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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will induct wide range of artists for 2017 class

Debate has arisen before over how strict a definition of rock 'n' roll must be observed when selecting musicians for the Hall of Fame. This year, inductees include artists such as Tupac Shakur and Joan Baez.

Rap music star Tupac Shakur attends the MTV Music Video Awards in New York, New York on Sept. 4, 1996.
Mike Segar/Reuters
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Artists including singer Joan Baez, rapper Tupac Shakur, and the band Electric Light Orchestra will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as the class of 2017. 

Six acts in total will be inducted this year and the others who will be part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are the bands Pearl Jam, Journey, and Yes. 

Meanwhile, Nile Rodgers of the group Chic will be the recipient of the Award for Musical Excellence.

The question of who has and has not been inducted and who should be there is a topic that always seems to stir debate. Music fans often decry the exclusion of certain acts while others are included.

And with the new inductees, debate will likely arise again over whether the new members fit what some see as the definition of rock ‘n’ roll.

Observers have noted in the past the intriguing nature of picks such as hip-hop group N.W.A., which was inducted last year. “This Compton, Calif., group represents by far the most unconventional selection in a Hall of Fame class that is rounded out by classic-rock radio favorites from the late 1960s and ’70s,” New York Times writer Joe Coscarelli wrote at the time.

Joel Peresman, CEO of the Hall of Fame, told USA Today he sees the wide-ranging styles embraced by this year’s inductees as an asset

“Rock and roll means so many things to so many different people,” Mr. Peresman said. “To have a class that has everything from Joan Baez to Tupac Shakur, from Pearl Jam to Yes, is terrific. It gives a lot of people something to hang onto.” 

Many see Ms. Baez and Mr. Shakur as the two most unusual inductees for the Hall.

But with hip-hop groups like N.W.A., the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy all having been inducted into the Hall of Fame previously, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic sees the question of whether hip-hop artists like Shakur should be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a moot one. 

“With five hip-hop acts now in the hall it would seem like the question has been settled,” Mr. Kornhaber wrote when Shakur was nominated. “That’s just the way it is.”

Ms. Baez said in a statement that she herself was surprised that her music was seen as fitting the criteria for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but was nonetheless happy to be included. 

“I never considered myself to be a rock and roll artist," Baez said. "But as part of the folk music boom which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the Sixties, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon. I very much appreciate this honor and acknowledgement by the Hall of Fame.”

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