37 LGBTQ Artists Who Should Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

lgbtq artists rock hall fame
Fred Schneider, Queen Latifah, Melissa Etheridge (Deposit Photos s_bukley/everett225/s_bukley)

In recent years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been inducting a growing number of LGBTQ artists, including George Michael, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, and Joan Jett.

They join legends like Elton John, Lou Reed, and Freddie Mercury, who have already been Hall members for years.

But the Hall could use a little more rainbow representation, don’t you think? Dozens of worthy artists who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender have not yet received their due from one of music’s most distinguished institutions.

From the B-52’s to Melissa Etheridge to Queen Latifah, here’s the most comprehensive list of overlooked acts who should be in the Rock Hall conversation.

LGBTQ Artists Already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Let’s start by reviewing the LGBTQ artists who have already been inducted. Obviously, many of the stars of the 20th century were more secretive about their private life. It’s likely that many gay artists never came out during their lifetimes.

Here’s the current list of folks we know of in the Rock Hall who identified as something other than heterosexual.

LGBTQ Artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with year of induction):
Little Richard (1986)
Bessie Smith (1989)
Ma Rainey (1990)
Elton John (1994)
Janis Joplin (1995)
David Bowie (1996)
Lou Reed (1996 with Velvet Underground; 2015 solo)
Dusty Springfield (1999)
Clive Davis (2000)
Billie Holiday (2000)
Queen (2001, Freddie Mercury)
R.E.M. (2007, Michael Stipe)
Laura Nyro (2012)
Joan Jett (2015)
Green Day (2015, Billie Joe Armstrong)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (2018)
T. Rex (2020, Marc Bolan)
Billy Preston (2021)
The Go-Go’s (2021, Gina Shock)
Judas Priest (2022, Rob Halford)
George Michael (2023)
Big Mama Thornton (2024)

The Rock Hall actually has an online Pride Collection of LGBTQ+ playlists, interviews, and archives.

Which LGBTQ Artists Should Be Inducted Into the Rock Hall Next?

Here’s our list of acts who deserve Rock Hall consideration. We’ll start with the top 15 obvious choices, followed by another group of strong contenders, followed by a final group of influential artists who may not currently be Hall candidates, but deserve to be mentioned.

Artists are eligible for the Rock Hall 25 years after the release of their first song or album. That means that anyone who debuted in 1999 or earlier is currently eligible, but many of today’s biggest stars (Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Brandi Carlile) are not yet eligible.

Before we begin, the obligatory disclaimer: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is no longer just for “rock” artists. It is a hall of fame designed to represent all genres of music. That’s why acts like Madonna, the Bee Gees, Abba, Jay-Z, and Whitney Houston have been inducted. So these artists all eligible, even if they’re not hard rock acts.

The No-Brainers: 15 LGBTQ Artists Who Deserve Immediate Induction

These are the top LGBTQ acts who the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be working to induct right now.

The B-52s

Though they’ve been eligible for the Rock Hall since 2004, the quirky B-52s have yet to receive a Rock Hall nomination. The group behind “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack” combined a punk rock energy with new wave, dance, alternative rock, and pop sounds to create a signature sound, led by Fred Schneider’s distinct sing-speak vocals.

The B-52s famously inspired John Lennon to return to music after a five-year hiatus. Four of the five original members identify as LGBTQ, making them one of the most prominent queer acts in music. Good news for the group: Their name has been mentioned more often in recent Rock Hall discussions, so they have a great chance to get inducted in the near future.

Nobody was quite like the B-52s, but similar-ish acts such as Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, and the Eurythmics have now been inducted, so the B-52s could be next in line. Read our in-depth analysis of the B-52s’ Rock Hall chances.

The Smiths

One of the most creative alternative rock acts of the 1980s, the Smiths found some magic with the combination of Johnny Marr’s searing guitar and Morrissey’s yearning vocals and dark but humorous lyrics.

The Smiths lit up the charts in their native U.K., but never had a major hit in the U.S., which kept them out of the Rock Hall conversation for many years. Rock critics acknowledge that tracks like “How Soon is Now?” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” have become classics. They’ve already been nominated for the Hall twice, so their chances are good.

