Beatles guitarist George Harrison, Prince and ZZ Top will be among next year’s seven new arrivals to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The 2004 class also includes Jackson Browne, the Dells, Bob Seger and Traffic, the hall announced Thursday (November 20). The artists will be formally inducted at a March 15 ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Harrison was the first Beatle to go solo, releasing Wonderwall Music in 1968, the score to a film by the same name, but on All Things Must Pass, originally released as a triple album in 1970, “the quiet Beatle” made his true voice heard. The album, featuring the classics “My Sweet Lord” and the title track, is considered among the greatest ever recorded.
The all-star two-day concert he organized the following year, the Concert for Bangladesh, raised money to help the famished Third World country. In the eight albums that followed, Harrison proved himself an accomplished musician, with guitar technique far more advanced than his work with the Beatles, and impassioned songwriter.
Harrison died of cancer in November 2001 (see “Former Beatle George Harrison Dead At 58″ ). His last album, Brainwashed, was released posthumously the following year. The guitarist becomes the third Beatle to enter into the hall, following John Lennon in 1992 and Paul McCartney in 1999. The group was inducted in 1988.
Prince was one of the more eccentric performers of the 1980s and ’90s, having changed his name to a symbol translated verbally as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.” Quirks aside, his body of work is among the most revered in music, blurring the genres of funk, R&B, rock and soul. Two years after his 1978 debut, For You, the Minneapolis resident’s Dirty Mind was a harbinger of the overtly sexy sounds to come, including the 1983 classic 1999 and his masterpiece soundtrack to the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” loosely based on his life, and in which he also starred.
Through the 1990s, his popularity diminished but his prolificacy did not. Prince released 10 LPs during that decade, including the triple-album Crystal Ball. Prince’s influence, both musically and stylistically, can most recently be seen in the Andre 3000 half of Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
No band says big Texas guitar rock like ZZ Top. Guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard — the lone member without the chin hair that became the group’s trademark — have released 15 albums in their 33-year career, including this year’s Mescalero. Their ’70s material, such as 1973’s “La Grange,” 1975’s “Tush” and 1979’s “Cheap Sunglasses” are staples of classic-rock radio.
ZZ Top peaked in popularity in the 1980s, with music videos that exemplified their love of hot rods and hot bods. Clips for “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs,” all from 1983’s Eliminator, featured a dejected main character whose social life was greatly enhanced with the help of three fairy hotties that magically appeared in a souped-up roadster.
Jackson Browne is the epitome of the sensitive California bohemian singer/songwriter. His deeply personal songs, especially from 1974’s Late for a Sky, put him in the same class as Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. He co-wrote the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” and made his mainstream breakthrough with 1972’s “Doctor My Eyes.” He got his rock on with later hits “Running on Empty” (1977) and “Somebody’s Baby” (1982), which was ingrained in the pop culture canon thanks to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Bob Seger’s 1978 hit “Old Time Rock and Roll” best sums up the style of his Silver Bullet Band. Seger’s piano-based boogie is exemplified on songs like “Night Moves,” “Katmandu,” “Rock & Roll Never Forgets” and “Hollywood Nights.”
Before Steve Winwood’s solo career in the 1980s and after his 1960s stint with the Spencer Davis Group, he formed Traffic with guitarist Dave Mason, horn player Chris Wood and drummer Jim Capaldi. The group’s biggest hits include “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” from their 1967 debut, Mr. Fantasy.
The Dells have been recording and performing in every decade since the vocal quintet formed in 1953. Even more remarkable, they haven’t changed their lineup since 1960.
Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after releasing their first record, and they are selected by criteria such as their influence and their contributions to rock and roll’s continued development.
John Mellencamp, Black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gram Parsons, the Stooges and Patti Smith were also eligible this year but did not receive enough votes (see “George Harrison, Prince, John Mellencamp Among 2004 Rock Hall Nominees” ).