Almost since the inception of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a debate has furiously raged on as to what constitutes a "rock and roll" artist. Dolly Parton, one of the potential nominees for the Class of 2022, poured gasoline on that debate with a statement asking voters not to consider her.
"Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don't feel that I have earned that right," Dolly wrote. "I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out. I do hope that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will understand and be willing to consider me again - if I'm ever worthy."
To some, it is shocking to consider that Parton - a prolific singer/songwriter, businesswoman and philanthropist known primarily for decades of Top 10 hits on the country charts (with a handful of successful pop crossovers in the '70s and '80s, including the chart-topper "9 to 5") - would consider herself "worthy" of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Fans have argued for decades as to whether or not boundary-pushing artists who did not strictly perform rock and roll - including Madonna, ABBA, Miles Davis and The Notorious B.I.G. - deserve to be a part of the hall.
While Parton's records might have resonated most with country listeners, songs like "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You" are beloved by generations thanks to covers and even memes. And her down-home public image - actively supporting racial and gender tolerance and even donating $1 million to help fund one of the first COVID-19 vaccines - has made her an icon among fans who might not have even been born when Whitney Houston took "I Will Always Love You" to the top of the pop charts in 1992 and 1993.
But she's hardly the first person to reject the honorarium in some way, either. The Sex Pistols famously rejected the induction as a "piss stain" when they were inducted in 2006. Axl Rose, frontman for Guns N' Roses, "respectfully decline[d]" in 2012. Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Todd Rundgren neither attended nor really acknowledged their inductions in 2018 and 2021, and Steve Miller excoriated the Hall while attending his own ceremony in 2016.
Parton's not even the only potential inductee to express indifference in the last 24 hours. Appearing on Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Dionne Warwick - like Parton, a first-time nominee - suggested it should either be contained to rock acts or broadened by name. "The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as I grew to know it many, many years ago, was specifically for rock and roll acts," she said. "Call it the Music Hall of Fame. That would bring so many other genres into it. Why not?"
The debate rages on - and there's still time to vote in the fan poll!