Morrissey was assumed to be gay for many years, but never addressed the subject until his 2013 autobiography, in which he acknowledged a relationship with a man — though he confusingly told the press that he identifies not as gay but as “humasexual,” meaning “attracted to humans.”

Unfortunately, Morrissey has made news in recent years with his apparent embrace of far-right politics in Britain, turning off long-time fans and certainly some Rock Hall voters, which means the group may not get inducted for a long time.

Queen Latifah

The Rock Hall has opened its doors to rappers in recent years, inducting stars like Jay-Z, Eminem, and Missy Elliott, but somehow they’ve overlooked one of the most influential and successful female MCs in history.

From day one, Queen Latifah rapped about issues important to women, earning her respect and providing a much-needed perspective in a male-dominated genre.

She scored hits like “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y.”, then followed up her rap career by making an unexpected transition into a jazz singer, actress, and tv host, excelling in all areas and becoming an all-around entertainer.

Queen Latifah ended years of speculation about her orientation in 2021 by thanking her partner while accepting the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Hopefully, she’ll have the chance to thank her again in a Rock Hall acceptance speech.

Styx

Fans of the classic rock band Styx have long lamented their absence from the Rock Hall. The group established a legion of followers with ’70s hard rock hits like “Renegade” and “Too Much Time On My Hands,” plus piano ballads such as “Babe” and “Come Sail Away.”

Styx makes this list because of bassist Chuck Panozzo, who came out publicly as gay and HIV-positive in 2001. He has done a lot of advocacy work in the years since, and remains a part-time member of the band.

We predict Styx have a 50-50 shot to get inducted. Read our in-depth analysis of Styx’s Rock Hall chances.

Sinead O’Connor

Sinead O’Connor seemed to have a fluid sexuality, once coming out as a lesbian before later stating, “I’m three-quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay.”

Sadly, it took her sudden passing to earn her a posthumous 2024 nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which had ignored her for years.

Generally regarded by the public as a one-hit wonder due to the chart-topping Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U,” O’Connor had much more to offer than just one emotional ballad. She was always a critical favorite and had actually performed “Mandinka” at the Grammys in 1989, months before her biggest hit song was released.

Pet Shop Boys

The Rock Hall has precious few dance acts among its ranks. Let’s hope the Pet Shop Boys change that and join the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Madonna, and Janet Jackson to increase the dance-pop representation in the Hall of Fame.

The Pet Shop Boys deserve props for being one of the few groups of their era to regularly include LGBTQ references in their work. Their discography is right there at the same level as Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, two acts already inducted into the Hall, and they brought a level of artsy sophistication that few others in their genre can claim.

The British duo recorded synthpop classics like “West End Girls,” “What Have I Done to Deserve This,” “It’s a Sin,” and “Always On My Mind.” Frontman Neil Tennant came out 30 years ago and was one of the few musicians to speak out against Eminem’s homophobic lyrics, mocking him in the 2002 song “The Night I Fell in Love.”

Lesley Gore

Younger listeners not familiar with Lesley Gore should think of her as the Olivia Rodrigo of her day. She was a teen pop star way back in 1963 and often sang about finding strength amidst youthful heartbreak. She passed away in 2015, but spent the last decade of her life speaking out for LGBTQ rights after she came out.

Gore was best known for the classic, Quincy Jones-produced hit “It’s My Party,” which made her a star at age 16, and for the timeless feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me.” She performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, earned Grammy and Oscar nominations, and remains one of the best pop stars not yet inducted in the Hall.

Luther Vandross

Few crooners had the smooth and soulful voice that Luther Vandross possessed. The powerhouse vocalist went from an R&B star in the ’80s to a breakout pop superstar, powered by hits like “Never Too Much,” “Stop to Love,” “Power of Love/Love Power,” the timeless wedding favorite “Here and Now,” and the Grammy Song of the Year-winning “Dance With My Father.”

Vandross was so respected that the biggest pop divas in the world lined up to record with him, from Dionne Warwick to Chaka Khan. He sang noteworthy duets with Mariah Carey (“Endless Love”), Janet Jackson (“The Best Things in Life are Free”), and Beyonce (“The Closer I Get to You.”)

