The first week of fan voting has presented an interesting Rock & Roll Hall of Fame front-runner: late Afrobeat trailblazer Fela Kuti.
Since the announcement of his nomination, Kuti has amassed a little less than 140,000 fan votes, according to the Rock Hall’s current standings. He’s followed by Tina Turner in second place, with roughly 108,000 votes, and Foo Fighters in third with a little over 80,000 votes.
The announcement of Kuti’s nomination was promoted on his social-media accounts with a link to the voting site. Kuti’s fans quickly rose to the challenge, sending him surging ahead the competition.
Because there are several weeks left of fan voting, there’s still time for a shift in the front-runner – results for the 2021 Rock Hall class won’t be officially announced until May – but with this initial leap, Kuti’s increases his chance of induction. (The fan ballot will include the top five vote-getters and is tallied with more than 1,000 official ballots submitted by historians and artists.)
You can see the current standings below.
Kuti, a Nigerian-born multi-instrumentalist who studied music in London, spent a number of years touring around the world, including the U.S., where he picked up influences of funk icons like James Brown and Sly Stone, as well as elements of jazz and soul music, that he incorporated into his traditional West-African background. As his sound developed, his popularity across Africa rose.
The son of politically active parents, Kuti utilized his platform to note the shortcomings and corruption of his home country’s government, invoking effective social and political change. He spent nearly two years in prison for his activism, sparking outrage from fellow musicians like Ginger Baker, David Byrne and Herbie Hancock. After his release in 1986, he continued to tour the world, participating in various benefit concerts and human-rights awareness campaigns. He died in 1997 at the age of 58 due to complications from AIDS.
“I’m not working for any selfish reason or ulterior motives; I’m working for the improvement of my fellow man,” he told Spin in 1986, just a few months after his release from prison. “So, I have nothing to fear. I suffered a lot, but I feel fine now. I’m happy for the suffering, because I believe it’s opened the eyes of many people. I have accomplished so far two things: People finally know the honesty of my struggle and the potentially of my leadership. People now want to hear what I’m saying.”