In the Belkin Gallery on Levels 5 and 6 of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was Louder Than Words, a “special exhibit created in partnership with the Newseum in Washington, DC, exploring rock music’s power to change attitudes about peace, equality, patriotism, and hope.”
It was magnificent.
On the wall Up the stairway are some lyrics from Patti Smith’s People Have the Power: “And the people have the power To redeem the work of fools From the meek the graces shower It’s decreed the people rule.”
There were kiosks about all the Presidents, from Truman to Obama, describing the music they used in their campaigns. But mostly it was music, graphics, and artifacts about how the country dealt with a variety of conflicts.
Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone was one of the songs representing the civil rights movement.
In the Vietnam War period, you heard Waist Deep in the Big Muddy by Pete Seeger and Ohio by CSN&Y, but also The Ballad of the Green Berets, a 1966 hit by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler.
There was a display about the Parents Music Resource Center versus Rock, with Tipper Gore, Al’s wife leading the charge against the “pornography” of Prince’s Darlin’ Nikki and other songs, and succeeding in getting parental advisory labels on CDs.
Pro- and anti-Iraq war songs were represented, as were anthems from Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Same Love.
The song that played constantly: a Michael Jackson song, They Don’t Care About Us. More recent struggles, such as songs associated with Black Lives Matter were described.
If you miss Louder Than Words in Cleveland, it opens January 6, 2017, at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
Did I mention that the Hall would be closing early on that Saturday, and closed all day on Sunday so that delegates from the Republican National Convention could tour the facilities? I would be VERY interested to get their reaction.
In fact, the first day we were there, we could tell security was tightening. But the second day, it was much worse, with a tent making it much more difficult to enter the facilities.
A couple more highlights of the Hall: a 13-minute movie called Artist Unite about the rock benefit concert, from Bangladesh to Live Aid, tied to Louder THan Words.
There was a walkway with displays of recently deceased musicians, including Prince, Percy Sledge, Gerry Goffin, Bobby Womack, Tommy Ramone, Maurice White, George Martin, Jack Bruce, B.B. King, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Allen Toussaint, Paul Kantner, and William Guest of the Pips.
Possibly the best thing: Because we are Supporters of the Albany Institute of History & Art, and we also got an annual membership to the North American Reciprocal Museum Program, we received “free admission and other benefits at more than 500 museums throughout the United States and Canada.” This included the three of us going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, twice.