does jackie deshannon belong in the rock & roll hall of fame?

DOES JACKIE De­SHANNON be­long in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Making an ar­gu­ment for her or any artist is not easy for two rea­sons. First, the Hall does not have any set of cri­teria by which fans can as­sess po­ten­tial can­di­dates. Each year each vote ap­pears to be a re­flec­tion of the mood of the nom­i­na­tors and voters of that year.

Some “journeyman”-type artists ap­pear to have been in­ducted due to their Top 40 hits and their Gold Record Awards (think of Chicago and the Doobie Brothers). Other artists with few or even no hits and min­imal sales ap­pear to have been in­ducted based on their “in­flu­ence” on other artists (think of Buf­falo Spring­field and the Velvet Underground).

“Jackie De­Shannon was a behind-the-scenes in­no­vator in the cre­ation of folk-rock.”

Also, re­cent artists have to be in­ducted reg­u­larly to keep young people in­ter­ested in the whole af­fair, re­gard­less of how du­bious their con­nec­tion to rock & roll music. (Think of any country or rap artist.)

After all, the Hall of Fame is a com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion and must look to its own fu­ture. Most people under the age of 30 know al­most nothing about anyone from pop and rock music’s past ex­cept for a handful of su­per­stars. (Think artists on the level of Elvis, Bea­tles, Beach Boys, Stones, Dylan, Queen, etc.)

These and other mat­ters do not auger well for artists from the ever more dis­tant past with ten­uous claims on a place in the Hall’s pan­theon. Or what I call bor­der­line prospects—tal­ented, ac­com­plished artists who haven’t done any­thing “sparkly” to catch the Hall’s attention.

 

Jackie DeShannon belong: photo of Jackie DeShannon from 1969.
Jackie De­Shannon was a rather pho­to­genic young woman, al­though you would not nec­es­sarily know that from the im­ages se­lected for her album covers by var­ious record com­pa­nies over the years. This is one of my fa­vorite photos of her, which was not used on any album cover.

Songwriter’s Hall of Fame

The second reason that it’s dif­fi­cult to argue for Jackie DeShannon’s in­duc­tion is that she is one of those bor­der­line prospects! De­spite her ob­vious singing and song­writing talent—neither of which any sane ob­server would deny—and her ar­dent fans’ en­thu­siasm, she has very little upon which to stake her claim.

In an ear­lier in­car­na­tion of this ar­ticle from a year ago, I stated the following: 

“In June 2010, Na­tional Public Radio an­nounced that singer-songwriter Jackie De­Shannon will be in­ducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I have no idea who would leak er­ro­neous in­for­ma­tion to NPR, but she was not in­ducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. At the same time, she was in­ducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. It may have been that NPR con­fused the one Hall with the other.”

I double-checked that state­ment when I wrote the orig­inal ar­ticle two years ago. But when I went looking on­line for that state­ment for this ar­ticle in 2021, I could not find any­thing about it but an­other blog. It may have been that NPR con­fused the one Hall with the other, made the an­nounce­ment, and has since deleted all posts with that error from the ac­tive in­ternet. Or it may be that the error was mine.

Ei­ther way, it does not ap­pear that Jackie De­Shannon has been given any re­ally se­rious con­sid­er­a­tion for the Hall of Fame by the Hall’s nom­i­na­tors, de­spite her being el­i­gible since 1989. Need­less to say, this does not bode well for her chances in the next few years (and she will be 80 years old later this year).

 

Jackie DeShannon belong: the Byrds' MR. TAMBOURINE MAN album from 1965.
The Byrds’ first album MR. TAMBOURINE MAN was one of the hippest al­bums of 1965. It sur­prised a great many people to learn that the group in­cluded a rocking reading of Jackie DeShannon’s Don’t Doubt Your­self Babe along­side Dylan and Seeger. It im­me­di­ately be­stowed cool cre­den­tials on a song­writer few of us had heard of at that time. Pic­tured here is the US mono album (Co­lumbia CL-2372).

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Aside from her song­writing cre­den­tials, Jackie De­Shannon was a fine singer and one of the first soulful white pop singers. Her com­plete body of recorded work is very im­pres­sive. I’ll bet you dol­lars to donuts that most his­to­rians and Hall of Fame nom­i­na­tors and voters have begun to ap­pre­ciate the en­tirety of her work in the ’60s, let alone what followed.

