Cleveland has long been famous as home to the esteemed Cleveland Orchestra, but among the other catalysts in the city’s emergence as a cultural – even trendy – destination was the 1995 opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a.k.a. the Rock Hall), a bold seven-story glass-and-porcelain I. M. Pei structure located on the shores of Lake Erie.
Inside, hands-on interactive displays, archives, and thought-provoking videos and films pay tribute to the artists, songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, and others who launched the genre in the 1950s and sustain it today. More than 100,000 bits of memorabilia and poignantly personal artifacts belonging to music royalty are on display, including Jim Morrison’s Scouts uniform, Janis Joplin’s 1965 Porsche, and ZZ Top’s Eliminator.
You’ll also see the Everly Brothers’ report cards, and scribbled lyrics by Jimi Hendrix together with his much-tortured Stratocaster guitars. There’s also Buddy Holly’s high school diploma, plus stage costumes worn by Chuck Berry, Iggy Pop, and the Temptations. Special exhibits aim at showcasing a mix of music, history, and sociology.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s most visible annual event, the induction ceremony, continues to be held in the music-industry meccas of New York and Los Angeles. So why Cleveland?
Could be because Alan Freed, a Cleveland radio disc jockey, coined the term “rock ’n’ roll” in 1952, the same year that Cleveland hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, the first rock ’n’ roll concert. This and a boatload of other pop-culture trivia flood the Rock Hall, full of energy, high- and low-tech eye candy, and music, lots of music.