At hall of fame, ‘power of music takes hold’

Photo via City of Cleveland

By GREG ECKERLE
Special to the Herald

Cleveland has been made fun of for a long time. That’s what happens when your river catches on fire, and your football team has never been to a Super Bowl and recently won but one game over two seasons.  You’re dubbed The Mistake by the Lake, and the perception is hard to shake.

But there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on these days at the city’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And a lot of singing, smiling and impromptu dancing. It’s said music can move the soul, and it can even get people to go to Cleveland, and enjoy the experience.

I’ve visited Cleveland three times, primarily to root for the Browns, but also to savor the magic of music as one walks through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That stroll can actually soothe the pain of the Browns’ recent legacy of losing. For therapeutic purposes, fans are lucky that the hall is so close to the football field.

The hall’s opening exhibit of new acquisitions includes some outlandish outfits that inductees have worn in concert. Other such clothing is seen throughout the facility, some so over the top that one wonders if there’s a weird fashion competition also going on.

The photos, posters, videos and sights are all top-notch. But hearing the ever-present songs being piped through the displays makes the journey even more pleasurable. As a new tune is played, you’ll invariably hear a fan start to softly sing along. Or a head will start boppin’, or shoulders will shimmy and arms will shake.

There are exhibits on the legends, of course, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, U2, Michael Jackson, the Supremes and Guns N’ Roses. The biggest crowd was at a 14-minute exclusive film of Elvis Presley. Plenty of gray-haired seniors swayed as the King sang, as did plenty of others born after he died. In this place, the music truly never dies.

The hall also dutifully covers the opposition to rock and roll as it gained popularity years ago. There was once a Society to Prevent Rock & Roll’s Corruption of America’s Youth. A quote on one wall from the John Birch Society termed the Beatles’ music “a mixture of unrelated noise.” But in a separate area there were plenty of seemingly uncorrupted people waiting patiently to access stations where they could call up pleasing noises from their favorite artists.     

Intriguing artifacts were everywhere — including Elvis’ custom motorcycle, his gold jacket, the chair from his 1968 Comeback Special, a piano used by Lennon and McCartney, and several items from the Rolling Stones of the 1960s, which was head-shaking in itself, considering the group is still touring 50 years later.

But the lingering memory is the joy apparent on so many faces, young and old, as the power of music takes hold. For sure, the right melodies can inspire, can motivate, can change lives and even let a fan wistfully cope with the hapless Browns for a while.

At the Browns game the next day, one fan’s appropriate T-shirt proclaimed, “We almost always almost win.” Except this day, the Browns did win, and the fans happily barked like dogs in Cleveland’s famed Dawg Pound end zone. The sound sure wasn’t worthy of the next-door hall of fame, but it was sweet enough music to all who howled. Even me.

 

Greg Eckerle, who is fortunate to have lived long enough to see Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney in concert, and to see the Browns win the 1964 NFL crown, can be reached at gregeckerle@twc.com.




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