Jackie as a hitmaker

We can’t make an ar­gu­ment for her as a dom­i­nant pres­ence on the charts. For most people, her en­tire rep­u­ta­tion as an artist re­lies on her two Top 10 hits, What The World Needs Now Is Love in 1965 and Put A Little Love In Your Heart in 1969. After those two block­busters, she only reached the Top 40 one more time.

She placed a total of sev­en­teen sides on ei­ther the Bill­board Hot 100 or the Cash Box Top 100. Most of these spent a couple of weeks in the lower rungs of those sur­veys and then dis­ap­peared. Ef­fec­tively, this means that the vast ma­jority of Top 40 radio lis­teners never heard any of these records, even once.

Jackie as a best seller

We can’t make an ar­gu­ment for her as a dom­i­nant pres­ence in the mar­ket­place ei­ther. In the more than sixty years since her first record was re­leased, she still doesn’t have a single RIAA Gold Record Award.

Her two hits (cited above) cer­tainly sold more than a mil­lion copies each glob­ally, not do­mes­ti­cally. So, she wasn’t ac­knowl­edged by ei­ther the singles-buyers or the album-buyers as big enough during her heyday.

Aside from her song­writing and singing skill, is there any­thing else we can present as an ar­gu­ment for her induction?

 

SurfParty soundtrack LP m 800x

CMonLetsLiveALittle soundtrack LP s 600
Jackie De­Shannon ap­peared in a pair of (teen ex­ploita­tion) mu­sical movies: Surf Party with Bobby Vinton in 1963 and C’Mon Let’s Live A Little with Bobby Vee in 1967. They prob­ably shouldn’t be in­cluded on her el­i­gi­bility form for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The influential Jackie DeShannon

So, we’re not going to get Jackie De­Shannon into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a mas­sively pop­ular maker of hits and seller of records. But we can argue as her being an “in­flu­en­tial” artist, as her early ’60s record­ings an­tic­i­pate as­pects of the folk-rock of the mid-’60s.

Un­for­tu­nately, key mem­bers of the rock in­tel­li­gentsia and those critics who in­ter­preted and de­ter­mined the his­tory and meaning of rock back in the ’70s and ’80—especially those as­so­ci­ated with Craw­daddy and Rolling Stone magazines—never made this ar­gu­ment. Had that be done—had she been rec­og­nized as “in­flu­en­tial” rather than just a fine artist who never made it to the Big Time of com­mer­cial success—it cer­tainly should have had an im­pact on the Hall of Fame nom­i­na­tors and voters. 

In his ex­cel­lent his­tory of Turn! Turn! Turn! – The ’60s Folk-Rock Rev­o­lu­tion, Richie Unterberger:

“De­Shannon, like the Searchers and others dove­tailing with folk-rock, has been over­looked by his­to­rians doc­u­menting the gen­esis of the folk-rock sound. Nee­dles And Pins (re­leased in April 1963) marked what was prob­ably the first ap­pear­ance of the ‘classic’ ringing, re­peated folk-rock guitar riff on record, played by well-traveled ses­sion man Glen Campbell.

DeShannon’s songs, though an­chored to ro­mantic angst, were clearly some­thing more per­sonal than the usual Top 40 trivia. In­formed by her in­fat­u­a­tion with Bob Dylan’s early work, they were col­ored by an adult sen­su­ality in both the words and the fetching-yet-earthy delivery.

As one who ab­sorbed folk sen­si­bil­i­ties into rock rather than going the more usual route from folk to rock, she was a pi­o­neer. De­Shannon would not, for all her early ground­breaking, make folk-rock the focus of an un­nerv­ingly eclectic ca­reer.” (Turn! Turn! Turn!, page 88-90)

In his bi­og­raphy of De­Shannon for All Music, Steve Legget states:

“She was among the first artists to re­alize that folk and pop could work to­gether and was a behind-the-scenes in­no­vator in the cre­ation of folk-rock. And she did it all with style and grace, singing with a sexy, husky voice full of en­er­getic pas­sion and writing songs that grace­fully be­lied the craft be­hind them. By all ac­counts, she should be a house­hold name in­stead of just a re­spected rock & roll footnote.”

