Time has a way of changing things. On Monday, Madge will come to the stage of the Waldorf-Astoria to accept enshrinement. Classmate John Mellencamp, who also churned out hit after hit in the 1980s, will join her.
The Dave Clark Five, whose lead singer Mike Smith died of pneumonia on Feb. 28, are being inducted as well as Philly soul legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen, surf rockers the Ventures and blues harmonica ace Little Walter.
She's the pre-eminent pop star of her generation, who stayed a step ahead of trends while adding in shock value to keep herself in the news. Along the way she's made sturdy, state-of-the-art pop such as "Material Girl," "Crazy For You," "Papa Don't Preach," "Cherish," "Like a Prayer," "Vogue" and "Ray of Light."
Yet "if you think of rock 'n' roll, Madonna is not the first name that comes to mind," said Steve Morse, longtime Boston Globe music critic who was a member of the hall of fame's nominating committee for seven years.
He considers her selection, particularly in her first year of eligibility, an embarrassment.
Her music was never played on rock 'n' roll radio, he said. Some veteran rock artists like Deep Purple, the J. Geils Band, Steve Miller and Alice Cooper are still waiting for induction. Morse long and unsuccessfully argued on behalf of the late Gram Parsons.
"It seems like this is driven by commercial achievement and sales, rather than having anything to do with the rock 'n' roll genre," Morse said. "It's really a commercial move. They'll be able to sell more tickets to the museum and more people will watch the broadcast."
With rock's founding fathers already in the hall, the museum has broadened its meaning of rock 'n' roll to include rap and pop artists. Grandmaster Flash last year became the first hip-hop artist to make it.
Madonna, who declined interview requests, will answer on Monday night.
She's being inducted by Justin Timberlake. And unlike many contemporary artists - Madonna's new album, "Hard Candy," is dropping April 29 - she's not scheduled to perform. Instead, she chose Iggy Pop, the ultimate crawl-around-on-glass punk rocker who shares her Michigan ancestry, to salute her work.
Tom Hanks will induct the Dave Clark Five, the '60s British pop band behind the hit "Glad All Over." Billy Joel will give the speech for Mellencamp, and Lou Reed speaks on behalf of fellow literate songwriter Cohen.
For the second straight year, VH1 Classic will show the induction ceremony live at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
By David Bauder