Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ Traveling Wilburys

Eighteen members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are inducted at least twice, and one (Eric Clapton) has been inducted three times [1]. Jeff Lynne has not been inducted a single time: not for his work in Electric Light Orchestra, not for his songwriting and production work or as a solo musician, and not as a member of the quirky supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. In fact, Jeff Lynne is the only member permanent of the Traveling Wilburys to have never been inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at all (Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty have all been inducted, George Harrison twice). Given the somewhat sprawling work of Jeff Lynne as a possible member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, let us look at three possible induction cases for him, for his band ELO, for his work as a producer and songwriter, and for the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.

ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ the Traveling Wilbury’s Contribution

Since this is a relatively complicated case for induction (or double or triple induction, as the case may be), let us try to look at the separate worthiness of the three cases for induction. Electric Light Orchestra has sold over 50 million records, released 11 albums, and had 27 top 40 hits in both the UK and the US (19 of which hit the top 20 of the US charts, but none of them #1 in the US) [2]. ELO’s combination of orchestral and progressive rock was groundbreaking and immensely popular with wide audiences. After the band broke up originally, Jeff Lynne went on to produce and write songs for other notable artists (like George Harrison and Tom Petty). Thanks in part to his work as a producer and songwriter, the supergroup Traveling Wilburys was formed (which George Harrison and Jeff Lynne named) and released two albums in addition to their other work. From these combined situations, Jeff Lynne deserves no less than one and possibly as many as three inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, given his work with Electric Light Orchestra, his songwriting and production work (non-performer category), and his work with the Traveling Wilburys. How someone as influential to music as Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at all is mind-boggling.

ELO / Jeff Lynne / The Traveling Wilbury’s Contribution

There are two cases for the induction of Electric Light Orchestra. The first is their contribution to music in general, for their combination of orchestral and progressive tendencies of music, a distinctive contribution to music that has strongly influenced other acts (like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to name one), and the second is their immensely popular and enduring body of work, which includes the following massive hits: Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya, Telephone Line, Turn To Stone, Mr. Blue Sky, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Shine A Little Love, Don’t Bring Me Down, I’m Alive, Xanadu, Hold On Tight, All Over The World, Rock & Roll Is King, and Calling America. Seven of those were top 10 hits in the US, fifteen in the UK. Among ELO albums, five went multi-platinum in the US, and an additional four albums went gold in the US. Between 1972 and 1986, the band had more top 40 hits in the US and the UK than any other band [3]. Together, this body of work is a no-brainer for induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Apart from his work with ELO, the contribution of Jeff Lynne is most notable in his work as a producer and a songwriter. Besides the songs for Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne has been responsible for producing and songwriting for a variety of artists, including writing the song “The Story of Me” for the Everly Brothers’ comeback album EB84, producing songs and albums for such artists and bands as Dave Edmunds, George Harrison (his successful “Cloud Nine” album), Roy Orbison (co-writing and producing his last hit, “You Got It”, along with his posthumous album that followed it), Del Shannon, Tom Petty (producing the whole “Full Moon Fever” album and co-writing the songs “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Running Down A Dream,” the album’s hits, besides also producing the “Into The Great Wide Open” album and co-writing its singles as well), Agnetha Faltskog, Brian Wilson, Duane Eddy, and Randy Newman, performing key work to recreate the Beatles sound on the Beatles Anthology from old John Lennon demos, aside from producing albums for Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. This production and songwriting work itself is worthy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, especially as it was helpful and possibly essential in leading to the induction of Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame themselves as solo artists. As a key element of their later career success, Jeff Lynne deserves a great deal of credit.

The main case for the induction of the Traveling Wilburys into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the fact that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has tended to value supergroups far beyond their particular discography. Bands like The Yardbirds, Faces/Small Faces, and Buffalo Springfield had small discography and modest chart success but were most notable for the fact that their band members were so important for music that rewarding the combination of such talent has seemed obvious to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a whole. With band members like Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty, along with drummer Jim Keltner the Traveling Wilburys certainly have worthy star power in the supergroup. They produced two albums of original material (both of which went at least platinum, with a compilation album that went gold as well), and had several top 10 hits on the mainstream rock chart: “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” “She’s My Baby,” “Last Night,” and “Heading For The Light.” That’s enough chart success for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to honor a supergroup, if you compare their discography with other inducted supergroups [4] [5] [6] [7] [8].