Blogger Peter Lerner may go a tad over­board in calling her the “vir­tual in­ventor of Amer­ican folk-rock,” but I would cer­tainly look for­ward to an ar­ticle making that ar­gu­ment as it could prove en­light­ening. But at this time, the Hall isn’t ap­par­ently paying much at­ten­tion to blog­gers such as Lerner.

 

JackieDeShannon PutALittleLoveInYourHeart PS Germany 700

JackieDeShannon PutALittleLove PS France 800
These are the pic­ture sleeves for the German (top) and French (bottom) records for the 1969 hit single Put A Little Love In Your Heart. The German sleeve is kind of cheesy, making Jackie look like a mod model from Sev­en­teen mag­a­zine. The French sleeve is a dif­ferent story en­tirely with a close-up photo that makes Jackie’s nat­ural beauty the focal point.

For want of one killer album

Prob­ably worse, there’s no One Great Jackie De­Shannon Album that they can point to and go ga-ga over. In fact, most of Jackie’s al­bums are in­con­sis­tent in terms of quality. Of course, this was the norm for most artists of the time—especially “pop artists” and es­pe­cially fe­male pop artists.

And, since nothing was hit­ting for her reg­u­larly, she was all over the map in terms of style, recording rock & roll, soul, pop, folk-rock, and even a lot of easy-listening stan­dards. While this can be used to argue for her ver­sa­tility, it doesn’t give his­to­rians a sense of who she was as “an artist.”

“Jackie De­Shannon should be a house­hold name in­stead of just a re­spected rock & roll footnote.”

An ex­ample is Dusty Springfield’s album DUSTY IN MEMPHIS from 1969. The im­por­tance of this one record to her el­e­va­tion to the status of critics’ su­per­star cannot be over­stated. And it all turned on one thing: Greil Marcus’s re­view of the album in the No­vember 1, 1969, issue of Rolling Stone.

Most record re­viewers at that time were way too hip to be paying at­ten­tion to chick singers noted for dit­ties like I Only Want To Be With You and Wishin’ And Hopin’ and other sac­cha­rine pop records.

Marcus’s en­thu­si­astic re­view baf­fled not only many readers but also turned the heads of many rock-writers (few of whom con­sid­ered them­selves to be “critics”). DUSTY IN MEMPHIS helped de­fine Dusty as an artist and re­de­fine what she had done prior to 1969.

The hit sin­gles that had been dis­missed as “pop”—a den­i­grating term at the time for most of us “se­rious” rock fans—were re-evaluated and Ms. Springfield’s star as­cended up the pan­theon of ac­cept­ably groovy artists, a po­si­tion she still holds decade later.

Alas, Ms. De­Shannon never made such an album and there­fore never was the sub­ject of a rev­e­la­tory, trans­for­ma­tive review.

 

Jackie DeShannon belong: Dusty Springfield's DUSTY IN MEMPHIS album from 1969.
Dusty Springfield’s 1969 album DUSTY IN MEMPHIS was recorded at Chips Moman’s Amer­ican Sound Studio using the house band. It be­came a critics’ fave and turned their per­cep­tion of the singer around.

Another side of Jackie

Richie Un­ter­berger wrapped up his sum­ma­tion of Jackie De­Shannon by looking at an un­re­leased album from 1965:

“There does exist a rare LP, recorded for her pub­lisher Metric Music, of twelve demos on which she’s ac­com­pa­nied only by echoing acoustic guitar. Boasting in­ternal rhyme schemes that seem in­flu­enced by many nights of lis­tening to ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN, It con­tains heartrend­ingly sung, slightly raw, and won­der­fully haunting compositions.

Re­flecting the doubt, con­fu­sion, and ex­cite­ment of finding one’s adult iden­tity, these in­clude ver­sions of Don’t Doubt Your­self Babe, recorded by the Byrds on their first album, and the stun­ning minor-keyed With You In Mind, cov­ered by Mar­i­anne Faith­full. It is the only glimmer of what might have been if De­Shannon had taken her folk-rock lean­ings to a higher level.” (Turn! Turn! Turn!, page 90)

Per­haps this could have been the one album that trans­formed De­Shannon from pop singer to rock artist. A bootleg album ti­tled Don’t Doubt Your­self Babe: Acoustic Demos was is­sued that ap­par­ently in­cludes all these demos. In­stead of an album like this, Jackie re­leased sev­en­teen al­bums for five record com­pa­nies be­tween 1963 and 1978, al­most all of which were geared to­wards soulful pop—easy lis­tening music for my generation.

