The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is where the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who had some major influence on the development of rock and roll are recognized and archived. It was on April 20, 1983, when The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was founded by Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records’ founder, and chairman. Cleveland was chosen as the Hall of Fame’s permanent home in 1986, that’s why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be found on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was deciding to open its physical museum in 1985 and Cleveland threw its hat into the ring for consideration. Fortunately, it received a lot of public support and a $65 million commitment from city officials, therefore, Cleveland was chosen by the Foundation as the winning site, over locales such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Memphis.
The groundbreaking ceremony happened on June 7, 1993, and it was attended by the Who’s Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry, Billy Joel, Sam Phillips, and Ruth Brown to name a few. And a year after, Jerry Lewis performed there when the building was finished off with the placement of one last steel.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors on September 2, 1995, and it was celebrated with a blockbuster benefit concert at nearby Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
Building Architecture and Layout
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building was designed by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei, and it is one of Cleveland’s most striking and recognizable pieces of architecture. The building is 150,000-square-foot and has a glass-enclosed, double pyramid adjacent to a 162-foot tower which soars above the shores of Lake Erie.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a 55,000 square feet space with 7 levels. It features a lot of nooks and crannies that are filled with multimedia goodies to explore.
When you enter the building, you will be greeted by upside-down cars from U2’s Zoo TV tour in the sun-filled lobby atrium, which also often hosts concerts and special events. You can also find there a nosh-worthy café and museum store where you can dine and shop.
The second floor of the building has several interactive kiosks featuring programs on one-hit wonders and the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Aside from that, it also features a gallery with artifact-filled exhibits about Sam Phillips, Les Paul, and Alan Freed, as well as the evolution of audio technology.
It’s on the third floor where you enter the Hall of Fame section of the museum. It has “The Power of Rock Experience”, which includes one of the final works of Jonathan Demme, a film shown in the Connor Theater. It features musical highlights from some of the Hall of Fame’s induction ceremonies.
On the fourth floor, you will be able to find the Foster Theater which is a state-of-the-art 3-D theater used for special events and programs. On the last top 2 levels of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, you can find large, temporary exhibits. Some of the numerous exhibits that have been installed on these two levels over the years include the Supremes, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, U2, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones.
There are a lot of public programs being produced by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Some of these are concerts, interviews, lectures, film screening, and other events that tell the story of rock and roll. The museum celebrates Black History Month every February through lectures, film screenings, and concerts that illustrate the important role that African-American have played in the rock and roll history. The program began in 1996 and from that time, some of the artists that have appeared during the Black History Month are Robert Lockwood, Jr., the Temptations, Ruth Brown, Charles Brown, Lloyd Price, the Ohio Players, Al Green, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Aside from that, another program is the Hall of Fame Series which began in April 1996. This series features interviews with Hall of Fame inductees in rare and intimate settings, most often in the Museum’s Foster Theater. The interviews also include question and answer session with the audience followed by a performance by the inductee. There is also a similar program to the Hall of Fame Series which is the Legend Series. The difference is that this program features artists who have not yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
But the most acclaimed program in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the annual American Music Masters series. Every year, the museum celebrates one of the Hall of Fame’s inductees with a week-long series of programs including film screenings, interviews, and a special exhibit. The week-long celebration ends with an all-star concert held at a Cleveland theater. The concert usually includes a diverse mix of artists, from Hall of Fame inductees to contemporary musicians.
Library and Archives
Aside from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, it also has the Library and Archives located on the Metro Campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland’s Campus District. It is the world’s most comprehensive repository of rock and roll. Its mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to these materials.
The Library and Archives building has two levels where you can read books and magazines, listen to music and other recordings, and as well as watch videos and films. Their archival collections include music-business records from labels, recording studios, record executives, artist managers, and long-running concert tours. It also contains important items like personal letters written by Madonna and Aretha Franklin, lyrics handwritten by Jimi Hendrix, and rare concert recordings from CBGB in the 1970s.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is indeed one of the best places you shouldn’t miss when you visit Cleveland, Ohio. It is a wonderful place for rock and roll enthusiasts and as well as music lovers who want to know more about the history of rock and roll.