Vandross never came out during his life, but his sexuality was an open secret in the music business. Patti LaBelle, Lenny Kravitz, queer writer Bruce Vilanch, basketball star John Salley, and others who knew Vandross have all confirmed he was gay.

Lucille Bogan

Like her fellow members of the “big three” of 1920s blues music — Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, both of whom have already been inducted into the Rock Hall — Bogan is believed to have been queer.

Bogan’s lyrics were so sexually explicit they would make anyone blush even today. She recorded songs like “B.D. Woman’s Blues,” a song that referenced bull dykes, as she sang, “Comin’ a time, B.D. women / They ain’t gonna need no men.”

Bogan also sang about men, as seen in “Shave ‘Em Dry,” a song so dirty we can’t even quote the lyrics here. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2022. Hopefully, the Rock Hall will be next.

Melissa Etheridge

In an industry full of closeted LGBTQ artists, Melissa Etheridge blew through the closet door by naming her breakout 1993 album Yes I Am.

She found her biggest mainstream success in the aftermath with “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” and continued her run of hits on subsequent albums with “I Want to Come Over” and “Your Little Secret.”

She’s one of the most successful female solo rockers in history, with six Gold or Platinum albums and 15 Grammy nominations. As for influence, she inspired Taylor Swift to play guitar — it doesn’t get more influential than that!

Buzzcocks

The late Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley lived the true punk rock lifestyle, hanging out with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, going hard on drugs and alcohol, and creating intense, catchy rock anthems.

He was also bisexual, and made a point to write gender-neutral songs like “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).” His punk rock often broke the mold by focusing not on anarchy, but on love and relationships, influencing songwriters like Morrissey and Billie Joe Armstrong.

Shelley’s 1981 solo single “Homosapien” even included same-sex pronouns and explicit references to sex, a rarity for that time. Bono and Bruce Springsteen were both Buzzcocks fans. The group helped shape the sound of what became pop-punk, yet they haven’t been given real Rock Hall consideration yet.

LaBelle

R&B legend Patti LaBelle has yet to be nominated for the Rock Hall, either as a solo artist or with her soul-funk group LaBelle, the band behind the 1974 classic “Lady Marmalade.” LaBelle’s music continues to make an impact, via samples in rap songs and appearances in feature films.

LaBelle singer Nona Hendryx came out years ago, telling The Advocate she’s attracted to men and women. She has spent time contributing to AIDS causes and charities, and performed on Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Tour supporting the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull had a unique sound that relied on flutes almost as much as guitars, melding it all into a progressive rock sound. They scored six Top 10 albums in the U.S. in the 1970s, including Aqualung, which produced the title track that became the band’s signature song. Read our analysis of Jethro Tull’s Rock Hall chances.

Former Jethro Tull member Dee Palmer was one of the first notable rock performers to transition. She was born intersex and assigned male at birth, before transitioning in 1998, many years after leaving the band.

Palmer was an arranger for the group for several years before joining as a keyboard player for four years. It’s unclear whether Palmer would be included if Jethro Tull gets inducted, given that the Rock Hall tends to be quite arbitrary in terms of deciding which members get honored.

Tracy Chapman

The best thing about Luke Combs’ 2023 no-frills remake of “Fast Car” was that it brought Tracy Chapman back into the spotlight, and even brought her back to the Grammy stage. The singer-songwriter had only two big hit singles in her career, the folky “Fast Car” and the bluesy “Give Me One Reason.” But her albums were consistently excellent.

Chapman has always been very private and has not addressed her sexuality, but she is considered a queer icon. Author Alice Walker has confirmed her relationship with Chapman in the 1990s.

Chapman has a large collection of outstanding album tracks that haven’t received their proper due, including “The Promise,” “Paper and Ink,” “Smoke and Ashes,” and “Devotion.” Even today, if Chapman ever decides to tour again, she could sell out venues in minutes.

Village People

If you consider the Village People nothing more than a novelty group, think again. The colorful disco troupe actually has quite a strong case for Rock Hall induction.

While their heyday was brief, their theatricality and campiness did influence a number of artists who came after. They became queer icons with hits like “Macho Man,” “In the Navy,” and “Go West.” At least two of the group’s original members came out as gay.

“YMCA” has already been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Village People were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the group deserves its props from the Rock Hall as well.

