5 Reasons Yes Should Be in the Hall of Fame
Yes' intricate, thrilling musicianship should have been enough to get the prog forefathers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame long ago. But after waiting more than two decades to get in, perhaps the induction committee is looking for an argument that goes beyond possessing one of rock's most distinctive guitarists, a bass-playing pioneer, a keyboardist as inventive as he is flamboyantly dressed and a signature vocalist. We're here to help, with a list of five reasons Yes should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Late co-founding bassist Chris Squire often wondered aloud if Yes' ever-evolving membership had kept them from recognition by the Hall of Fame -- but that didn't derail the candidacy of groups like the Grateful Dead, who brought five separate keyboardists along for induction. Instead, Yes' myriad lineups are more a testament to their sturdy resiliency in the face of changing musical directions (Tony Kaye co-founded the group in their organ-driven early days, then returned on synth during their sleek, 90125 era), member defections (guitarist Trevor Rabin took over when Steve Howe left for Asia) and the inevitable deaths in the family (Billy Sherwood rejoined just before Squire died in 2015).
Unlike so many of their peers, Yes refused to rest on their well-regarded laurels as one of progressive rock's founding bands. They helped set the genre standard on albums like 1971's Fragile and 1972's Close to the Edge, pushed the boundaries of long-form musicmaking to their limits on 1973's Tales of Topographic Oceans, moved confidently into the New Wave era on 1980's Drama and 1983's 90125, dabbled in pop with 1987's Big Generator and 1994's Talk and explored broad orchestral sounds on 2001's Magnification. All the while, they kept the original home fires burning, with notable returns to their classic-era configuration and sound on albums like 1977's Going for the One and the Keys to Ascension projects in 1996-97.
This argument may seem particularly anachronistic in the streaming age, but Yes' long-held association with artist Roger Dean did more than frame their recorded output. It also helped elevate the art of album covers. Dean fashioned entire universes to match the new musical worlds Jon Anderson and company were exploring inside. Beginning with Fragile and continuing past 2014's Heaven & Earth, Dean has crafted more than 20 covers for Yes, becoming inextricably linked to their legend. Along the way, his fantasy-based, otherworldly landscapes have fascinated generations of fans – in both the music and art worlds.
For years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seemed to be actively avoiding progressive rock. In fact, they'd been inducting bands for a decade before Pink Floyd finally got the nod in 1996. Traffic followed in 2004. The tides seemed to finally turn with Genesis' arrival in 2010, followed by Rush in 2013 and Peter Gabriel in 2014. Yes were stubbornly ignored until the same year Rush got in, but have now earned nominations in 2013, 2015 and 2016. The length of their wait has nevertheless stung keyboardist Rick Wakeman. "I'm so disgusted with the way that prog rock and Yes have been treated I'm not sure whether I'd turn up," he told Billboard. "I might be washing my hair that night."
In an era when nobody seems to be able to agree on anything in Washington, Yes' long-simmering Rock and Roll Hall of Fame candidacy has established common ground. A group called Voices of Yes played an instrumental role in the band's first nomination in 2013 – Yes were first eligible back in 1994 – by gathering piles of fan signatures. Voices of Yes was founded by GOP strategist John Brabender, and includes various politicos who have worked either with Democrats like Al Gore and John Kerry or Republicans like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. Seemingly disparate rockers like Paul Stanley and Geddy Lee have bridged similar divides in speaking out on Yes' behalf.