiculous…..like the grammys now all nonlogical

  • February 13, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    Diana Ross

  • February 14, 2023 at 7:31 am

    I don’t agree with your odds at all. I think Joy Division & New Order have a good chance. Wtf cares about the White Stripes? JD/NO are more influential than any of the rubbish on this list.

    • March 4, 2023 at 12:26 am

      Kate Bush has written some great songs but I can’t listen to her sing. If you compare her version of Wuthering Heights to Pat Benatar’s cover version and had to choose which one to listen to for rest of your life, I don’t see how anyone would choose Kate’s version. The original song could be used as way of getting information from terrorists in custody at Gitmo unless it was deemed cruel and unusual punishment.

  • February 16, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    Why not David Cassidy he had the number one hit in 1970 I think I love you. We petition to have David Cassidy in the Hall of Rock n Roll.
    There’s a lot more like 3 dog night, Smokie Chris Norman Cher a hell of a lot more.

    • February 18, 2023 at 11:34 am

      Pop Culture a different band, Country Music has its own stand but true ROCK and ROLL is not honored here, with all the mix it makes me cringe….Does Tina Turner Grace the halls of the Grand Ole Oprey? Does Janice Joplin line the streets of Motown? My vote is for the ROCK ARTIST not the famous.

  • February 19, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    Grassroots and Three Dog Night had so many hits and stood the test of time. Half these people we don’t know. You missed the mark.

  • February 24, 2023 at 7:58 am

    I’m amazed that Rick James isn’t in the Hall or ever been nominated. He single handedly dabbed Motown in the 80s and inspired so many other bands. The hell with his criminal record. So many hall of famers have records. Ie James brown, Chuck Berry etc.

  • March 5, 2023 at 4:41 am

    Biased against Brits???
    Where do you get that delusion from???
    Just last year,
    the inductees included
    Duran Duran, Eurythmics
    & Judas Priest, not to mention
    Depeche Mode, T-Rex, Radiohead,
    Def Leppard & The Zombies
    getting inducted during
    the past several years.
    One choice I’m in agreement
    with you on for the class
    of 2023 is Willie Nelson.
    I think he’s quite deserving.
    I’ll say there will be 6 inductees,
    a frequent number for the hall.
    My predictions for the other
    5 inductees besides Willie
    (regardless of my
    personal opinions about them):

    Cyndi Lauper
    Kate Bush
    Rage Against The Machine
    The Spinners
    George Michael

    If only 5, no George Michael.
    If 7, even split between
    A Tribe Called Quest & Warren Zevon
    or possibly one of these three
    for Musical Excellence

    Also, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
    or The Monkees for Early Influence.

    Most likely, both
    our predictions are dead wrong.

    Still never nominated:

    Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
    & The Monkees,
    as mentioned above
    Link Wray
    (not counting “Rumble”,
    which supposedly was inducted
    as a single, but they’ve evidently
    discontinued/ignored that category)
    Danny & The Juniors
    Cliff Richard/Shadows
    Tommy James & The Shondells
    Suzi Quatro
    Jethro Tull
    King Crimson
    Janis Ian
    Harry Nilsson
    The Shaggs
    Olivia Newton-John
    Three Dog Night
    The Raspberries
    Grand Funk Railroad
    Peter Frampton
    Joan Armatrading
    Sonic Youth
    The B-52s
    Weird Al Yankovic
    Suzanne Vega
    The Flaming Lips
    Grace Jones
    Alice In Chains
    George Thorogood & The Destroyers
    The Alan Parsons Project
    Suicidal Tendencies
    Huey Lewis & The News
    They Might Be Giants

  • March 8, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    I apologize, I wrote my comment to Mike by mistake.

    Hello Tim Sommer,
    I just read your article, “Handicapping the 2023 R&R HoF Nominees…”
    You said this about the late George Michael:
    “…except for poor, wonderful, underrated George Michael.”
    Yes, He is very underrated! He was an amazingly talented man. Writer, Composer, Producer, Musician, Philanthropist…
    I’m afraid you are not watching who fans are voting for. George Michael IS in the lead as of 3:30pm, CST, USA. Wednesday, March 8th, 2023.
    He has a TREMENDOUS fan base!
    You only mention George’s “FAITH” album. Were you aware British singer George Michael’s releases consist of five studio albums,
    two compilation albums,
    one extended play,
    47 singles,
    three promotional singles,
    31 music videos,
    and five video albums.
    In his career, Michael sold an estimated 100 to 125 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.

    So, what was that you said …except for poor, wonderful, underrated George Michael.
    Vote for George Michael. Vote.rockhall.com

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