22 More LGBTQ Artists Who Merit Rock Hall Consideration

Here’s another group of artists who may not be in the running for immediate Rock Hall induction, but who deserve consideration at some point in the future.

Sia

Sia somehow went from “songwriter to the stars” to pop superstar in her own right, despite hiding her face behind silly wigs. Her lengthy track record of hits and her songwriting prowess could make the queer-identified performer a dark horse Hall candidate.

And she has the voice to match. “Chandelier” remains one of the greatest vocal performances in pop music history, right up there with anything by Whitney or Mariah.

If industry support plays a role in getting inducted, then Sia may have a real chance, considering that she’s collaborated with A-listers like Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Pink, Chaka Khan, Eminem, David Guetta, the Weeknd, and Kylie Minogue.

Johnny Mathis

Not many artists on this list have received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. That’s one of many honors received by crooner Johnny Mathis, who has released an astounding 73 studio albums since his 1956 self-titled debut.

Mathis hit #1 in 1957 with “Chances Are,” and again 21 years later with the Deniece Williams duet “Too Much, Too Little.” He racked up a total of 43 Hot 100 hits and once rivaled Frank Sinatra in terms of total album sales.

Mathis was unfortunately outed in 1982 when a reporter published an off-the-record comment Mathis made about his sexuality. He never recorded a substantial hit after that, but his musical legacy was already secure.

Sleater-Kinney

It’s almost impressive the way Sleater-Kinney released 11 albums over 30 years without ever earning anything that could be described as a hit single. Like the Velvet Underground, their music was never aimed at mainstream pop audiences, but their true impact went far beyond sales figures.

This all-female band blended punk, indie, and alternative sounds with a strong feminist and LGBTQ perspective, earning them a devoted cult following and icon status.

Over the years, many respected rock critics have named Sleater-Kinney one of the best bands in rock music. Paste calls them “one of the best indie rock bands to have ever existed.” St. Vincent, My Chemical Romance, and Spoon are just a few of the acts who were influenced by Sleater-Kinney.

Culture Club

Boy George and Culture Club created some of the catchiest and most memorable pop tunes of the ’80s, from “Karma Chameleon” to “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” to “Church of the Poison Mind.”

Though the band members (Roy Hay, Mikey Craig, Jon Moss) were underrated musicians, the group was known as much for its style as for its substance, which in some ways helped create the blueprint for the boy bands of the late ’90s.

Their 1983 release Colour By Numbers stands up as a five-star pop album to this day. Once acts like the B-52s and Pet Shop Boys are inducted, we hope the Hall will consider this underrated band.

Joe Jackson

English singer-songwriter Joe Jackson played piano and saxophone, and he’s one of the few artists who incorporated both jazz and new wave into pop music, creating tunes that were dramatic and sophisticated.

The 1979 single “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” was his first big U.S. hit, and earned him comparisons to Elvis Costello. That song was soon surpassed by the title track from 1982’s Steppin’ Out, which reached #6 and earned a Record of the Year Grammy nomination.

Steppin’ Out was a classic album that presented snapshots of life in NYC. One of those, “Real Men,” touched on gender roles and gay culture, and its video even showed two young men flirting. Jackson would later identify as bisexual.

Bikini Kill / Le Tigre

Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill were one of the most prominent groups of the riot grrrl feminist punk movement of the early ’90s. Fiery songs like “Rebel Girl” and “Double Dare Ya” connected with a devoted audience and made the group a critical favorite.

Pitchfork calls the band’s output “one of the all-time great feminist songbooks.” The New York Times labeled Hanna “one of the great frontpeople of all time.”

After Bikini Kill broke up in 1997, Hanna formed Le Tigre, an ahead-of-its-time rock band that leaned into electronic sounds, a formula that NPR described as “fun feminist rage.” Because both bands were fronted by Hanna and had a significant impact on the music of their era, they could be considered for Hall induction together, much like Joy Division and New Order.

Cole Porter

Broadway and Hollywood composter Cole Porter surely deserves a place in any music hall of fame, having written classics like “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

To cite just one example of his lasting influence, the 1990 compilation Red Hot + Blue that raised money for AIDS research featured 20 modern covers of Cole Porter songs by artists like U2, Annie Lennox, David Byrne, and Sinead O’Connor.

