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Elton John: From the Classics to the Contemporary

Tuesday, March 25: 4:25 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Released in 1970, Elton John's second album contained one of his biggest hits, "Your Song."

Born Reginald Dwight in Middlesex, England, the future Elton John discovered his destiny early, tinkering with the piano as a tot of three. Teenager Reg won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and studied there five years before signing on with Long John Baldry's band Bluesology in the mid 60s. Taking his name from Baldry and bandmate Elton Dean, Elton John left Baldry and teamed up with the man who would become his longtime writing partner, lyricist Bernie Taupin.

The sweetly sentimental "Your Song," John's 1970 breakthrough hit, was far from his first single. The 1968 dud "I've Been Loving You" was an ill-conceived attempt to capitalize on the popularity of big ballad singers like Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones; 1969's "Lady Samantha" didn't score either, but found John on the verge of discovering his artistic voice, and was covered by Three Dog Night. Since "Your Song," it's been full speed ahead, of course.

During a career spanning five decades, the Rocket Man has released more than 30 albums, and is one of the top-selling artists of all time, with more than 300 million records sold worldwide.

Sir Elton continues to influence ...


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Today In Rock: Jim Morrison is Born

Thursday, December 8: 5 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
The Doors

On December 8, 1943, James Douglas "Jim" Morrison was born. The lead singer of the Doors lived a short, tragic life. He was only 27 when he died of heart failure in Paris, France. But, musically, Morrison accomplished a tremendous amount in his six years with the Doors. As Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Jim Henke wrote in his book, The Jim Morrison Scrapbook: “From 1967 to 1970, during his spectacular zenith, Jim Morrison seemingly had it all. He was an internationally revered rock star with numerous hit records to his credit, a dynamic stage performer, an alluring sex symbol, and a published poet.” The Doors formed in the summer of 1965 around Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who’d met at UCLA’s film school. A year later the group signed with Elektra Records, recording six landmark studio LPs –  including their '67 self-titled debut, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman – and a live album for the label. The group’s dark, brooding personality came largely from singer Jim Morrison.

The Museum is home to many Jim Morrison artifacts that help tell the Morrison story, such as his Cub Scout uniform and a ...


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Today in Rock: Jimi Hendrix is Born

Sunday, November 27: 9:05 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Jimi Hendrix (11.27.42 - 9.18.70)

On November 27, 1942, arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music was born: Jimi Hendrix. In less than three decades, he expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before. His boundless drive, technical ability and creative application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll. Hendrix helped usher in the age of psychedelia with his 1967 debut, Are You Experienced, and the impact of his brief but meteoric career on popular music continues to be felt.

More than any other musician, Jimi Hendrix realized the fullest range of sound that could be obtained from an amplified instrument. He was influenced by the songwriting of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and bridged myriad genres, from acid rock, Delta blues and free jazz to hardcore funk, R&B and soul. Yet the songs and sounds generated by Hendrix were original, otherworldly and virtually indescribable. In essence, Hendrix channeled the music of the cosmos, anchoring it to the earthy beat of rock and roll.

Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle to 17-year-old mother Lucille Jeter and father James "Al" Hendrix, who was ...


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Today in Rock: Duane Allman is Born

Saturday, November 19: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Duane Allman / photo by Ed Berman

On November 20, 1946, legendary guitarist Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee. His unparalleled guitar work, songwriting and inspiring presence helped earn his namesake band a deserved place in the pantheon of rock and roll, and made him an icon.

As the principal architects of Southern rock, the Allman Brothers Band forged this new musical offshoot from elements of blues, jazz, soul, R&B and rock and roll. Along with the Grateful Dead and Cream, they help advance rock as a medium for improvisation. Their kind of jamming required a level of technical virtuosity and musical literacy that was relatively new to rock & roll, which had theretofore largely been a song-oriented medium. Duane Allman and Dickey Betts – The original guitarists in the Allman Brothers Band – broke that barrier with soaring, extended solos. Combined with organist Gregg Allman’s gruff, soulful vocals and Hammond B3 organ, plus the forceful, syncopated drive of a rhythm section that included two drummers, the Allman Brothers Band were a blues-rocking powerhouse from their beginnings in 1969. Moreover, their success paved the way for other bands from the South, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Charlie Daniels Band. 

