Several weeks ago, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. I arrived when the museum opened and left when it closed, enthralled by every minute in between. The museum’s layout follows a chronological path from the origins of rock and roll to current times. The first hall explores the music genre’s roots – country, jazz, gospel, folk, and blues. It was fascinating, but left me curious: none of the music resembled what I thought was rock and roll.
My curiosity lasted only until I entered the next exhibit. A single, brightly-lit word hung on the wall and explained everything.
The handsome, young man with the magical hips somehow tied the roots together and became the King of Rock and Roll. I watched old Elvis performances on a large screen, and chuckled, along with many others, at his 1956 hips-obscured appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
Soon I was touring the British Invasion exhibit. The mid-1960’s invasion took place during my elementary school and high school heydays. Beatles, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks. Check out the poster advertising tickets for a 1966 Beatles concert at the Cleveland Stadium. The tickets prices ranged from $3.00 to $5.50. Who could predict that ticket prices could rise ten times those amounts?
I strolled along the Motown Exhibit and reminisced to my favorite songs of the Supremes, the Four Tops, and the Temptations. Aretha Franklin was in a class by herself. Her powerful voice spoke to the young women of my all-female Catholic high school. The feminist movement was finding its way. Bra burning? I didn’t understand the symbolism. At that time in my life, I was praying for the appearance of my own bra-worthy breasts. But being respected by boys? That was something to get fired up about. Aretha nailed it. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! It was an anthem we shouted in the hallways. Nearly fifty years later, women are still shouting it.
The 1960’s were robust years for music. Different genres of Rock and Roll flourished around the country. Haight-Ashbury was the home of psychedelic rock. The Beach Boys represented the California Sound. There was Southern Rock, Latin Rock, and the San Francisco Sound–just to name a few.
Time advanced with each exhibit. The 1970’s brought progressive rock (Pink Floyd, Queen), Punk Rock (Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads) and Funk & Soul (James Brown). There was also Disco, which I had never considered to be rock and roll. I was wrong. Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
I was in college during the 1970’s and listened to the Latin Rock of Santana. Jump forward 30 years. After watching Santana on television, my mother said, “Ellie, that’s a nice band.” She was shocked when I told her I’d listened to them in college. A few months later, I took my 8o+ year-old mother, in a wheelchair, to see Santana at the Verizon Center in Washinton, DC.
By the time I meandered over to the 1980’s music exhibits, I was bone tired—just like I was in the real 1980’s. That’s when my children came along. The 1980’s and 1990’s are a blur to me. Unless an activity or event involved my kids, I probably don’t remember much about it. Even the music flew by under the radar.
I moved on to an exhibit of costumes. Fun, fun, fun! I was particularly taken with outfits worn by Beyoncé, on stage and in music videos. My first thought was “Hmmm, I wonder how I’d look in that?” I’m attending a gala this month and will see colleagues I haven’t seen in more than a year. Do you think this attire will impress them?
Throughout the day, I wondered why one artist was inducted into the Hall of Fame while another was not. According to the museum’s website, “Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Where were Chicago, Doobie Brothers, ELO and Zombies? Moody Blues aren’t in? Say it ain’t so!
Do you know the name of the only artist inducted three times into the Hall of Fame? Keep reading—I’ll tell you at the end of this post.
I was worn out after visiting the costume exhibit. I settled on a bench in front of a huge screen and watched non-stop performances by inductees to the Hall of Fame. The energy of the music and performers brought me back to life. Before long I was tapping my foot, bobbing my head, and dancing in my seat. Metallica popped on the screen. I listened to it for the first time. The band was magnificent. Why didn’t I know that before? Oh yeah, it was a 1980’s band that emerged during my child-rearing years. Now I have Metallica on my I-pod.
The stream of performances triggered a memory of my mother’s kitchen. It was in the 1960’s. Mom was washing the dishes; my little sister and I were drying them. The radio was playing. My sister and I took frequent breaks to dance to our favorite songs. My mother didn’t mind. “What’s the name of that song?” she’d ask. “What band is that?” Many months later, Christmas arrived. My mother gave each of us a stack of 45 rpm single records—all the songs and bands we’d been dancing to for months. Little did we know that Mom had been keeping a list. Even as a teenager, I was touched to the point of tears by this loving gift. My mother’s been gone for over ten years. The memory triggered by the montage of rock and roll performances brought back the tears.
I could write volumes about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but could never do it justice. Each visitor’s experience reflects his or her unique relationship to music. I urge you to visit this treasure.
Here’s the website for the museum if you’d like to learn more.
Thanks for visiting my blog! Ellen
QUESTION: Who was the only artist inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
ANSWER: Eric Clapton. In 1992, he was inducted as a member of The Yardbirds; in 1993, as a member of Cream; and in 2000, as a solo artist.