Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Cleveland, right on the edge of the Lake Erie shoreline.

Cleveland was the popular choice for the location for the Rock Hall, winning out over Memphis Tennessee, New York City, and Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, some couldn’t understand why Cleveland was the right place for the museum. Wikipedia says, “Cleveland lobbied hard to be chosen, citing the facts that one-time Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed is widely credited with promoting the new genre (and the term) of "rock and roll", and that Cleveland was the location of the first rock and roll concert.” But, others imply that it was primarily due to the money that the city was able to offer. My recollection at the time was that the city was desperate for something to revive the downtown lakefront area, and the Rock Hall fit in very well to the image, and the potential tourist drawing power, that the city needed. So the city found the money needed.

The building doesn’t seem to evoke the rock and roll feeling though. It was designed by I.M. Pei, also known for the pyramid design in the Louvre, in Paris, France. I visited the building when it first opened, and found the outside to be cold and severe looking, with the interior too museum-like. Over the years they have changed some of the presentation of the rock memorabilia and I think the displays are a little better, but there isn’t much that can be done about the building itself. One notable thing about the setting is that, seen from the air, the courtyard in the front looks like a giant turntable from a record player. Unfortunately, it gets lost on most people who really can’t see it from the air.

The inductees for 2008 were announced on Thursday, December 13, with the induction ceremonies in New York City on March 10, 2008. Wait, was that NEW YORK CITY? Why not Cleveland? Here is another problem with the Rock Hall. It’s that Cleveland gets no respect. The city’s residents contain probably some of the most hard-core rock and roll fans in the nation, and they certainly support the rock artists when they schedule performances in Cleveland. Sadly, it could be the Rock Hall people themselves who don’t take the chance to have an induction ceremony here in Cleveland, giving some much needed credibility to the Hall.

Another annual controversy is always over who gets inducted. I always seem to question at least one inductee every year. This year I question the induction of Leonard Cohen. I actually have one of his albums (Songs of Leonard Cohen) and there is no way I would have ever considered his style as rock. The questionable qualifications may be another component to why the Rock Hall may not have the credibility that it desires - and needs - to be a serious draw for the city.

Still, the Rock Hall is a good place to visit for fans of the genre, with plenty of memorabilia. If you do visit, while you’re in the area, check out the Great Lakes Science Center, right next door. It’s interesting AND great fun for all ages.
UPDATE: 12/19/2007 - The Rock Hall people have just announced that THEY WILL hold the induction ceremonies in Cleveland for 2009. Great news for the city - even though we have to wait over a year.

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