Two days after the victorious Seahawks channeled a turn-of-the-century boy band in Cleveland comes word that the Ohio city could soon be in line for another Seattle incursion. Albeit with less choreo.
On Tuesday, the Cleveland-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame unveiled the nominees for its 2020 class and two Seattle acts made the cut. After several years of eligibility, Soundgarden received its first nomination, as has Dave Matthews Band in its second year of eligibility.
The grunge heroes and jam titan are joined by fellow shortlisters Whitney Houston, ’90s hip-hop icon Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails, electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, Motorhead and MC5 — the Detroit proto-punks that have added Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil to its current MC50 iteration. This year’s nominees, chosen by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s nominating committee, also include Pat Benatar, Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
Inductees will be announced in January ahead of the annual induction ceremony taking place May 2, 2020 at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium. While the qualifications for the Rock Hall are highly subjective (leading to no shortage of debate over perceived snubs), inductees are determined by more than 1,000 voters made up of previously enshrined artists, historians, music industry vets; plus an online fan vote through Jan. 10 at rockhall.com. Artists become eligible 25 years after their first commercial release.
Purveyors of metallic, punk-informed groove rock, Soundgarden was, of course, instrumental in bringing Seattle’s purportedly grungy strain of rock to the mainstream, becoming MTV staples in the 1990s while selling millions of albums (when albums were a thing people purchased) and winning a pair of Grammys. Led by late frontman and former Ray’s Boathouse cook Chris Cornell, the early Sub Pop band would be the third of grunge’s Big Four to enter the Rock Hall, joining Nirvana (’14) and Pearl Jam (’17), which shares drummer Matt Cameron with Soundgarden. (Though there’s certainly a case to be made, Alice in Chains has not yet been nominated.)
In addition to Cornell, Thayil, Cameron and longtime bassist Ben Shepherd, original member Hiro Yamamoto — who left the band after recording “Louder Than Love” — was included in the nomination.
The degree to which Dave Matthews — a South African-born songwriter who rose from the Charlottesville, Virginia, music scene to become a ticket-selling juggernaut — qualifies as a “Seattle” artist may hinge on one’s affinity for extended fiddle solos. But the low-key rock star, who played an invite-only Columbia City Theater gig last year, has made Seattle home long enough to spot an unknown Brandi Carlile in a Queen Anne pub and uphold an annual holiday weekend tradition of Gorge Amphitheatre shows that predates (and has outlived) Sasquatch. The two-time Grammy winner exploded as the grunge era was on the decline with his 1994 debut “Under the Table and Dreaming,” which has since gone six-times platinum.
Included in the nomination are longtime Dave Matthews Band members Stefan Lessard, Carter Beauford, LeRoi Moore (who died in 2008), Tim Reynolds, Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin and former DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley. Tinsley left the band last year months before sexual harassment allegations, made by a Seattle-area musician, became public. While Tinsley denied the accusations, a settlement was reached in June, according to the Charlottesville-based newspaper The Daily Progress, which also said terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Even if Soundgarden and Dave Matthews Band don’t garner enough votes to be enshrined this year, it doesn’t mean they’ll never make the hall. Fellow Seattle rockers Heart finally got the nod alongside Quincy Jones in 2013 on its second nomination, coming 13 years after becoming eligible. Other local Hall of Famers include Tacoma surf rockers The Ventures and game-changing guitar icon Jimi Hendrix.