It’s time for three of the most significant figures in music history to get their flowers. Chaka Khan, Missy Elliott, DJ Kool Herc, and the late Soul Train host and creator Don Cornelius will be formally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday night. The show will be livestreamed for the first time in its history on Friday, Nov. 3 on Disney+.
They are among the 2023 class of inductees that includes The Spinners, Willie Nelson, George Michael, Rage Against the Machine, and Sheryl Crow. This year’s class will be honored by H.E.R., Dave Matthews, Stevie Nicks, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah and New Edition.
“This year’s incredible group of Inductees reflects the diverse artists and sounds that define rock & roll,” John Sykes, chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said in a statement. “We are honored that this November’s Induction Ceremony in New York will coincide with two milestones in music culture; the 90th birthday of Willie Nelson and the 50th Anniversary of the birth of hip hop.”
The 2023 class is especially significant as it highlights milestone moments in Black music history. Four of the inductees – Khan, DJ Kool Herc, Don Cornelius, and Missy Elliott – represent the expansion and evolution of Black culture. Here’s a little more about each of them:
DJ KOOL HERC
DJ Kool Herc, 68, born Clive Campbell in Jamaica, is considered the creator of hip-hop. He was a Bronx-based DJ who is credited for establishing the breakbeats that are the foundation of the genre.
Influenced by Jamaica’s dancehall scene and the “toasting” which DJs would do over records at parties, he brought that to his new city, throwing parties in the community room at his high-rise apartment building.
He gave a party for his sister, Cindy, outside of that building at 1520 Sedgwick Ave., on Aug. 11, 1973. That is now widely viewed as the day the Hip-Hop era began. He goes in the Musical Influence category.
The late Don Cortez Cornelius was a Chicago police officer turned radio and TV host who founded Soul Train on WCIU in Chicago in 1970. He is arguably the most important figure in music in that era, introducing, showcasing, and amplifying Black music acts who, at that time, were marginalized on television.
Cornelius’ show went into syndication in 1971, becoming the Saturday morning destination for millions of viewers around the country promoting Black music, artists, and dancers. During its 36-year run, the show was advertised as the “longest-running first-run, nationally syndicated program in American television history.” (That distinction was ultimately surpassed by Wheel of Fortune in 2018 in non-news shows.)
By the time Cornelius died at the age of 75 in 2012, Soul Train had become an American institution, with a documentary, a TV series, and a book. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which recognizes non-musicians who’ve influenced the culture.
Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. Khan, 70, born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, is arguably the most underrated artist of her generation. Yes, she’s a recognizable name, but Khan is among the most versatile female vocalists of the modern era, recording in multiple genres, including jazz, funk, rock, R&B, soul, and hip-hop.
In 1984, she and Grandmaster Flash remade Prince’s “I Feel For You,” becoming the first ever hip-hop/R&B collaboration in music history. As the frontwoman for the ’70s band Rufus, Khan created such funk/soul classics as “Tell Me Something Good,” “Everlasting Love” “What You Gonna Do For Me” and other songs. The ten-time Grammy Award winner goes into the Hall as a Musical Excellence recipient.
Melissa Arnette Elliott, 52, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, coming of age during the hip-hop era. With her friend Timothy Mosley, who would later become super producer Timbaland, she formed the girl group Fayze, eventually catching the attention of Jodeci’s Devante Swing. He renamed the group Sista and Mosley became Timbaland, setting off both Elliott’s and Mosley’s careers.
Missy found solo success with her 1997 debut Supa Dupa Fly, which went platinum due to its addictive beats and Elliott’s groundbreaking vivid visual style (in conjunction with video director Hype Williams). Elliott won four Grammys, has six platinum albums, and would go on to produce an array of hits for other musicians, including Aaliyah and Total. Her career as a rapper, vocalist, producer, songwriter, and peerless live performer inspired a generation of artists. She’s inducted in the Performer category.
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