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FOX News Struggles to Define “Rock”

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FOX News Struggles to Define “Rock”

Fox News’s Roger Friedman has called for a boycott of Rolling Stone. The magazine’s publisher, Jann Wenner, is also the founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it seems Friedman is a little peeved by this year’s list of nominees for induction: Madonna, Beastie Boys, Leonard Cohen, Chic, Donna Summer, John Mellencamp, Afrika Bambaataa, Dave Clark Five, and The Ventures. Friedman’s chief complaint (though it’s hard to suss out an actual argument amidst all the racist, right-wing nonsensicality) seems to be that these artists don’t represent “rock” as defined by the white straight American male.

Friedman lists the R&B performers who have been left out in the cold (you know, like Tina Turner), but then illogically criticizes Chic’s nomination because they’re “not rock.” Yes, disco is gay. And yes, Friedman is apparently a homophobe. “Summer was a disco act. For her to get in before [Linda] Ronstadt is a joke. Mellencamp at least plays rock.” The litany of ignorant statements goes on ad nauseam: “Afrika Bambaataa and the Beastie Boys: Are they kidding? Even the latter must be laughing. They had one big hit, ’You’ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party.’ The former, while I’m sure quite lovely, is a record-scratcher with a great name. Each of these belongs in a Rap Hall of Fame.” The assertion about the Beastie Boys could clearly only be made by someone who is unaware of the trio’s litany of successes and millions sold since that “one hit” 25 years ago (to which he graciously added five words to the title), while Summer and Bambaattaa are two of the most influential artists of the past three decades. The latter’s impact can still be heard on pop radio today.

As for Madonna, Friedman’s arch nemesis, he offers this: “She’s not a rocker, she has a thin voice and she doesn’t write all of her own material,” points which are all either irrelevant or just plain untrue. Madonna’s music has always been rooted in R&B, soul, and disco, but punk was also an early influence and her spirit and attitude is pure, unadulterated rock n’ roll. Friedman even finds fault with Leonard Cohen, one of the most respected singer-songwriters alive: “Cohen’s songs have not had nearly the same impact on rock as those by Jimmy Webb.” Or Neil Sedaka! Or Neil Diamond! How are these artists any more “rock” than this year’s list of nominees? The nature of the Hall of Fame is such that only a handful of artists are inducted in any given year. And with each year bringing artists who are newly eligible to the judging table, it makes it increasingly difficult for older acts like Sedaka or Ronstadt who were passed on in previous years to make the cut or even come up for consideration again.

“If you’re still reading or buying Rolling Stone, it’s time to stop,” Friedman declares. It’s worth noting that Rolling Stone is notoriously liberal, printing editorials that exposed the truth about the war in Iraq and criticizing George W. Bush long before it was in fashion to do so. A few of the high-profile nominees Friedman objects to have engaged in this kind of dissent as well—and have endured the kinds of retaliation Fox is now proposing.

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.