Editor’s Note – A lot sure has changed since I originally wrote this in 2001. However, two things haven’t changed:
–The folks who work at the RRHOF Museum in Cleveland – “The Good Guys.”
–The folks who run the RRHOF induction process – “The Bad Guys.”
Time for a return trip…
For the past few years Soul Patrol has provided you all with some exclusive coverage of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies.
You can read Soul-Patrol’s 2001 Coverage of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.
I have written both positive and negative things about the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame during our two years of coverage of the Inductions.
Over that period of time I have been asked two questions regarding why we spend so much time and effort on doing this:
1. Why do you even give a sh*t about what those racist bastards do anyhow, shouldn’t you be more focused on creating a “Hall of Fame for US and by US”?
2. Bob, Why do you write so much negative stuff about the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame? I’ll bet you have NEVER even been there.
Well after I left Pittsburgh, I took the 2.5 hour drive to the Hall of Fame in Cleveland and here is what I found with respect to these two “frequently asked questions”.
A. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is NOT a “racist institution”
1. As I have noted here in the past, over SEVENTY PERCENT of the inductees are Black Americans.
2. In addition, (although this is quite unscientific) my observations from walking around the museum as well as the administrative offices over the course of 2 days would lead me to believe that the majority of the employees there are also Black Americans
3. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame has several floors of exhibition space that is subdivided up in a manner similar to the somewhat predictable (and inaccurate) way that a “rock critic” might subdivide the history of Rock n’ Roll. There are sections for Blues, Country, Rockabilly, 1950’s R&B, Sun Records, Motown Records, Haight Ashbury Sound, LA Folk Rock Sound, Non-Motown Soul (Atlantic, Stax, Brunswick, James Brown, Philly International, etc), British Invasion, Punk, and the “Seattle Sound of the 90’s”.
Notable by their absence however are sections for Doo Wop, Disco & Funk. There are also several “single artist exhibitions” for artists like the Stones, Clapton, etc.
However, a quick look at the floor plan reveals an amazing fact.ONE THIRD OF THE TOTAL EXIBITION SPACE ON THE FIRST FLOOR ARE CONSUMED BY AN EXIBITION ON THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF JIMI HENDRIX. (kinda difficult to be racist when 1/3 of your “real estate” is devoted to a BLACK MAN?)
4. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s involvement with the local Black community in Cleveland.
B. There are many things about the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame that I discovered during my visit that will cause me to continue to criticize them as needed for example:
1. How come Smokey Robinson (now corrected) is in there as a solo artist and why aren’t the rest of the Miracles in there also?
2. What the hell is Rod Stewart doing in there?
3. (and many many other things that “aren’t quite right.”)
4. The Hall of Fame clearly has a “flawed” selection process, but it isn’t racist.
5. As far as the need to “have our own”, I will say this much.
As a Black American, as I walked around the museum and absorbed all of the wonderful exhibits and audio/visual information there, it made me feel proud to just look at the many accomplishments of my own people on display in such a magnificent structure.
What DISGUSTED ME was being able to look around at the HUNDREDS of other visitors and being able to count on ONE HAND the number in attendancew
Certainly EVERY member of Soul-Patrol should visit the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame if you get a chance to. Damn near EVERYTHING that we discuss here on this mailing list is on display for you to see and hear (more on that later)
More importantly, EVERY Black American should visit. If you do visit, you won’t find a more exciting presentation of the recent history of YOUR culture anywhere and yes I am just the type of “nerd” who has visited many of the African-American History Museums around the country in various cities. (and most of them don’t have any Black people visiting them either!). This is an important institution, that WE have essentially BUILT (and have chosen NOT to reap the benefit of)
“This joint really should be called the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.”
(Ray is on point!)
GO THERE (and take the kids), I guarantee you that you will walk away with “a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip”
(just as I did)
Some highlights at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame
It would be impossible for me to provide an accurate written description of what a visit to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is like, so I’ll just provide some highlights. In addition to the “Rolling Stone Magazine Type Period Exhibitions” that I mentioned earlier, here are some of the more impressive things that I saw
THE ACTUAL ENTRANCE TO THE EXHIBITS
As you enter the exhibit area on the first floor, there is a gallery of “Rolling Stone Magazine Type Photos” (in fact many are by Anne Libowitz )
There are large poster sized framed B/W photos Lennon, Stones, Aretha, etc
On the opposite wall there are framed “gaudy” concert posters of R&B shows from the 1950’s.
The juxtaposition of this imagery against each other for me was startling and not quite what I expected. It was as if the idea was to depict the ongoing struggle that Rock n’ Roll has with itself between acknowledging it’s “outsider roots” and being sucked into the “mainstream”. I found it to be refreshing that they would put that kind of imagery right in your face upon entering and it clearly sets the stage for the kind of even handed treatment that the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame itself seems to be fighting to maintain in the face of it’s own need for funding from the very elements that it kinda wants to also attack?
