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Finding Bill Withers and Making "Still Bill"

Friday, April 10: 5:16 p.m.
Posted by Alex Vlack

As part of the Rock Hall's Celebration Day, the Museum will screen the Bill Withers documentary, Still Bill, at 5pm ET. In this post, the film's co-director (along with Damani Baker) Alex Vlack, shares how he found Bill Withers, his hero, and transformed the experience into a movie.

2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers

Everyone who's ever turned on the radio, walked into a restaurant, been in a bar, lived in this country for more than a few days knows Bill Withers' biggest songs. But most people don't know his name, and most people don't know most of his music.

I didn't really discover it until college, when my friend Jon Fine turned me on to Still Bill, Withers' second record. We listened to it on cassette over and over and over. I'd grown up on blues and jazz and rock, and thought I was pretty well-versed – when you're 18 years old, you can think of yourself as a lot of things! – so how could an album like this have slipped past me? It was, simply, the best album I'd ever heard. Fine and I started a band, and one of the first things we did was ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Event

Is "Transformer" Lou Reed’s Best Solo Work?

Friday, April 10: 3 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley

The story of Lou Reed Transformer album 1972 art

In 1970, Lou Reed quit the Velvet Underground at the end of a nine-week performance residency at the famous rock club Max’s Kansas City (in New York City), leaving the VU album Loaded recorded but unmixed; and leaving the VU to continue on with none of its original members.

Two years later, Reed released his self-titled, first solo album on RCA records. The album was mostly made up of songs he had written for – and in some cases even performed live with – the Velvet Underground. While the release generated a lot of buzz, it turned out to be a critical and commercial flop. There are some strong songs, but even listening to it today it feels… well, lost. It doesn’t have the bite of the early VU songs like “Heroin,” nor the pop sensibilities of songs like “Sweet Jane.”  So with the album as disappointment to everyone including Reed, what to do next?

Bowie, Ronson and Reed

David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson were longtime fans of the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, so when it was suggested that they produce the next Reed album, they jumped at the chance.

Reed, for his part, was enamored with ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Event

The Rock Hall's Guide to the Essential "5" Royales Songs

Thursday, April 9: 5:21 p.m.

TK


“Baby Don’t Do It”
From the first rolling piano chords through the soaring vocals and swinging horn arrangement, this first “5” Royales appearance on the charts signals that they are here to rock and take no prisoners.

“Help Me Somebody”
Starting out as a gospel-tinged slow drag,  the “5” Royales throw a double-time curve into the bridge of this song, their second big hit.

“Monkey Hips and Rice”

This song dares you keep your seat, tugging you up to dance to its infectious beat and the compelling interplay between vocal and saxophone.
     
“When I Get Like This”

The matchless lead vocal on this song is simply stunning, transforming heartbreak and loss into a sonic masterpiece.

"Think"
This song embodies all of the soul and swagger of the “5” Royales in one catchy, finger-snapping hit, punctuated by Lowman Pauling’s masterful guitar work.

“Messin’ Up”
A decidedly exuberant romp that starts out in overdrive and never lets up for a moment – messin’ up was never more fun.

“Dedicated to the One I Love”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Mamas and the Papas’ and the Shirelles’ versions of this song are put to shame by the “5 ...


continue Categories: Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, History of the Blues, History of Rock and Roll

A Salute to Etta James

Friday, January 20: 12:05 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Etta James

Etta James was a pioneer. Through a career that spanned more than six decades, James' raw, unharnessed voice crossed genres, with Fifties hits such as "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy" cementing her role in the genesis of rock and roll alongside Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Little Richard, and her soulful pop and blues explorations of the Sixties ranking with the works of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. She continued to make her mark through 2011, with a string of award-winning, critically acclaimed releases that showcased her unique style.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Although brought up in the church singing in the gospel choir, she was drawn to rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, and by her mid-teens had formed a vocal trio named the Creolettes that worked up an answer song to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie” entitled “Roll With Me Henry.” The trio caught the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis, who arranged for the group to record “Roll With Me Henry” (retitled as “The Wallflower”) for Modern Records. Released with the group renamed the Peaches, "The Wallflower" topped the R&B chart for four weeks in 1955 ...


