One of the coolest places to spend a day in Cleveland, Ohio is the incomparable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Located downtown, on the shores of Lake Erie, at East Ninth Street, this impressive geometric glass structure is the work of renowned architect I.M.Pei.
The seven-story architectural pyramidal masterpiece is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the music of rock and roll. Beginning in 1986, the very first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony occurred at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was held by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which was formed in New York several years prior by a few professionals in the music industry. Their mission was to “recognize the people who have created this music which has become the most popular music of our time.” The foundation exists “to honor the artists that have defined rock and roll and have inspired and continue to inspire a generation.”
Cleveland had already established itself as the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World,” thanks to radio deejays, such as Alan Freed, who introduced the term rock and roll back in the 50’s. Largely in part due to a heavy marketing campaign by radio station WMMS, to collect over 600,00 signatures, Cleveland was selected to be the permanent home of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which did not open until 1995. Today it is the number one tourist attraction of the city, and local Clevelanders lovingly refer to it as the Rock Hall.
You can easily spend an entire day at this one-of -a kind world-class museum, and actually a two-day visitor pass is available. On its seven floors, this 150,000 square foot Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entices you with its five film theaters, interactive exhibits which are ever-changing and multi-media exhibits. Thousands of artifacts are on display, having been donated or loaned to the museum by the artists. Samples of these include Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout shirt, John Lennon’s eyeglasses, the Everly Brothers’ tap dance shoes, and Keith Moon’s velvet stage costume. You can also see Bono’s first guitar, the butterfly dresses of The Supremes, Joe Walsh’s high school football jersey, and many of Michael Jackson’s stage outfits as well as his signature “Billie Jean” glove. Some of the personal items, like John Lennon’s report cards always generate a lot of attention.
Music is in the air throughout the building and you can listen on headphones to the original recordings of many of the inductees. Many of the exhibits include hand-written lyrics, original handbill posters for concerts, artists’ childhood school report cards, and correspondence.
On the top floor is the actual hall of fame, and it is a truly emotional experience to witness all the inductees’ autographs etched on a wall in glass, and then to watch the video collage of the inductees while seated in an acoustically perfect theater. A total of 196 individual artists and 92 groups have been inducted to date. In March, 2011, the induction ceremony will be held in New York City. The 2011 inductees have recently been announced, and they include: the Alice Cooper Band, Neil Diamond, Dr John, Darlene Love, Tom Waits, Jac Holzman, Art Rupe and Leon Russell.