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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 ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Library and Archives, Exhibit, Event

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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Remembering Hall of Fame Inductee Allen Toussaint

Thursday, November 12: 3:34 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Allen Toussaint inducted into Hall of Fame in 1998 by Robbie Robertson

Allen Toussaint was one of New Orleans' great musical giants. “He was a great and tremendously versatile musician, a real gentleman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever known,” said Hall of Fame Inductee Randy Newman. 

He was a gifted arranger, deft producer, engaging performer and masterful record executive. But perhaps most remarkably, he was among the rare songwriters whose musical vocabulary – though singularly recognizable – translated to myriad styles and elevated the artistry of musicians around the world.

"New Orleans and the world has lost a true musical genius," wrote Trombone Shorty on his Facebook wall. "Allen will always be one of the founding fathers of what New Orleans sounds like; he was a tremendous friend and mentor to me and other musicians in New Orleans. Everything I do is influenced by my musical upbringing in New Orleans – and Allen was a huge part of that. I thank him so much for it, and for all that he did."

His piano on Fats Domino records inspired the likes of Elton John. He produced records for Bonnie Raitt. He toured with Little Feat. He arranged the memorable horns for the Band's Last Waltz. He worked with Otis Redding ...


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Rose Maddox Sings and Swings as Rockabilly Original in the 1940s

Wednesday, September 16: 11:18 a.m.

history of rockabilly music rose maddox sings

The California music scene took off during World War II when it became the home of some of the most prominent western swing bands, including Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and Spade Cooley and his Orchestra. They played primarily to an Okie audience — men and women who had migrated from the southern plains to work in the wartime production plants in places like Los Angeles and San Diego.

A large number of those wartime workers were women, dancing to the music of Bob Wills and Spade Cooley. So how did female musicians really stake a claim in this scene? Enter Rose Maddox.

Rose Maddox, the lead singer of the Maddox Brothers and Rose, developed a unique singing style — a belting voice that could be heard in the raucous roadhouses and dancehalls of California. Her resonating chest voice clearly projected over the din of dancing, drinking and socializing. Patrons had to take notice.

The Maddoxes were part of the Okie migration, leaving the depressed South for California in the 1930s. They worked as farmhands in the Central Valley until they formed the band The Maddox Brothers and Rose in the late 1930s. They came to the forefront of California’s ...


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A Salute to the Father of Modern Gospel: AndraƩ Crouch

Sunday, April 12: 9:16 a.m.

“The soulful classics that Pastor Crouch created over the years have uplifted the hearts and minds of several generations and his timeless influence continues to be felt in not only gospel but a variety of music genres.” -President Barack Obama

Picture of gospel legend Andraé Crouch

When Pastor Andraé Crouch passed away in January 2015, the outpouring was remarkable. Artists, elected officials, community leaders and legions of fans flocked to pay tribute to the man known as the “father of modern gospel music.” The response was a testament to the impact of his music over the last 40 years. He created a body of work that drew on contemporary musical styles and sophisticated production to inspire his audience and spread the word of God.

WATCH LIVE: Rock My Soul: A Gospel Music Celebration Honoring Andraé Crouch at 7:30pm ET on April 12, 2015!

Andraé Crouch and his twin sister Sandra were born in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1942. Their parents, Benjamin and Catherine, were very active in the Church of God in Christ. In 1951, they moved to the San Fernando Valley, where Benjamin Crouch established Christ Memorial Church. Andraé began to play keyboards at age 11, which he attributed to his ...


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You Better Believe Gospel Shaped Rock and Roll

Sunday, April 5: 10 a.m.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates gospel music every day at the Museum as one of the essential musical roots of rock and roll. Three gospel performers who have had a profound influence on popular music have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Mahalia Jackson (pictured above), whose fervent contralto was one of the great voices of the 20th century; The Soul Stirrers, who brought gospel out of local churches to a national audience, setting the pace for gospel and pop vocal groups; and The Staple Singers, who landed gospel on the pop charts with songs that advanced the Civil Rights movement.

Gospel echoes throughout the history of rock and roll. We hear it in the early vocal groups like The Drifters and this year’s inductees The “5” Royales (who started out in North Carolina singing gospel as the Royal Sons Quartet); the Motown sounds of the Temptations, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; the soul music of legends like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Darlene Love, Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Wilson Pickett; and in the message and spirit of The Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire in the 70s; as well as the extraordinary music ...


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