Why ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys Are A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Electric Light Orchestra is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of its immense run of chart success and for its distinctive blend of orchestral and progressive rock, particularly in its core run of success in the mid-to-late 1970′s. ELO has multiple distinctive signature songs that have endured to this day. Jeff Lynne, even apart from his work with ELO, is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because his songwriting and production work was important in numerous pivotal rock & roll albums in the 1980′s and 1990′s, including the Beatles Anthology. The Traveling Wilburys are a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because they achieved mainstream and creative success as a supergroup of numerous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, who have traditionally been inducted even with modest to nonexistent chart success. How none of these three have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is remarkable. It should be noted in fairness at least that the Traveling Wilburys only become eligible to be nominated in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, though, so perhaps their wait will not be too long.

Why ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys Are A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (Repeated For Emphasis)

Electric Light Orchestra is a no-brainer for its distinctive orchestral sound and its massive success, including a long run of notable success with numerous signature songs. Along with Chicago [9], ELO is the most popular 1970′s act that has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Jeff Lynne is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, even apart from ELO, because his songs and production work on seminal songs and albums have made an enduring and massive contribution to music, dramatically improving and prolonging the careers of major Rock & Roll acts, including Hall of Fame acts like Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Tom Petty, and George Harrison. Likewise, the Traveling Wilburys is a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of the way in which the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame loves to reward those who have already been inducted for their work in supergroups, and by that standard the Traveling Wilburys should not have long to wait for their own induction as soon as they are eligible.

Why Aren’t ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ The Traveling Wilburys In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Traveling Wilburys aren’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because they will not be counted as eligible until 2013. At least that is a straightforward answer. Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his production and songwriting work because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has traditionally honored label heads and studio-based songwriting teams more than actually great producers and songwriters for the most part. And Electric Light Orchestra has not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of the longstanding bias against orchestral (Emerson, Lake, And Palmer) and progressive (too many to mention) rock & roll groups. Ultimately speaking, none of these reasons are good enough to keep them out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Verdict: In 2013 the Traveling Wilburys become eligible for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. At the very least, honoring ELO (along with some of the other long-denied bands from the 1970′s) and honoring Jeff Lynne for his songwriting and production work would help right the injustice that Jeff Lynne is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yet at all, which is a travesty in a Hall of Fame that is full of them.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Rock_and_Roll_Hall_of_Fame_inductees#Multiple_inductees

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELO

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Light_Orchestra_discography

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_Wilburys

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Yardbirds_discography

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Springfield

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Faces_discography

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faces_discography

[9] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-chicago/

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34 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: ELO/ Jeff Lynne/ Traveling Wilburys

  1. M says:

    I don’t know why you bother so much about Rock n Roll hall of fame. It looks like a joke to me

    • I write a blog entry about it a month. That’s hardly bothering about it a lot. It’s part of my broader and more general interest in the lack of legitimacy of governments and social institutions.

  2. It begs the ? :What r the qualifications? Jeff Lynne easily qualifies for any All-Time honor that covers the rocknroll era.ELO was heavily influenced by the Beatles but surpasses them,IMO,even as a pure rock band.If the rap on him is that he was a rip off and too poppish -maybe valid- the H of F would have to purge most,if not all,its members,starting with the Beatles.Unless he gets involved in a drug scandal or dies from an overdose,I wouldn’t be surprised if John Belushi beats hin there.

    • I don’t really know what the criteria is for entrance. I must say that I was familiar with the music of ELO and albums produced by Jeff Lynne (particularly by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Roy Orbison) long before I was familiar with the name of Jeff Lynne or ELO. And I suspect that is not an uncommon experience. Sometimes the deeds of people just need to be better known and recognized, and if I can find it out, certainly the people at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame can do so.

  3. It’s a tribute to Jeff Lynne & ELO that their music trumps their celebrity.”Total music”is what he called the period,1977,between single and double LPs -no movies,cartoons,endorsements,talkshows,scandals,Yokos or Biancas.So,does Hall of Fame literally reward fame or acknowledge historic contributions so as to guarantee eternal fame? If the latter,it’s a necessity he be elected;if the former,which I suspect,and given the Rock establishments’ reverence for the Beatles,Pete Best will get there first.Or Aunt Mimi.What a joke.

