The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

curator :: Blog

Women Who Rock spotlight: Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday

Wednesday, July 6: 3:38 p.m.
Billie Holiday's fur stole in the Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit

I saw the film Lady Sings the Blues, starring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Diana Ross, when I was about 11 years old.  One of the images in the movie that still resonates with me is one in which the around 11-year-old Billie Holiday, circa 1926, is working as a cleaning and errand girl for a Baltimore “house of ill-repute.” When she is supposed to be scrubbing the front stoop, she sneaks away and spends most of her time leaning over the Victrola in the brothel parlor, cranking up Bessie Smith’s latest hit, “’Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do.” She plays the record over and over, singing along, studying every note and syllable. So, that film was not only my introduction to Billie Holiday, it was also my introduction to Bessie Smith, and an important lesson in how artists pass the cultural torch. Watching Diana Ross’ portrayal of Billie Holiday learning from Bessie Smith, I recognized the same way that I studied every Supremes’ 45 on my old Sears Silvertone. I can imagine Lady GaGa at 11 years old, listening to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” on her Walkman in exactly the same way. Seeing Lady Sings ...

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Fashion Meets Rock and Roll

Friday, February 12: 12 p.m.

Assistant Curator Meredith Rutledge discusses late fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s influence on the look of rock and roll

When talking about rock and roll’s relationship to the world of fashion, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chief curator Jim Henke said, “virtually every artist defines (themselves) as much by the way they look as by the music they play.”

It’s been said that fashion and style are the natural visual counterparts to creative musical expression. Rock and roll artists have had a long relationship with the world of high fashion — picture Elvis Presley’s iconic gold lamé suit designed by Nudie, then fast forward to Madonna’s equally iconic gold bustier designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.  Fashion designers like Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and  Gianni Versace have all become synonymous with the branding of rock stars like Madonna, Mick Jagger and Elton John. That’s why the tragic death of clothing designer Alexander McQueen, whom Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour called “one of the greatest talents of his generation,” has especially resonated here at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. McQueen was a favorite designer of the rock world, creating red carpet, stage and album cover looks ...

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Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Interview Clip (7 of 8)

Tuesday, September 29: 4:54 p.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
Bruce Springsteen's personal song book

Chief Curator Jim Henke talks to Bruce Springsteen.

This is the seventh clip in a series of eight interview audio clips with Springsteen.

In this section of my interview, Bruce Springsteen talks about his songwriting process. He describes songwriting as a “meditation,” adding that “it works best when you go into a light, trance-like situation.” Later in the interview, he calls it a “magic act”: “You literally pull something from thin air.” He adds that when he started out, his success-to-failure ratio was “five percent success to 95 percent failure.”

A significant portion of the Bruce exhibit at the Hall of Fame focuses on his songwriting. The first floor of the exhibit includes a songwriting notebook from his early band Steel Mill, as well as numerous lyric manuscripts from his first three albums. The second floor of the exhibit features one entire wall of lyric manuscripts, including his notebooks for Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, Born in the U.S.A. and The Rising. It also features a table and chair. According to Bruce, he wrote many of his most famous songs while sitting at that table, which was in his house in New Jersey.

Click here ...

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Rock Hall’s Chief Curator Talks about the Anniversary of Woodstock

Thursday, August 13: 12 p.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
Map of Woodstock Festival from the Rock Hall exhibit WOODSTOCK: The 40th Anniversary.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Yes, the music festival that had such an impact on our culture took place 40 years ago! Those babies who were born at Woodstock are now 40 years old! And nowadays, it seems like everyone you ask claims they were at Woodstock. Well, I wasn’t there. I was still a teenager, too young to drive. And I’m sure my parents would not have let me go even if I could have driven. But, like so many others, I watched the coverage on the television and read the stories in the newspapers. Then, when the movie was finally released, I was able to experience the great music that was made at Woodstock. Yes, there were music festivals before Woodstock, but none of them had the cultural impact that Woodstock did. It was a cultural milestone, the coming of age of the peace and love generation. It was no longer our parents’ world. It was our world. We were against the war in Vietnam. We loved rock and roll and we proved that three days of peace, love and music among half a million dirty, hungry young people was possible. Yes, Woodstock ...

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