 

Jackie DeShannon belong: Jackie DeShannon's DON'T DOUBT YOURSELF BABE bootleg album.
Jackie DeShannon’s DON’T DOUBT YOURSELF BABE is a bootleg album that col­lects the acoustic demos she recorded in 1965 in a folk-rock vein(and noted above). It is a very hard record to find.

So, does Jackie DeShannon belong?

As I write this, there are 338 in­ductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Many of these in­ductees are “ques­tion­able” for many rea­sons. Hell’s Belles, there are artists in the Hall that I like, that I re­spect, and that I listen to that I would not have voted for be­cause they don’t be­long there. (Louis Arm­strong and Chet Atkins spring to mind.)

As for my bor­der­line artists, I would rather the Hall elect a few artists who may not de­serve in­duc­tion than not elect those who do de­serve in­duc­tion. So, why not Jackie De­Shannon? Well, if we apply the cri­teria that ap­pear to have gotten Chicago and the Doo­bies (and ABBA and the Dave Clark 5 and the Jackson 5 and others) in­ducted into the Hall, then, no, she does not make the grade.

If we apply the cri­teria that ap­pear to have been re­spon­sible for get­ting Buf­falo Spring­field (and the Velvet Un­der­ground and Grand­master Flash & the Fu­rious Five and the Paul But­ter­field Blues Band and others) into the Hall, she just might break on through to the other side and find a place along­side “the influencers.”

If you credit the folk-rock of Dylan and the Byrds with bringing adult lyrics and themes to rock and pop music—showing the Bea­tles, the Stones, the Kinks, etc., an al­ter­na­tive to lyrics about love and lust in the Tin Pan Alley tradition—then Jackie’s con­tri­bu­tions should el­e­vate her stature among critics and his­to­rians and, hope­fully, the folks at the Rock & Roll Hall.

 

KimCarnes BetteDavisEyes PS 800
In 1974, Donna Weiss and Jackie De­Shannon wrote Bette Davis Eyes, which Jackie recorded for her NEW ARRANGEMENT ALBUM. In 1981, Kim Carnes recorded the song and it be­came the #1 song of the year on the Bill­board and won Grammy Awards for both the Song of the Year and the Record of the Year. It was the cap­stone to DeShannon’s ca­reer as a songwriter.

Would I vote for Jackie DeShannon?

I de­cided to count the artists al­ready in the Hall who I be­lieve should have had to wait for Jackie’s in­duc­tion. (And I am not im­peaching the in­duc­tion of these artists, only the order in which they were in­ducted.) I didn’t know what number I would find but fig­ured it wouldn’t be all that big.

I went al­pha­bet­i­cally, so the first artist I be­lieve should have had to wait was ABBA. I stopped counting at the Doobie Brothers. I had twenty-four names and I hadn’t reached the fifth letter of the al­phabet!

So, would I vote for Jackie De­Shannon in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? 

Hell, yes!

In 1981, Kim Carnes recorded 'Bette Davis Eyes' and it be­came the #1 song of the year on the Bill­board and won Grammys as Song of the Year and Record of the Year. It was also the cap­stone to Jackie DeShannon's ca­reer as a song­writer. Click To Tweet

Jackie DeShannon belong: Jackie DeShannon on stage in 2011

 

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Great ar­ticle Neal, and yes, I would vote for her!

I also love Dusty in Mem­phis, and to me, the dif­fer­ence is that At­lantic records were very in­ter­ested in Dusty, and wanted to record her with a sym­pa­thetic and sup­portive group of mu­si­cians who could play with an au­thentic soul/R&B feel. So they gave her album some se­rious cred­i­bility right out of the gate.

Without looking at a time­line, my sus­pi­cious na­ture might lead me to be­lieve that At­lantic had al­ready had suc­cess with Aretha, and maybe they thought they could do the same thing with Dusty. In any event, yes Jackie is de­serving, al­though I do not have much in­terest in the scammy R&R HOF. (No Guess Who!)

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