How To Fix The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
On August 1, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio removed an urn that contained the ashes of DJ Alan Freed – credited for being the first to coin the term “rock ‘n’ roll.” His ashes were removed days after the museum opened an exhibit on Beyoncé that features the superstar singer’s leotards (among other apparel) from her well-known “Single Ladies” music video. It is important to note that Freed’s exhibit was not replaced by Beyoncé’s exhibit.
Alan Freed’s son, Lance Freed, told CNN that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were “disrespectful” to his father’s legacy and importance to rock and roll. Executive Director of the museum, Greg Harris, told CNN that Alan Freed will still be featured heavily throughout the hall and that this was not an eviction, nor was it a “rushed or unilateral decision.” The museum’s radio studio is still named after Alan Freed.
Freed’s family will try to “create some sort of modest memorial where people who want to pay respect” can visit in Cleveland.
After this story broke, I began to wonder why exactly the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curators and directors were trying to incorporate artists that have flimsy or zero connections to rock and roll, aside from the obvious monetary reasons from attracting more visitors. Sure, we should appreciate all genres of music and all styles of musicians, but I can’t find a song by Beyoncé that could even be remotely considered rock and roll. Alan Freed had a huge connection to rock and roll! He coined the damn term. He helped put Cleveland on the music map. Couldn’t they keep his urn around?
What should we, lovers of rock and roll and music in general, do to keep the quality of the museum high? I have three routes that the museum could take in the near future.
Route 1: Rename the museum to encompass all music genres
That’s right. Just make it a museum dedicated to any and all important moments in music history. Don’t mask it as just a rock and roll museum. This way the museum can take donations from all music artists and not be burdened with just the niche market of rock and roll. It can be renamed the “Recording Artist Hall of Fame.”
I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to a museum and see the wrecking ball that Miley Cyrus swung on in her infamous video for “Wrecking Ball” over seeing a guitar from Muddy Waters or B.B. King? Just stuff that boring, historical junk in the back.
Route 2: Stick with museum name; face competition from a “real” rock and roll hall of fame
Though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has enough pieces and exhibits to beat out any competitor, a competitor that is well-funded and has connections in the music industry could become a better alternative for rock and roll fans.
In this fictional, new rock and roll museum, there could be stricter guidelines for what constitutes “rock and roll.” The guidelines could be stricter, but could allow room for slow change since rock and roll is a flexible, evolving genre with many subgenres. It wouldn’t feature exhibits of pop singers, house musicians or performers that are more known for dance moves over their music prowess, for instance.
It would be hard to break into the museum game – I imagine the museum industry gatherings are awesome (I’m being serious) – but if supported by the right people, it could be done and force the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to up their game.
Route 3: Stay the course, but educate how Beyoncé relates to rock and roll
The likely scenario, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could stay the course and slowly include important artifacts from artists of different genres, but explain to visitors the connections an artist has to rock and roll or how that specific genre relates to rock and roll. Rock and roll tends to absorb other genres or other genres sprout from rock and roll. From a music standpoint an artist like Beyoncé is not rock and roll, but from an overall standpoint Beyoncé is rock and roll because she is a rock star, whether you like it or not.
Rock and roll, sadly, isn’t just about the music anymore. It’s about your appearance, how you compose yourself around fans (staying in character), how you “big” you are in the world, how many records you sell, and how much a stir you cause when you’re merely out doing normal people things. It has been that way since The Beatles, though. Rock stars aren’t inherently rock and roll musicians, but the first rock stars were rock and roll musicians, hence the term “rock star”; thus, connecting the current crop of rock stars back to rock and roll.
It’s not pretty, but if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can connect a non-rock artist back to rock and roll and educate visitors in the process, then I have absolutely no qualms about including an artist like Beyoncé.
However, the Beyoncé fashion exhibit has nothing to do with rock and roll, and even Beyoncé’s most ardent supporters would be hard-pressed to explain the correlation, so this current exhibit should not be at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nothing in that exhibit is remotely connected to rock and roll. It’s just an exhibit to fawn over Beyoncé’s fashion choices (read about the exhibit here), not her work in music. Include signed memorabilia, her platinum records (if she wished to donate them), and evidence of her importance to music, not her importance to the world of fashion.
I must note that this is just a sliver of what can be found at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they should not be damned over this, but rather make sure they handle situations better.
I truly hope that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will take heed and try to remedy their situation through means of education and understanding since music history is of great importance. I do believe they made the right choice in removing the urn (an urn isn’t appropriate in a museum like this), though, the museum could have made the removal at a more opportune time.
What’s your opinion on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Let me know in the comments!
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