This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class is notably heavy on artists who are no longer with us. The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Three members of T. Rex (Marc Bolan, Steve Currie and Mickey Finn) have died, as have two members of The Doobie Brothers (Michael Hossack and Keith Knudsen).
It’s the first time that seven musicians will be honored posthumously at the Rock Hall since 2001, when Ritchie Valens, Freddie Mercury of Queen and five members of the doo-wop group The Flamingos were honored posthumously. It’s also the first time in seven years that two solo artists have been inducted posthumously — in 2013, both Donna Summer and Albert King were admitted to the Hall following their deaths.
Counting both solo artists and group members, every Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class has included at least one posthumous induction. In the Rock Hall’s first two years, there were many posthumous inductions, as the Hall caught up with the greats of rock’s early years. In 1987, there were eight — the highest number to date.
Here are all the years where two or more solo artists (as defined by the Hall) were inducted posthumously.
2013: Albert King, Donna Summer
2020: Whitney Houston, The Notorious B.I.G.
With posthumous inductions, acceptance speeches are traditionally made by family members, colleagues or friends, and performances are by other artists paying tribute. It’s not as celebratory as when the honorees are still living, but it adds another dimension to the evening — a sobering sense of an artist’s mortality, and the encouraging fact that, with great artists, the work lives on.