This might be the year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame considers changing its name a bit.
Leading the list of inductees for 2008 is none other than pop superstar Madonna, who tops a roster that includes heartland rocker John Mellencamp, baritone brooder Leonard Cohen, instrumentalists the Ventures, British '60s rockers Dave Clark Five, classic Philly soul songwriting team Gamble and Huff, and blues harmonica player Little Walter in the sideman category.
And, after the door was opened a bit to hip-hop last year with the induction of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, it was loudly shut again this year, as potential nominees Afrika Bambaataa and the Beastie Boys were left off the final list. Also aced out were disco queen Donna Summer and funk act Chic.
To be eligible for nomination this year, an artist must have issued their first single or album in 1982, which was the year Madonna put out her first dance tune, "Everybody." While no one would confuse her decades of dance-floor anthems with rock and roll, the most successful female artist of all time has had a remarkably strong, nearly three-decade career.
Indiana's John Mellencamp began his career as a generic pop singer named Johnny Cougar in 1976, but over the course of nearly 30 years in music has become one of the most thoughtful and respected singer/songwriters of his generation. Initially dismissed as a Bruce Springsteen wannabe, Cougar hit his stride in the early '80s with such rock radio staples as "Jack and Diane" and "Hurts So Good." He soon became known for chronicling the plight of the downtrodden American farmer and worker, with such folk-inspired albums as Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. Along with Neil Young and Willie Nelson, Mellencamp helped found the annual Farm Aid concert benefiting small American farms.
Known for his seriously deep, froggy baritone vocals, Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen has been recording albums since 1968 in styles ranging from pop to folk and cabaret. His most famous, and most frequently covered, song is the meditative "Hallelujah." One of the most popular bands from the British Invasion of the mid-1960s, the Dave Clark Five, rivaled the Beatles for a time in popularity thanks to hits like "Glad All Over." Rock instrumental band the Ventures, founded by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, are best known for such hits as "Walk Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O," as well as their pioneering use of space-age sound effects on some of their recordings, which have made them the biggest-selling rock instrumental group of all time.
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff gave Motown a run for its money in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as they helped to pioneer the Philadelphia soul sound that was the signature of the Philadelphia International label. The production/songwriting team wrote hits for a galaxy of stars, including the O'Jays ("Love Train") and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes ("If You Don't Know Me by Now"). The duo are being inducted in the non-performer category under the newly named Ahmet Ertegun Award, in honor of the late Atlantic Records co-founder. Hard-drinking blues player Little Walter died at age 37 in 1968, but not before putting his indelible stamp on the art of mouth-harp playing, including being one of the first blues harmonica players to run his harp microphone through an amplifier, pioneering the use of electronic distortion in popular music.
The induction ceremony will take place March 10 at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel. It has not been announced who will induct this year's slate of honorees into the Hall of Fame.