If you’re a music lover, one of the coolest places to visit is the incomparable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, at East Ninth Street, this impressive geometric glass structure is the work of renowned architect I.M.Pei. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in September of 2020, the seven-story architectural pyramidal masterpiece is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the music of rock and roll.
You can easily spend two days at this one-of-a kind world-class museum. I wish I had more time the first time I visited, and when I returned a few years later, I bought a two-day ticket, so I could enjoy more of the exhibits. On its seven floors, this 150,000 square foot Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entices you with at least five film theaters and interactive exhibits which are ever-changing, as well as multi-media exhibits.
Thousands of artifacts are on display, having been donated or loaned to the museum by the artists. Samples of these include Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout shirt, John Lennon’s eyeglasses, the Everly Brothers’ tap dance shoes, and Keith Moon’s velvet stage costume. You can also see Bono’s first guitar, Joe Walsh’s high school football jersey, and many of Michael Jackson’s stage outfits as well as his signature “Billie Jean” glove. Some of the personal items, like John Lennon’s report cards are guaranteed to generate a lot of attention. I especially liked what Keith Moon’s report said about him. “Retarded artistically. Idiotic in other respects.” The famed musician still is creating award-winning songs.
Beginning in 1986, the very first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony occurred at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was held by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which was formed in New York several years prior by a few professionals in the music industry. Their mission was to “recognize the people who have created this music which has become the most popular music of our time.” The foundation exists “to honor the artists that have defined rock and roll and have inspired and continue to inspire a generation.”
Cleveland had already established itself as the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World,” thanks to radio deejays, such as Alan Freed, who introduced the term rock and roll back in the 50s. Largely in part due to a heavy marketing campaign by radio station WMMS, to collect over 600,00 signatures, Cleveland was selected to be the permanent home of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which did not open until 1995. Close to 600,000 visitors a year enjoy this fun place, and today it is the number one tourist attraction of the city, and local Clevelanders lovingly refer to it as the Rock Hall.
If you're a fan of Jimi Hendrix, the hand-written lyrics to Purple Haze are on display. So is some of Bruce Springsteen's jewelry, one of Cat Steven' guitars, Linda Ronstadt's jacket from her 1978 Back in the USA album cover, and a Tony Banks synthesizer.
Music is heard throughout the building and you can listen on headphones to the original recordings of many of the inductees. Many of the exhibits include hand-written lyrics, original handbill posters for concerts, artists’ childhood school report cards, and correspondence. To reflect the constantly changing genre of rock and roll, the exhibits are changed frequently, and featured exhibits are offered for limited amounts of time.
On level three is the actual hall of fame, and I found the experience extremely moving as I viewed all the inductees’ autographs etched in glass. I can say the same for the multi-media film as I watched in awe the video collage of the inductees in an acoustically perfect theater. Some of the performances brought tears to my eyes. Sirius XM satellite radio operates a live recording booth from here on Channel 26, Classic Vinyl. I thought it was cool to see the deejay in her booth at work through the glass window. So much of the museum is a multimedia and interactive experience.
On November 7, 2020, the 2020 induction ceremony will be held in Cleveland at Public Hall. The 2020 inductees include Whitney Houston, the Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, T. Rex, and the Doobie Brothers. To meet eligibility criteria the nominees must have released their first recording 25 years ago or more.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has recently reopened after the COVID19 quarantine, and is open daily 11a.m. to 5p.m. with social distancing and sanitary precautions in place. All museum tickets are available online only at this link https://www.rockhall.com/. Ticket prices are $28 for adults and $18 for children ages 6-12. Fans choose available time slots for entry when purchasing tickets. Limited capacity for each available time slot allows the museum to spread out visitors during their trip inside the museum. Fans must maintain six feet apart from other guests, or as they say in the music world, two Stratocasters apart.
The Rock and Roll Museum also offers live music outside on the plaza, and this resumes in July on Thursday and Saturday evenings from 5-7 p.m.
Since Cleveland is my hometown, this museum holds a special place in my heart. A visit to Cleveland is totally worth the stop just to experience the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you're a rock and roll fan, it's a no brainer. Enjoy.
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Margie is an American writer with a passion for travel, and a particular love of Italy. An award-winning author of six books, she also writes the blog, Margie in Italy, and contributes to the monthly newspaper, La Gazzetta Italiana as well as several other websites. When she’s not traveling or writing, she can be found at the beach near her home in Florida, or trying out a new recipe. Follow her on IG/Twitter @margiemiklas.