Inductee: Paul Ackerman (music journalist; born February 1908, died December 31, 1977)
For three decades, from 1943 to 1973, Paul Ackerman served as music editor of Billboard magazine. His tenure in this post coincided with the birth of rock and roll. Among the first journalists to champion this new music form, he recognized in it the roots of earlier musical traditions. A longtime fan of rural blues and country idioms, and an academic scholar versed in European and American civilization, he wrote and reported on popular music of all types. “Music is the most important of our arts,” he proclaimed, “because it cuts through every facet of show business.” Ackerman helped insure that popular idioms were taken seriously from the mid-20th century onward.
Ackerman charted the rise of rhythm and blues, country music, and rock and roll, recording their impact upon the world of popular music. This he did with uncommon integrity and what Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records termed “righteous intolerance” for hype. “He believed there was a genuine place for real editorial content in the trade paper,” Wexler said in his eulogy to Ackerman. “He was a deadly reporter and superb writer.”
Under his tutelage, Billboard became the music industry’s premier trade publication. Ackerman, who died in 1977, was the recipient of numerous awards as a musical journalist and scholar, including his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.