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Tom Morello Says 100% of Music is Political

Thursday, May 19: 3:30 p.m.
Posted by Tom Morello

Tom Morello Rage Against the Machine Interview at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland, Ohio

I'd say that 100 percent of music is political, that music either supports the status quo or challenges the status quo, so every artist is political. Now, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez probably don't self-identify as political artists, but their music, while often very entertaining and loved by their fan bases, is the bread and circuses of our times. If you're not questioning authority, you're tacitly submitting to authority. That's not to say that I don't have a long list of booty-shaking jams on my iPod, and there's certainly a place for that, but I'm also conscious of the fact that in my own work, that what you say and what you do matters, that you are a historical agent, and that if you don't have your hands on the steering wheel, somebody else does.

See what happens when rock and politics collide in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Louder Than Words exhibit, open May 20, 2016!


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Bono Tells Story of U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky"

Thursday, May 19: 3:25 p.m.
Posted by Bono

U2 lead singer Bono interview Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland, Ohio Louder Than Words

I always want to go and see things for myself. That's why I ended up during the famine in Ethiopia. That's why I ended up in central America during the problems there in El Salvador and even in Nicaragua. I just want to go, I just want to see for myself.

I see things that are very hard to explain. That words, perhaps if I was a better writer, maybe I could just write journalism. But I'm blessed because I'm part of the U2 group and they're really good. They have an ability to express inexpressible thoughts. When I explained to Edge what I've been through in El Salvador, he was able to – with a nod to Jimi Hendrix actually – try and put some of that fear and loathing into his guitar solo.

We strapped my feelings to the [U2] song "Bullet the Blue Sky." I've been there; it was an American movement that were… wonderful people who were offering solace to refugees from the war in El Salvador. I was with one of those groups visiting. It was just a few of us. We went out into the hills and maybe that ...


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Gloria Estefan Shares Why She Won't Perform in Cuba

Thursday, May 19: 11:55 a.m.
Posted by Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan interview Obama and Cuba Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland, Ohio Louder Than Words

You know what, 57 years is a long time. And if anything is gonna make life in whatever way better for the Cuban people, then it needs to happen. I happen to think that as long as that government is there, some things may change, but they are still taking repressive measures.

Even the day that President [Obama] landed in Cuba. The Ladies in White, which are these ladies that protest every Sunday very peacefully, walking silently with a flower were beaten and jailed. Gorki [Aguila], one of the top rap artist in Cuba now that is very vocal against the Cuban government but wont leave. He stays in Cuba to be there and to have his message come through. He was arrested that day. There were cameras on them. There were journalists covering it. It was kind of Castro's way of saying: "We don't care if you come here."

As you notice, Raúl Castro did not greet the President at the airport. He was greeted not even by the vice president, but by somebody in the diplomatic mission. [Castro] had very subtle ways of telling [Obama]. And then we saw, obviously, the op-ed that Fidel Castro ...


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David Byrne Thinks Music Has the Power to Unify

Thursday, May 19: 11:50 a.m.
Posted by David Byrne

Talking Heads David Byrne interview politics Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland, Ohio Louder Than Words

I don't know if music has the power to change people's minds as far as about political ideas, about issues, things like that. I do think it has the power to unify people who are maybe slightly undecided, maybe slightly feeling a certain way but haven't been able to articulate it. Music does a good job of articulating something and how something feels more than kind of an editorial. It's really good at explaining how it feels and people who haven't had those feelings articulated, that they feel a certain way about something, music will do that. And then they realize that there are other people that music helps do that, that feel the same way they do. So, it creates a kind of group with a kind of like mind. Which isn't really changing anybody's mind, but it's kind of bringing people with like minds together.

See what happens when rock and politics collide in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Louder Than Words exhibit, open May 20, 2016!


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The Genius of Michael Jackson

Monday, April 18: 11:05 a.m.
Posted by Steve Knopper

Michael Jackson Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Billie Jean album cover art

I was born just a hair too late for the Jackson 5, so the first time I listened to Michael Jackson was probably around 1974, when he and Roberta Flack sang that charming and funny duet "When We Grow Up" in the cartoonish kids' bedroom in "Free to Be . . . You and Me." I was in high school in the 80s, and watched MTV all the time, so "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" were inescapable. Regrettably, back then, I was kind of a classic rock snob, so I paid most attention to "We Are the World," because Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan were on it. In the early 90s, when I became a music writer, I made up for it and fell hard for Off the Wall and Thriller.

