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Prince, Mellencamp Headed for Hall?

This news is either going to ease Prince and John Mellencamp’s possible midlife crises, or agitate them: They’re nominees for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The late George Harrison and Jackson Browne are other first-timers on the ballot determining the hall’s class of 2004.

Others looking to gain admittance to the Cleveland-based mecca after coming up short in previous voting, include: Punk pioneers the Sex Pistols; Ozzy Osbourne’s first family, Black Sabbath; “Freebird” purveyors Lynyrd Skynyrd; ZZ Top, the bearded rockers who were once MTV’s unlikeliest video stars; and poet/rocker Patti Smith.

Nominees become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first records.

In the case of the artist currently known as Prince, that means he’s a quarter-century away from his days as the 20-year-old wonder behind his 1978 debut, For You. The prolific funky rocker or rocking funkster, now 45, has produced numerous hits, including “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “Purple Rain” to name three titles that don’t sound too suggestive for family audiences. A very lucky man, he remained a critical and popular favorite even after he changed his name to a hieroglyphic in the 1990s.

Mellencamp, 52, knows from the name game. The Midwestern Bruce Springsteen’s first release, 1976’s bargain-bin-bound Chestnut Street Incident, bore the record-label’s idea of a good name: Johnny Cougar. The moniker subsequently was shortened to John Cougar for breakthrough works like 1982’s American Fool (“Jack and Diane,” “Hurts So Good”) and morphed into John Cougar Mellencamp for the critically embraced likes of 1985’s Scarecrow (“Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”), before Mellencamp caged the Cougar for good.

Harrison, who died in 2001 at age 58, is already in the Hall of Fame as a member of Liverpool’s leading musical export. This is the first time his name as appeared on the ballot as a solo act. Fellow Fab Foursters Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who was murdered in 1980, are already in as singular sensations. Ringo Starr has yet to be honored for his Ringo albums, apparently still being held responsible for the early 1970s hit “Back off Boogaloo.”

Harrison was the first Beatle to score a solo number one album, with 1970’s All Things Must Pass, and the first Beatle to mount a solo world tour, in 1974. That it’s taken him 33 years to make it to the ballot by himself may owe to scandal surrounding All Things Must Pass. In 1976, Harrison was found to have lifted the melody for his biggest hit from that album, “My Sweet Lord,” from the 1960s girl-group song “He’s So Fine.”

Browne, 55, was part of the Los Angeles music scene that bore the Eagles and Warren Zevon in the 1970s. After supporting other acts, the singer-songwriter went solo with his 1972 self-titled debut. Key albums include 1983’s Lawyers in Love and 1976’s The Pretender.

The hall typically announces its voting results in December, with induction ceremonies following in March in New York City. Balloting is conducted among hall members and music-industry players.

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