Beginning 4 decades ago, several University of Oregon grads, “Ducks,” have been highly valued friends. Four of them, the totally awesome, mountain climbing “Sharks” have invited me to join them in the High Sierra for wonderful expeditions. In the City, Susan partied with, married, and was the lifelong partner of a one of my Little League teammates. And Sandy, who worked in the record distribution business for over a decade, is widely known as one whose love and knowledge of contemporary music (that is to say, rock & roll) is unsurpassed…When I was in Cleveland 10 days ago on the phone with him, raving about the Rock & Roll Museum and urging him to get it on his calendar, he asked for a full report…of which this post is the beginning.
Dear Sandy (aka Skeieman),
I’ve been to the Rock & Roll Museum & Hall of Fame at least 4 times since it opened in 1995 (including last year and this) and I’ve got to tell you, it has been getting better and better and is now truly outstanding. Given your close attachment to the subject and its personalities, I really encourage you to make visiting a high priority.
Early on the museum had a few iconic items, photos, costumes, and various ephemera. But the place felt dead and as a visitor I recall thinking “one and done.”
But I’ve gone back – now 19 years old, the place has really taken flight. Legends’ instruments, costumes, more and better personal property, historic song notes, etc. are all well displayed. Some exhibits are thematically around the artist, some are around a key city (SF, LA, Detroit, Memphis), some are by article, costumes for example.
Portion of San Francisco late 60’s exhibit
A real improvement from early on is the addition of much “high tech” equipment such as video monitors playing archival footage of the times and the artists and interactive jukeboxes for custom-tailored entertainment.
The Museum is more and more about R & R’s place in history, as a barometer as well as an influencer. This is adding depth to the stories told there.
Jimi Hendrix exhibit, portion, including guitars, costumes, couch from home.
Oregon Ducks drawing by Jimi Hendrix, 1958
I can only scratch the surface in this report. There is so much to tell, see, and hear. For a start, the website at RockHall.org has a very large offering of content that you’ll enjoy.
Knowing you, I surmise you’ll like the museum so much, that you’ll be making another trip or two to Cleveland!
P.S. Here are some miscellaneous facts (you may already know) and FAQs on the museum:
It’s pretty much the brainchild of industry pillar, Ahmet Ertegun, who in the early 1980’s began talking with record industry types about recognizing important artists. A non-profit was formed and the first Induction Ceremony was in NYC in 1986. When word got out that the Foundation was planning a physical presence in NY, civic leaders in Cleveland began to make a pitch for the museum to be located in Cleveland, which in fact was selected in 1986. (This story of an entrepreneurial public-private partnership is quite well told at http://www.rockhall.org/story-of-rock/video-series/video/1179/).
Otis Redding exhibit and plane wing portion
From RockHall.org: “Cleveland’s claim on the Museum is born of both rock and roll history and a strong sense old civic pride. Besides being the place where Alan Freed popularized the term Rock and Roll with his pioneering radio show and groundbreaking early rock and roll concerts, Cleveland has served as a springboard to success for rock artists as diverse as Chuck Berry (who made his first public appearance here) to David Bowie (who made his U.S. debut here) to Elvis Presley (who played his first concert north of the Mason-Dixon line in Cleveland)…
When the idea for a Museum to house the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first came about, Cleveland leaders were among the first and most enthusiastic in lobbying Hall of Fame officials to bring the Museum to Cleveland. The city overwhelmingly beat all rivals in a USA Today poll, earning more than 100,000 votes over its nearest rival.
In addition, 660,000 people signed petitions to bring the Museum to Cleveland. The city’s civic and business leaders worked together to provide the necessary financial support to make the Museum not only a reality, but also a stunning showcase for rock and roll’s history.”
Designed by I.M. Pei.
Completed 1995, opened to public on September 2nd.
150,000 square feet including 55,000 of exhibit space.
From RockHall.org: “In designing this building,” says Pei, “it was my intention to echo the energy of rock and roll. I have consciously used an architectural vocabulary that is bold and new, and I hope the building will become a dramatic landmark for the city of Cleveland and for fans of rock and roll around the world.”
Rock Hall on Cleveland’s Lake Erie Waterfront
In 2012, in a nearby location, the Museum opened its Library and Archives, “the most comprehensive repository of materials relating to the history of rock and roll. Its mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to these resources for scholars, educators, students, journalists, and the general public in order to broaden awareness and understanding of rock and roll, its roots, and its impact on our society.”
q: Why is it important to study rock and roll?
Rock and roll music is one the most pervasive – and accessible – art forms in Western Culture. In fact, when NASA launched the Voyager space shuttle in 1977, they included music from Chuck Berry on it in the event that intelligent life found the vessel. Like any art form, rock music reflects and defines our history and culture.
Rock and roll has been a key tool in giving a voice to people who have otherwise been pushed to the margins of our society. In the civil rights movements, in war protests, in ending communist rule in Eastern European countries, even in our elections, rock and roll music – and the musicians and fans that make it what it is – is truly a cultural force.
The Rock Hall is at the forefront of bringing popular culture into the classroom. Our educational programs and exhibits reach hundreds of thousands of students of all ages and teaches them how music has played a role in some of the most important social, cultural and political issues in modern history.
Through our educational programs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is exploring how music has intersected with our culture, changed our political landscape and given a voice to those on the margins of mainstream society. This effort to bring pop culture into the academic world is crucial, as critical dialogues in our world are increasingly happening through—and with—modern music.
- See more at: http://rockhall.com/site/faq/#sthash.xeIVlcSx.dpuf
Exhibit of all Rolling Stone magazine covers. Publisher Jann Wenner is Board Chair of the museum.