Then when my daughter, Rose, was 4 or 5, she fell in love with "Goin' Back to Indiana," and we had to listen to it 400 times a day. That eventually brought us to "Billie Jean," which we watched on YouTube together, over and over. It's just mesmerizing.

How does Michael make his body do those things? How does he get his leg so high? How does he look like he ...


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808: How a Hugely Flawed Piece of 80s Tech Forever Changed Music

Thursday, February 25: 4:20 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley

Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force 808 the Movie Interview

When Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock" dropped in 1982, it was nothing short of a revelation. In its cool grooves, the Bronx and Manhattan collided with a message for the citizens of One World. The lyrics were upbeat and utopian: "Party people, can y'all get funky!" The music – based around the rhythms of Kraftwerk's 1977 Krautrock hit "Trans-Europe Express" – was electronic and, in fact, funky. Hip-hop's first self-conscious art record suggested just how far this new musical sound could go. This was the Star Trek take on science fiction: harmonious, multicultural, with technology connecting people rather than alienating or threatening them.

And its rhythmic core? The Roland TR-808 drum machine, a hugely flawed, relatively inexpensive piece of early 80s technology that forever transformed the modern musical landscape of many styles – hip-hop, electro, dance, techno, pop, rock and industrial, among others.

808 The Movie tells the story of this unlikely musical hero, and I caught up with producer Alex Noyer to get the inside story on why he and his crew were inspired to make the film and the surprising stories they heard from the likes of Bambaataa, Phil Collins, Fat Boy Slim, the Beastie ...


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Drugs, Sex, Violence, Occult and the PMRC's "Filthy 15"

Thursday, December 10: 3:02 p.m.
Posted by Ivan Sheehan

PMRC Parental Advisory label Tipper Gore and Frank Zappa

What do Madonna, AC/DC, Prince, Tipper Gore and the RIAA have in common? Not a trick question: the Parents Music Resource Center.

In 1985, Gore, Susan Baker, Pam Howar, Nancy Thurmond and Sally Nevius – colloquially known as the "Washington Wives" – banded together as the Parents Music Resource Center.

Citing "explicit content in sound recordings" and working with the National Parent Teachers Association and the Recording Industry Association of America, the group successfully advocated so that "certain music releases containing explicit lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence and sex, would be identified so parents could make intelligent listening choices for their children."

Louder Than Words Rock and Politics New Rock Hall Exhibit 2016However, before the Parental Advisory Label Program was officially enacted, the resulting cause célèbre reached fever pitch during a sensational forum before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in September 1985 that pitted politicians and PMRC representatives against musicians including John Denver, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Hall of Fame Inductee Frank Zappa. 

Gore asked the record labels place "a warning label on music products inappropriate for younger children due to explicit sexual or violent lyrics." Zappa argued that "the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real ...


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Did the Vietnam War Have a Soundtrack?

Tuesday, November 24: 1:52 p.m.
Posted by Doug Bradley

The Animals We Gotta Get Out of This Place Vietnam War songs

Doug Bradley, author of DEROS Vietnam, has written extensively about his Vietnam, and post-Vietnam, experiences. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1970 and served one year as an information specialist (journalist) at U.S. Army Republic of Vietnam (USARV) headquarters near Saigon.

I first became a soldier in a war zone on Veterans Day (November 11) 1970. It’s an irony I’ve wrestled with for 45 years, due in part to the precise timing of U. S. Army tours of duty in Vietnam, which meant that Uncle Sam would send me back home exactly 365 days later — on November 11, 1971.

Needless to say, the date is etched in my mind and will always be. It’s personal, of course, but in a way it’s lyrical, too. I say that because my earliest Vietnam memories aren’t about guns and bullets, but rather about music.

As my fellow “newbies” and I were being transported from Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base to the Army’s 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh, I vividly recall hearing Smokey Robinson and The Miracles singing “Tears of a Clown.” That pop song was blasting from four or five ...


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