Porter’s success pre-dated the rock & roll era, so if the Hall were to recognize him, it would probably be in the “musical influence” category, which has been used to enshrine early contributors like Louis Armstrong and Woody Guthrie.

Hüsker Dü

Any band that was beloved by the Pixies, Nirvana, and Green Day automatically satisfies the “influence” criteria for Rock Hall induction. Beginning as a hardcore punk band in 1979, Husker Du evolved into an alt-rock band with a smart sense of melody.

That struck a chord with fans like Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, a teenager at the time. He has said, “I wanted to be a songwriter because of Husker Du.”

Husker Du frontman Bob Mould came out as gay in 1994, after the group had disbanded, and drummer Grant Hart was bisexual. Mould’s career continues as a solo artist. He regularly releases new material, and has also recorded and toured with the Foo Fighters.

Desmond Child

The bar for a writer/producer to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is very high. Only a select few, such as Bernie Taupin and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, have received the honor. Desmond Child should be next in line.

Child co-wrote and/or produced dozens of hits, including Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Aerosmith’s “Angel,” Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas,” and Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” He also worked with Hall of Famers KISS, Hall & Oates, and Alice Cooper.

A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Child even released a few albums of his own, scoring a Top 40 hit in 1991 with “Love On a Rooftop,” which remains one of the best forgotten pop gems of the ’90s. That soaring vocal hook!

Ricky Martin

In retrospect, Ricky Martin was a crucial figure in music history, as perhaps the biggest face behind the Latin pop explosion of the early 2000s, which changed pop music forever. Today, artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalia, and Maluma all succeed in part because of Martin’s breakthrough. That kind of influence could earn Martin some real Rock Hall consideration down the road.

The charismastic singer introduced himself to the mainstream pop world with his unforgettable 1999 Grammy performance, followed shortly thereafter by the mammoth English-language debut single “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

Martin’s brief run as a pop hitmaker included subsequent singles “She Bangs” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon.” Some viewed him as a flash in the pan, but Martin has continued to light up the U.S. Latin charts in the two decades since, and has remained a big concert draw.

Linda Perry

4 Non Blondes created one of the most enduring songs of the 1990s with “What’s Up,” a song that still gets played on the radio and was even covered by Dolly Parton.

The band split up after just one album and seemed destined to never be heard from again, but singer Linda Perry had other ideas. She went on to become an in-demand songwriter and producer, helping to create smashes like Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and Pink’s “Get the Party Started,” while also working with Adele, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, and Miley Cyrus.

Perry was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015 and earned a Golden Globe nomination three years after that. Her lengthy track record could make her a dark horse Hall candidate in the future.

Sigur Ros

Dreamy Icelandic band Sigur Ros will probably never have the name recognition in America to be serious Rock Hall contenders. But the innovative way they created a theatrical post-rock sound that sounds like absolutely no one else should earn them more attention.

Their music has been featured in numerous movies over the years. If you’re unconvinced, just see them in concert. They slowly build up many of their songs from quiet intros with gentle vocals and strings to massive crescendos with thundering drums and guitars. Singer Jonsi’s falsetto is just another instrument in the beautiful mix.

Jonsi has been out since the beginning of the band’s rise to fame. Read the extended case we made for Sigur Ros’ Rock Hall candidacy.

k.d. lang

k.d. lang was blessed with a gorgeous voice that allowed her to transition from country music to adult contemporary to traditional pop, along the way winning Grammys and singing with legends like Tony Bennett.

“Constant Craving” was the song that catapulted her to wider fame. It remains a flawless pop song, with her perfect vocal carrying the chorus. The song helped lang win a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, plus an MTV Award and an American Music Award.

Having earned her place in pop music history, lang has been in semi-retirement for years, but she still does occasional collabs with artists like Neko Case and the Killers.

Sylvester

Sylvester’s peak was fairly short, but he influenced queer artists and fans by living authentically. While few Black men in the music business were out and proud in the ’70s, Sylvester fully embraced his identity, wearing women’s clothes and even taking on the nickname “The Queen of Disco.”

The singer leaned into his falsetto on tracks like 1977’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” which has become an all-time LGBTQ anthem, played at drag shows, pride parades, and parties around the world. Billboard and Q magazines have both named it one of the greatest pop songs in history, and it was added to the National Recording Registry in 2019.