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Women Who Rock With Style

Tuesday, December 6: 2 p.m.
Posted by Dr. Mary Davis
Lady Gaga's Grammy Awards performance outfit from 2010

Women who rock know how to rock a look. From Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey to Janelle Monáe and Lady Gaga, the ladies who have made the music that moves us have used fashion – clothes, makeup, hairdos, hats, jewels, boots, shoes – to help express themselves. Their art goes beyond song and sound. They create entire worlds of style that connect us to their musical messages, draw us into fantasies that run the gamut from elegant to edgy, push us to understand how the spectacle of self-presentation can communicate ideas and emotions in ways that transcend words or melody. Today, the idea of rock style is a given: We’ve grown accustomed to seeing singers on the cover of Vogue, we buy the clothes and makeup promoted by stars from Madonna (featured in Versace ads) to Rihanna (a spokesmodel for Revlon); we can even dress ourselves head to toe in clothes created by rockers, such as Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. label or Beyoncé’s House of Deréon. 

It’s easy to boil rock style, in all its guises, down to two ideas: glamour and rebellion. But, as the Women Who Rock exhibit illustrates, the story is ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit, Event

10 Essential Ozzy Osbourne Songs

Saturday, December 3: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Ozzy Osbourne / photo by Andrew King

Born in Birmingham, England, on December 3, 1948, John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne started his carreer as a musician in the late 60s, as he, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward banded together, seeking to escape the trappings of factory life in their shared hometown. The foursome began to take shape as a blues band – influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Cream – calling themselves Earth Blues Company (later shortened to Earth). Osbourne channeled his love of soul music (particularly Sam and Dave) to his duties as frontman, but the group took a tectonic shift after Osbourne penned a song about Butler's encounter with a sinister spectre, calling the song "Black Sabbath." The band eventually took Black Sabbath as their name – and the title of their 1970 debut album. The group would go on to release such heavy metal classics as Paranoid, Master of Reality, Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, effectively defining the heavy metal genre and making Osbourne the voice of it. Osbourne's delivery was melodic and well-pitched, and he never resorted to the sort of histrionic screaming that became a hallmark of metal’s lesser lights.

Osbourne took his heavy metal charge ...


continue Categories: Inductee, 10 Essential Songs

Master of Puppets 25th Anniversary

Monday, November 7: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Metallica today: (l-r) Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, James Hetfield

By 1986, Metallica was widely accepted as the heir apparent to the heavy metal throne. The band's crowning achievement was Master of Puppets, an album that not only pushed the limits of the metal genre in terms of sheer musicianship and creative force, but also redefined the paths to success and critical acclaim.

Metallica's meteoric ascent began in earnest with the release of 1983's Kill 'Em All, introducing the band's sharp thrash attack – a potent brew of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, punk and hardcore – to an audience far beyond their Bay Area stomping grounds. Although the record featured songs co-written by former bandmate (and future Megadeth leader) Dave Mustaine, the album was a cohesive thrash onslaught with little variation among arrangements and archetypal lyrics that encouraged listeners to "Jump In The Fire," "Seek & Destroy," have "No Remorse" and join a "Metal Militia." At its core were the intricate rhythm guitar and brash vocals of James Hetfield, the skillful lead guitar work of Kirk Hammett, the powerful percussive backbone of Lars Ulrich and the inimitable bass stylings of Cliff Burton. 

A year later, the quartet took an evolutionary leap with the release of Ride The ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee

American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke

Monday, October 31: 3 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley
Wearing his custom hat, Solomon Burke performs from his throne at the 2005 AMM tribute to Sam Cooke

American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke is the third installment in a series that shares stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters® events through the years. The first post in the series remembered Les Paul, while the second recalled the 2010 tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Beginning in 1996 with a tribute to Woody Guthrie, the American Music Masters series has honored artists who've been instrumental in the development of rock and roll with a range of events celebrating their careers. Each AMM brings together musicians from around the world, setting the stage for special, once-in-a-lifetime moments. These are those stories.

One of my favorite memories is from the 2005 American Music Masters honoring Sam Cooke. I spent four days working with legendary soul singer and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee Solomon Burke. During that time, I went to rehearsals with him, interviewed him about his music and life, ate meals with him and his family, and even went hat shopping with him. One of his classic stage moves was to wear a beautiful fedora-style hat during his performance and then toss it into the crowd at the end of his ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Event, Hall of Fame, American Music Masters, Education, Exclusive Interviews
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