Citing its “unique mix of breakneck-paced hardcore punk and dubby reggae,” the Hall included the band Tuesday on a list that also proposes Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode among first-time nominees. Bad Brains not only set a standard for speed and fury, but it also had an all-African-American lineup in a genre generally dominated by white musicians. (Above: Live At CBGB 1982, featuring the band in its prime.)
A nomination is just the start of the process — actual induction comes via a vote by more than 600 historians, artists and music industry figures. If Bad Brains is inducted this year, it would be the first D.C. hardcore band to make the Hall, although one product of D.C.’s hardcore scene, Dave Grohl, was inducted in 2014 as a member of Nirvana. (Another legendary underground rock band, the MC5, is back on the list this year after receiving an unsuccessful nomination in 2003.)
Bad Brains was in the news earlier this year as family and friends launched a campaign to help fund medical care for frontman H.R., who was diagnosed in late 2015 with a rare and painful disorder called SUNCT.
The 2012 documentary Bad Brains: A Band In D.C. traced the band’s complicated history, from its roaring appearance on the D.C. punk scene in the late 1970s, through its move to New York in the 1980s, and into a phase in the ’90s and ’00s that included disagreements among members. (H.R. and two of the filmmakers appeared on WAMU 88.5’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show in 2012.)
Beyond Bad Brains’ musical influence on bands such as Minor Threat (and by extension, Fugazi) and the Beastie Boys, the cover art for the group’s 1982 self-titled album — with its image of a jagged lightning bolt striking the U.S. Capitol — has inspired countless homages.