Sylvester had three Top 40 hits during his 10-year solo run, and 19 total hits on the dance chart, but those numbers doesn’t capture his influence on dance and electronic music, and gay culture in general. He paved the way for future icons like RuPaul to follow. Sylvester was posthumously honored by the Dance Music Hall of Fame and San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk.

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright emerged with a critically-acclaimed debut album in 1998 that added his own theatrical flair to the folky, singer-songwriter tradition.

His 2001 album Poses remains a queer classic, a concept album about a young gay man living in the big city. Written while staying at NYC’s famed Chelsea Hotel, Poses found Wainwright musing about addiction, regretful hookups, and trying to find his place in the city, with relatable lyrics about specific moments in time, like buying designer sunglasses, stumbling home drunk, and crushing on strangers.

Since then, Wainwright has written multiple operas, become an acclaimed interpreter of classic songs (like his “Hallelujah” cover for Shrek), and recorded duets with admirers like Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, and David Byrne.

Tegan & Sara

Tegan and Sara Quin had the “twin lesbian sisters from Canada with guitars” lane all to themselves when they released their debut album as teenagers in 1999. So Jealous (2004) and The Con (2006) made the duo indie rock favorites and regulars on music festival bills.

Those albums contained plenty of memorable tracks, including “Walking With a Ghost,” “Nineteen,” and “Back in Your Head.” In 2013, they showed another side and switched to a straight-up pop direction, issuing the perfect synth-pop single “Closer.”

The Grammy nominees and Juno Award winners have been outspoken LGBTQ activists throughout their careers.

New Kids on the Block

When New Kids on the Block dominated the pop music market in the late ’80s, they weren’t taken seriously by music critics. But they turned out to be ahead of their time, paving the way for the boy band craze a decade later.

NKOTB scored nine Top 10 hits in just three years, including “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “Hangin’ Tough,” “Step By Step,” and “This One’s for the Children.” They’ve remained in the public eye with concerts tours and a new album in 2024.

Jonathan Knight was quiet about his sexuality for years, but has since become more public, even competing on The Amazing Race with his now-husband.

Indigo Girls

Amy Ray and Emily Sailers of iconic folk duo the Indigo Girls have been open about their sexuality for decades, earning them a dedicated lesbian audience. The Indigo Girls scored a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and won for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

“Closer to Fine” was the duo’s breakout hit and remains a classic. It gained new life after being featured in the 2023 Barbie movie. Another memorable Indigo Girls track was “Galileo,” an infectious acoustic pop tune from 1992. The group has influenced and inspired numerous singer-songwriters of the Lilith Fair generation.

Frankie Knuckles

As the Rock Hall begins to consider whether 21st-century EDM acts like Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem deserve induction, let’s hope they also look back at some of the dance music pioneers.

The late DJ Frankie Knuckles was vitally important in the development of house music in the 1980s. Listeners take the genre for granted today, but it began as an underground style in gay clubs, meant to keep alive the spirit of disco. He was one of the primary figures in this scene, eventually earning the nickname “Godfather of House Music.”

Frankie went on to produce for the Pet Shop Boys and he remixed tracks from megastars like Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton. He finally won a Grammy in 1997, further cementing his legacy. In 2004, the city of Chicago even named a street after him.

Ani DiFranco

Queer singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco has written some of the most incisive songs of the past 30 years. She’s a folkie, but an edgy one. Her lyrics are brash, thoughtful, political, confessional, and socially conscious at the same time. She described herself as “songwriter, musicmaker, storyteller, freak.”

DiFranco insisted on creative freedom from the beginning, creating her own record label before her first album release in 1990. The fact that she’s never been on a major label may explain why she has managed to avoid widespread mainstream adoration, despite a list of brilliant songs like “Untouchable Face,” a gutpunchingly relatable track for anyone who has ever had a crush on someone who’s already taken.

For three decades, DiFranco has been more concerned with her art itself than with commercial success. She got to record songs with Prince. That’s worth a lot more than a #1 hit, isn’t it?

*N Sync

It’s not likely *N Sync will be considered for the Rock Hall anytime soon. But years from now, perhaps after New Kids on the Block are inducted, voters could look back favorably on the “No Strings Attached” group and give them a chance.

