On the Beat

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of ’18 includes Nina Simone, Bon Jovi and others

Nina Simone, a North Carolina native, performs at Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 1985. Simone will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in April.
Nina Simone, a North Carolina native, performs at Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 1985. Simone will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in April. AP

North Carolina native Nina Simone has been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s in the 2018 class alongside Bon Jovi, Moody Blues, Dire Straits, The Cars and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. They’ll all be inducted April 14 at the hall in Cleveland.

Born in Tryon in 1933, Simone was a wide-ranging singer known as “The High Priestess of Soul” – fluent in jazz and classical as well as R&B. In 1963, she wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to civil-rights worker Medgar Evers’ murder and the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing that killed four young girls. The song made Simone an icon of the civil-rights era, even if she believed it ultimately harmed her career.

“In the early parts of her career, she performed for largely white audiences in supper clubs,” said Duke University African American studies professor and scholar Mark Anthony Neal. “They kind of gave her a pass even though she was on the front lines of civil rights, until that song. ‘Mississippi Goddam’ changed everything.”

Since her death in 2003, Simone has been the subject of numerous projects, including multiple box-set reissues and a move to potentially turn her birth home in Tryon into a museum. Last year, the 2015 documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” was nominated for an Academy Award.

This fall, Polish-born crochet artist Olek assembled a huge pink and orange Simone mural on an exterior wall of the Raleigh Convention Center. Olek selected Simone as a mural subject in part to help the singer’s Hall of Fame chances.

In October, the hall announced 19 nominees for the 2018 class, and Simone was on the ballot for the first time. The hall’s main voting body consists of 900-plus musicians, historians and music-industry members, with additional input from an online fan vote.

All of the top four vote getters in the fan vote made it in, topped by Bon Jovi at 1.1 million votes (more than 100,000 ahead of the Moody Blues in second place).

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Bon Jovi in concert at PNC Arena in Raleigh in 2013. The band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in April. Scott Sharpe TNS

Simone finished 10th in the fan vote, and Tharpe even lower. But both were influential enough to be voted in by the hall’s main voting body.

Meanwhile, it’s another chorus of “wait til next year” for another North Carolina act on the ballot, Dunn native Link Wray of “Rumble” fame. Once again, he didn’t make it in.

Wray, who died in 2005, was a huge influence as a rock-guitar pioneer. His estate also tried to drum up support by putting out a long-lost recording that was recently found, “Son of Rumble.”

But it wasn’t enough.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

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