How does a musical trend start? Where does it lead? How does it evolve? And, if we had to narrow down the list of the thousands of musicians who are, in some way, affiliated to rock and roll to only those who have had the biggest influence in music history, who would we include?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, is a six-story building that is both a record of achievement and collection of memorabilia (not unlike Hard Rock Café). Funded by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc., it “exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and confirming significance of rock and roll music.” Starting on the first level with exhibits on the roots of rock and roll and then introducing Elvis, the museum goes on to highlight some of the most iconic figures in this musical genre.
In the Cities and Sounds section of the museum, visitors are given the most comprehensive picture of how rock and roll progressed over time and broke off into sub-genres or influenced social movements such as San Francisco in the 70s, grunge in Seattle and soul in the South. Video clips showing film of performances and interviews with musicians and fans help provide context for how rock and roll has evolved over time.
What this section provides in information, the rest of the museum makes up for in rock memorabilia. In the Legends of Rock and Roll exhibit, stage costumes, instruments, sheet music, written contracts and photographs highlight some of the most popular rock icons, including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, U2, David Bowie, Michael Jackson and The Who. There are also sections of the museum dedicated to hip hop, behind-the-scenes players in the history of rock and protests against rock. One of my favorite exhibits was a display devoted to Rolling Stone magazine.
A selection of videos throughout the museum, including video clips from hall of fame inductions and snippets on how video changed rock and roll, added something to the museum experience though they could be skipped without much consequence.
In addition, temporary exhibitions rotate in the museum. While I was there, Women Who Rock was the special exhibit, which was interesting but, in my opinion, just a bit lacking. Sure, there was mention of Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, but where were Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan? If you mention Faith Hill and Loretta Lynn, you also need to include the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain. Lady Gaga’s meat dress and one of Taylor Swift’s dresses were on display, but where was Tracy Chapman?
And in lies the problem with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which inherently has a few flaws. In choosing to highlight certain aspects and musicians related to rock and roll, others are left out. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and impressed by the massive collection of memorabilia as it relates to rock and roll, but when we stepped back and considered which other musicians had been influenced by or changed the face of this genre of music, we realized that some aspects of rock had been completely disregarded. There was mention of the roots of hip hop, but no mention of N.W.A. Where were the hair bands like Poison and Kiss? Jam bands like Phish and Dave Matthews Band were missing altogether. I would argue that, if the Jonas Brothers have their suits hanging in the Right Here, Right Now section, then there should be something dedicated to boy bands such as New Kids on the Block, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. And why weren’t Lionel Richie and the Commodores even mentioned?
Nonetheless, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is well worth the entrance fee and a few hours of time. Few other places offer such a comprehensive collection of rock music memorabilia and a sense of Americana (let’s face it, besides baseball and apple pie, few other things say “America” like rock and roll music), and, quite frankly, it’s just a fun place to tour.
So, if you had to choose only 15 musicians or musical groups to enter into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who would you choose?
Our list, decided upon after our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, includes:
Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, U2, Pearl Jam, N.W.A., The Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath and James Brown.
Located at 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard in Cleveland, Ohio | Company website