    • Well, I’m not sure if ELO is going to get in, but I agree that their musical legacy is worthy of such recognition, even if they do not have the “celebrity” factor that the R&R HOF seems to value.

  4. Michael Raper says:

    Snubbing ELO as not part of Rocks greats is nothing less than a travesty!
    MR

  5. MacArthur Mellor says:

    A friend let me borrow ” Flashback” from Electric Orchestra and I have been listening to it almost every day for a few months. I couldn’t believe how many songs I knew from the 70′s 80′s that ELO did! I really had no idea how good they really are! Without a doubt Jeff Lynne is a musical
    GENIUS! I bought the ZOOM DVD and it is INCREDIBLE ! also watched Mr Blue sky on palladia TV – WHAT AN INCREDIBLE TALENT !! As Michael Raper said in a post I ready ! That ELO is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame is a TRAVESTY !!! Certainly hope they and or Jeff Lynne gets inducted- as he is one of the top talents of our time!! MacArthur Mellor Boston

    • I wholeheartedly agree. I was pretty shocked when I saw that Jeff Lynne had not been inducted at all in any capacity into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, much less two or three times.

  6. John Peter Petrone says:

    ELO is one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time, their body of work speaks for itself. i belieive they will eventually get into the RRHOF, but of course it will be long overdue whenever they do get in.

  7. Mark says:

    I agree completely. Jeff Lynne Should definitely be in here. …. a long time ago. He belongs in at least twice…maybe three times.
    I was listening to Rock and Roll Heaven by the Rightest Brothers and it seems like of all the people in that song, Jim Croce is the only one not in. I think he deserves it too. I also think Gordon Lightfoot should be in there…

    • Gordon Lightfoot is on my list of names to consider. Jim Croce is really tempting too, even if his career was so short, but other singer/songwriters with longer careers should probably go in first. Jeff Lynne is a no-brainer, though. He’s the only member of the Traveling Wilburies not to be in already, though I don’t think the Hall is likely to add him as a producer. ELO is an obviously worthy pick, though.

      • tornado1959 says:

        This is the first blog I’ve ever been a part of. I’m not real good with computers, but I feel so strong about Jeff Lynne being in the Hall of Fame that I “forced” myself to do what I had to do. I just can’t think of ANY reason Jeff Lynne shouldn’t be in there. The fact he is not makes me question the legitimacy ….especially since so many people are in more than once… As far as criteria… it seems like all the people (those still living) that Jeff Lynne has worked with would speak up and put a little pressure on the Hall to support his induction…??

      • Yes I would tend to think that they would, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction process is rather byzantine.

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  11. Dan says:

    I cannot believe they inducted Linda Ronstadt and Jeff Lynne is left out. But, honestly, he’ll never worry about such trivial matters. He has already shown what a true artist is. They speak through their music and put their craft ahead of any accolades bestowed upon them.

    • I happen to think that’s the case. Jeff Lynne as a musician as well as a producer certainly has nothing to worry about concerning his own legacy. Everytime someone listens to “Mr. Blue Sky” or the Beatles’ “Free As A Bird” or “Real Love” or Huey Lewis’ “Do You Believe In Love?” or his supergroup’s song “Handle Me With Care” or Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever” album, his legacy will be appreciated.

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  17. Riker says:

    Jeff Lynne should definitely be in the RRHOF due to his contribution and influence on Rock and Roll music. ELO AND the Wilbury’s too.

    I just think it’s of importance to Jeff to make it a big deal. I wager that of it was, he could ask Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Dave Stewart and scores of other RRHOF members to get him in. However, Jeff is a bit of a recluse and it doesn’t seem that big of deal to him.

    ELO could have been an even bigger Supergroup than they were had Jeff been more open to publicity and all the adulation.

    Jeff’s friends know how great he is and that he had fun doing what he did. That seems to be what’s important to him, not the RRHOF.

    • I don’t know Jeff at all, but I think you’re probably right that he’s not about the celebrity culture but he places a great deal of value in his friendships and in helping to make and produce great music.

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