After re-writing the pop music record books with dance-pop hits like “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “Bye Bye Bye,” *N Sync made a gradual transition towards R&B and hip hop, showing they understood how to evolve and stay relevant.

Justin Timberlake’s solo career and his recent collabs with the former bandmates have kept *N Sync in the headlines. Let’s get JC, Joey, Chris, and the out-and-proud Lance into the Rock Hall!

Barry Manilow

Soft pop purveyor Barry Manilow in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It’s not as far-fetched as you may think, given that the Hall has recently inducted a number of artists known for their adult contemporary hits, like Neil Diamond, Chicago, and Dionne Warwick.

Manilow was a chart behemoth in the 1970s, scoring 17 Top 20 hits, including “Mandy,” “I Write the Songs,” “Copacabana,” and “Looks Like We Made It.” His strong vocals and track record of hits should earn him serious consideration.

After many decades in the spotlight, Manilow came out of the closet in 2017 and acknowledged that he has been with his partner since the ’70s.

16 More Artists Who Deserve To Be in the Conversation

This last section features noteworthy artists and bands who may not get inducted anytime soon, but at least deserve to be in the Rock Hall discussion for their contributions to popular music and culture.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood were the biggest band in Britain for a few years, racking up five straight Top-5 hits, but they broke up before they could establish a more significant legacy. They deserve kudos for releasing one of the most obvious and explicitly gay songs in mainstream pop music history, “Relax,” which somehow became a smash hit without people stopping to analyze the lyrics.

Janis Ian

Double Grammy winner Janis Ian had a #1 album with 1975’s Between the Lines and a #3 hit with “At Seventeen.” That was the biggest chart success for the singer-songwriter, who emerged during the same time period as fellow folkies Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Laura Nyro. Ian’s best work includes “Society’s Child,” a song about an interracial relationship that was controversial in 1966. Nina Simone and Roberta Flack both covered Ian-penned tracks.

Erasure

Synth-pop duo Erasure racked up a bunch of hits in the ’80s, including “Chains of Love,” “Always,” and “A Little Respect.” They scored a whopping 28 Top-20 hits in the U.K. Founder Vince Clarke is already a member of the Rock Hall for his work with Depeche Mode. Singer Andy Bell has been openly gay for more than two decades.

Siouxsie & the Banshees

After Kate Bush got inducted into the Rock Hall in 2023, the door may be open for other wonderfully oddball acts to follow in her footsteps. Best known in America for the hits “Peek-A-Boo” and “Kiss Them for Me,” Siouxsie & the Banshees directly influenced bands like Joy Division, the Cure, the Smiths, Garbage, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Depeche Mode. That’s an incredible legacy.

NOFX

NOFX have been one of the most respected punk bands of the past 30 years. A staple on the Warped Tour, the group released 15 studio albums, eight of which reached the top holf of the Billboard 200. They cranked out two-minute skate punk songs that often incorporated pop and ska. Frontman Fat Mike identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

The Breeders

Pixies bassist Kim Deal formed the Breeders in the late ’80s with her sister Kelley, drummer Jim McPherson, and bassist Josephine Wiggs, a lesbian who has been profiled in The Advocate. The Breeders earned critical acclaim and a few hits, notably 1993’s “Cannonball,” a big success on MTV. They still tour, and in 2024, found themselves performing for a new audience when Olivia Rodrigo invited them to open for her at Madison Square Garden.

Sufjan Stevens

Newly eligible for the Rock Hall, Sufjan Stevens has an Oscar nomination and a cult following for brilliant albums like Illinois and Carrie & Lowell. It’s hard to imagine a world where the Rock Hall would honor an indie act who isn’t known to the mainstream pop world. But if induction were based strictly on the quality of an artist’s work, Stevens’ beautiful, introspective material would qualify.

Wham!

It’s unlikely that George Michael’s duo with Andrew Ridgeley will ever be inducted, since Michael was already recognized as a solo act. Wham! had a huge chart run on both sides of the Atlantic, and hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Everything She Wants” still get played on ’80s radio today. Some of Wham’s songs were essentially bubblegum pop, but Michael’s lyrics and his R&B leanings gave their songs an extra layer of maturity.

Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello’s influence goes beyond her feature on John Mellencamp’s hit cover of “Wild Night.” The two-time Grammy winner combines soul with various genres — one of her Grammys was for Best Alternative Jazz Album. Who else is versatile enough to contribute vocals to Madonna’s Bedtime Stories and play bass on a Rolling Stones album? The bisexual performer’s noteworthy tracks include the VMA-nominated “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” and “Leviticus (F*ggot),” the story of a gay teen whose parents kicked him out of the house.

Magnetic Fields

Indie pop-rock act Magnetic Fields have released 12 albums during their three-decade career, including the 1999 triple-album 69 Love Songs, which both NME and Rolling Stone have ranked on their “best albums of all-time” lists. It featured several different genres and some songs about gay relationships, courtesy of Stephin Merritt, the deep-voiced singer who wrote the entire album.

Spice Girls

In the late ’90s, the Spice Girls were mostly viewed as a lightweight novelty group, but they would be a lot more respected if they came out in today’s more pop-friendly environment. The group had seven Top 20 hits in the U.S. and a whopping nine #1 hits in the U.K., and inspired a mini-resurgence of “girl groups.” “Wannabe” is inarguably a pop music classic, and “Goodbye” has held up as an outstanding ballad of remembrance. Mel B, aka Scary Spice, is openly bisexual.

Liberace

Yes, Liberace. When the Hall eventually starts inducting legacy singers like Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, the flamboyant pianist should be considered as well. He was an incredible showman, and he was extremely popular with mass audiences, which made him at one time the highest-paid performer in the world. Those factors could put him in the Rock Hall conversation.

Joan Armatrading

From 1976 to 1988, singer-songwriter and guitarist Joan Armatrading had eight albums reach the Top 100 in the U.S. One of the first successful Black British artists, the Grammy and Brit nominee influenced a number of artists, including Melissa Etheridge, who calls Armatrading one of her favorites. In 1977, Armatrading performed “Love and Affection” on Saturday Night Live. Twenty years later, Etheridge performed the song with Jewel, Joan Osborne, and Paula Cole.

Jimmy Somerville / Bronski Beat

Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” (1984) was one of the most important LGBTQ+ songs ever recorded, telling the story of a queer kid who battles bullying and depression before running away to the big city to escape. Singer Jimmy Somerville’s aching falsetto perfectly captured the pain of the tale, and the song surprisingly soared to #3 in the U.K. and cracked the Top 50 in the U.S. Somerville later earned more hits with the Communards and as a solo artist throughout the ’90s.

Peaches

Peaches is an artist whose unique style and fearlessness should make her a Rock Hall candidate, but let’s be honest — it’s impossible to envision the Hall actually giving her real consideration. Peaches’ electroclash music is raunchy, witty, and unapologetic. Her 2006 album Impeach My Bush included musically adventurous and laugh-out-loud hilarious tracks like “Tent in Your Pants” and “Two Guys (For Every Girl).”

Soft Cell

Soft Cell is another act that had only one hit in the USA, but experienced far greater success in England. In addition to the chart-topping “Tainted Love” cover, songs like “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” and “Torch” showed the promise of the band, which unfortunately recorded only three albums during its 1980s peak.

More Eligible LGBTQ Artists Who Won’t Get Inducted, But Are Worthy of Mention:
Savage Garden, Billy Strayhorn, Dead or Alive, Tevin Campbell, Lavender Country, RuPaul, Wendy Carlos, Dave Koz, Pansy Division, Sophie B. Hawkins, Chely Wright, Luscious Jackson

LGBTQ-Identifying Artists Who Aren’t Yet Eligible For the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
Against Me!, Jason Mraz, Brandi Carlile, Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish, Frank Ocean, Lil Nas X, St. Vincent, Scissor Sisters, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Tyler the Creator, Adam Lambert, Bloc Party, Sam Smith, Brothers Osbourne, Vampire Weekend, Dresden Dolls, Ahnoni, The xx, Panic! at the Disco, Alabama Shakes/Brittany Howard, Brandy Clark, Gossip, Junior Senior, Neon Trees, Halsey, Pussy Riot, Big Freedia

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Last Updated on June 3, 2024

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