THE INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS
* Artists and their Influences – This section was most impressive, there was an audio/video terminal where you could call up each inductee. For each inductee there is a biography, some audio and a discography. That was pretty much expected. However you could also point on the screen to “influences” and up would pop up the name, image and biography of two other inductee’s that had influenced the original selection. For example on Jimi Hendrix when you selected his influences, up would pop the names and images of Curtis Mayfield and Muddy Waters. For James Brown it was Little Willie John and the 5 Royales. For Otis Redding it was Little Richard and Sam Cooke. (and so on and so forth).
This enables the viewer to see the History of Rock n’ Roll NOT as a series of relatively “unrelated periods” (ex: the Blues period, The Rockabilly Period, British Invasion Period, The Soul Period, etc) as Rolling Stone magazine would like us to view the history of Rock n’ Roll. Instead it allows us to understand that the history of the music is indeed intertwined, but NOT by some artificially designated “periods” (like a high school social studies book) but that the history of the music is a continuum, that is defined by the ARTISTS THEMSELVES, by the ARTISTS WHO INFLUENCED THEM and by the ARTISTS WHO THEY WILL INFLUENCE IN THE FUTURE!
This type of analysis makes the history of Rock n’ Roll a “circular and never ending web of influences” as opposed to a “stratified linear straight line”. From my perspective, this is a far more accurate representation of the truth, than the “History According To Rolling Stone Magazine” and it also is a perspective that holds out a brighter hope for the constant rebirth and renewal of the music
* Artist Discographies – Not just simply a listing, but instead sorta like a jukebox!
For each artists that have a complete selection of all of their hit songs
For example, I pulled up Smokey Robinson’s “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” (out of about 60 songs listed for him) and put on the headphones.
As the song played, I started singing the words and dancing around doing my “Miracles Imitation” (including “twirls & hand gestures”). At this point “mrs. earthjuice” started to walk away from me in embarrassment until she saw that the other people in the adjoining booths were doing the same exact thing.
When “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” ended, she took the headphones away and then proceeded to the same exact thing as I did, except to Santana’s “Evil Ways”
* Come See About Me – Features a biographical database of just about anyone that you could think of, including artists that are NOT inducted in the Hall of Fame. So for example there are biographies of some of my favorites like the Dells, Mandrill, Delfonics, Teddy Pendegrass and others. Since these biographies are sourced from the Rolling Stone History of Rock n’ Roll” of course there are many inaccuracies. However it’s kinda nice to know that everybody is included and not just inductees!
THE HENDRIX EXHIBITION IS AWESOME
· If you are a Jimi Hendrix fan, this alone is worth the price of admission.
* There are all kinds of artifacts from Jimi’s clothing to rare photos from various periods of his life to guitars, to 45’s to concert reviews to huge blown up 45 sleeves and album covers to contracts, to handwritten lyrics to a timeline of Jimi’s life to a replica of the Hendrix family living room and more
* There is a video interview with Al Hendrix discussing Jimi’s early life and his rise to stardom
* There is a special “Surround Sound Jimi Hendrix Movie Theatre” which plays several songs from the Isle of Wright Concert (his last) and the Dick Cavett Interview
* Of special interest to me on a personal level was a promotional poster that Jimi Hendrix did for the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. (that is the very same library where I gave my presentation on Jimi Hendrix last fall as a part of the “SUITE HENDRIX CELEBRATION)
THE ACTUAL HALL OF FAME ITSELF
* For some reason, I expected an area with bronze statues of the inductees….lol
* There are no statues, instead there are the names and signatures “laminated” on a translucent semi circular wall. The signatures have an eerie glow and almost seem infused with “magic dust”
* I counted the signatures and there were SIXTEEN MEMBERS OF THE SOUL PATROL MAILING LIST UP THERE 🙂
* Even better than statues, is a film that is shown in of a theatre that is inside of the semi circle, which focuses on each one of the “inductee years”. It is a multi media/three screen extravaganza that is totally MIND BLOWING and it ends with a video of the Flamingos singing “I Only Have Eyes For You”. It will make you remember what you thought that you had forgotten about these GREAT artists.
There is more, MUCH more, but I have already been long winded enough.
Three more quickies.
1. No Cameras are permitted
2. If you go plan on spending at least 2 full days checking it out
3. The “gift shop” is probably the best CD store in the United States. Whatever you are looking for that has ever been released on CD is there (for example, I found 2 Timi Yuro CD’s there), bring LOTS of ca$h..lol