The group formed around ...


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Today In Rock: Tom Petty Is Born

Thursday, October 20: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

For more than 30 years, Florida native Tom Petty has been the charismatic frontman and voice of among the most durable, resourceful, hard-working, likable, unpretentious and capable rock bands of all time. Together with the Heartbreakers – which has include bassist Ron Blair, guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Stan Lynch and keyboardist Benmont Tench – he mastered rock and roll's fundamentals and digested its history, leading a band of the people, writing of everyday struggles and frustrations – and offering redemption through tough-minded, big-hearted, tuneful songs. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee turns 61 today.

Although they were not punk-rockers per se, Petty and the Heartbreakers did their part to revitalize rock in the mid-to-late Seventies with their first three albums: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Breakdown,” “American Girl”), You’re Gonna Get It! (“I Need to Know,” “Listen to Her Heart”) and Damn the Torpedoes – the latter one of the essential rock albums of the decade.

Strong from start to finish, Torpedoes contained the classic tracks “Refugee,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl.” It also revealed Petty’s depth of conviction and fighting nature. When his record company changed hands, Petty ...


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Today in Rock: Chuck Berry is Born

Tuesday, October 18: 5 p.m.
Posted by Terry Stewart
Chuck Berry

Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news: it's Chuck Berry's birthday.

Let's hear it for the man who taught us about everything from cooling off your car's engine with rain water blowin' all under the hood, to all we needed to know about girls named "Carol" and "Nadine." In fact, the Shakespeare of rock and roll informed us about most the things we needed to know in those nascent days of the music that's become the soundtrack of our lives. 

Imagine what it meant to me when he referred to my hometown of Mobile in "Let It Rock." It was great being with you recently, Mr. Berry,  and it thrills me that you are still knockin' 'em out like Johnny B. Goode.

More About Hall of Fame Inductee Chuck Berry:
(pictured: Chuck Berry's Gibson ES-335, part of the Museum's featured collection)

While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very ...


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Celebrating the Life of Otis Redding

Friday, September 9: 1 p.m.
Otis Redding

Otis Redding would have celebrated his 70th birthday today, so we're delighted that the opening of the Rock Hall’s Otis Redding exhibit coincides with and commemorates his birth and remarkable life. The spotlight exhibit allows Redding's life and legacy to shine through with a collection of treasured personal effects and career mementos.

Otis Redding’s life and music embodied the essence of soul. He was a self-professed country boy from Macon, Georgia, and he had it all: a big, gravelly voice, an immense gift for songwriting and a generous, hardworking disposition. There was earthiness and candor in his every performance, be it slow, soulful ballads like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Try a Little Tenderness” or fast-paced numbers like “Respect” and “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” Producer Jerry Wexler said of Redding’s performances, “You could feel this plea coming from him.” Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T. and the MG’s recalled: “Otis would come in, and boy, he’d just bring everybody up. ‘Cause you knew something was gonna be different. When Otis was there, it was just revitalization of the whole thing. You wanted to play with Otis. He ...


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The Stars Pay Tribute to Buddy Holly

Friday, September 9: 1 p.m.
Posted by Shelby Morrison
Musicians and fans celebrate Buddy Holly's 75th birthday

Seventy-four years after Buddy Holly's birth, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee received a Hollywood birthday bash befitting his status as one of the entertainment world's brightest stars. On what would’ve been his 75th birthday, Buddy Holly was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star is located directly in front of the Capitol Records building on Vine Street, situated next to John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Paul McCartney’s star space is reserved but not yet realized). Holly never recorded for Capitol, but he and The Crickets were a direct influence on the Beatles – the literal root and inspiration for their insect namesake and sound – which makes the location poignantly appropriate.

Fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and rock pioneer Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon and actor Gary Busey, who portrayed Holly in the biographical film, The Buddy Holly Story, paid homage to their friend and inspiration, each giving moving speeches at the unveiling of Holly’s Hollywood star. Just before the star was revealed, Holly’s widow Maria Elena Holly gave a touching speech speaking directly to his fans ...


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