The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


Posts by Meredith Rutledge

Women Who Rock spotlight: Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday

Wednesday, July 6: 3:38 p.m.
Billie Holiday's fur stole in the Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit

I saw the film Lady Sings the Blues, starring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Diana Ross, when I was about 11 years old.  One of the images in the movie that still resonates with me is one in which the around 11-year-old Billie Holiday, circa 1926, is working as a cleaning and errand girl for a Baltimore “house of ill-repute.” When she is supposed to be scrubbing the front stoop, she sneaks away and spends most of her time leaning over the Victrola in the brothel parlor, cranking up Bessie Smith’s latest hit, “’Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do.” She plays the record over and over, singing along, studying every note and syllable. So, that film was not only my introduction to Billie Holiday, it was also my introduction to Bessie Smith, and an important lesson in how artists pass the cultural torch. Watching Diana Ross’ portrayal of Billie Holiday learning from Bessie Smith, I recognized the same way that I studied every Supremes’ 45 on my old Sears Silvertone. I can imagine Lady GaGa at 11 years old, listening to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” on her Walkman in exactly the same way. Seeing Lady Sings ...


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These Women Rock

Monday, May 23: 4:56 p.m.
Inductees Darlene Love and Wanda Jackson plus Cyndi Lauper attend the Women Who Rock opening.

This past week the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its new exhibit devoted to telling the story of some of rock and roll’s most iconic artists to rave reviews. The Wall Street Journal called Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power “thoroughly entertaining” and the Huffington Post said “It’s a must-see.” Here’s a look back at opening night from Meredith Rutledge, who lead the exhibit’s curation.

The opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s new Women Who Rock was a grand series of “wow” moments that are difficult to put into words. The first happened when Darlene Love looked at her section in the new inductee exhibit and then her display in the Women Who Rock exhibit.  If that wasn’t a big enough thrill, I was lucky enough to witness Darlene, Cyndi Lauper and Wanda Jackson all meeting for the first time. The three legends hugged and traded compliments with laughter and tears. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, inductee Ronnie Spector made a surprise appearance on the main stage, grabbing the microphone. I thought my head was going to explode when I saw Darlene step over ...


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Women Who Rock Exhibit Installation Update #2

Wednesday, April 27: 9:51 a.m.
A selection of album covers featured in the Rock Hall's Women Who Rock artwork installation

Sixteen days remain until the opening of the Rock Hall's Women Who Rock exhibit - the first of its kind documenting nearly a century's worth of music featuring more than 70 female artists,  filling two entire floors of the museum with costumes, instruments, handwritten lyrics, video and listening stations, plus much more.

After the paint had dried, the next step in the exhibit creation was hanging the original artwork installation on the top floor of the exhibit. Our exhibit designer originally came up with the idea of a kind of sculpture, made up of album covers of all female artists, to serve as the crowning glory of the exhibit. I was particularly excited by this idea, as I am an old-school, vinyl LP lover. For me, a huge part of the experience of music has been holding a 12 by 12 album cover in my hands, minutely examining the artwork, the liner notes, the credits – CDs and MP3s just don’t work the same way.

So, we set out to identify the most iconic female album covers to include in this original artwork , with an emphasis on showing the diversity and breadth of female artists. The choice of some ...


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The Making of the 2010 Inductees Exhibit

Tuesday, March 16: 3:16 p.m.
ABBA’s Bjorn Ulveaus’ pair of white platform boots.

Inductions are always an exciting time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, made even more so when a new inductee is in the house!  Terry Sylvester, lead singer of 2010 inductees the Hollies, made an appearance on the Museum’s Main Stage on March 10. Sylvester performed six songs, including Hollies’ hits “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress) ,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and “Bus Stop.” Inspired by the Rock Hall’s featured Bruce Springsteen exhibit, Sylvester performed the Hollies’ version of Springsteen’s “The Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”  Sylvester reminded the enthusiastic mid-day audience that the Hollies recorded the first-ever cover of a Springsteen song with “Sandy,” in 1975, well before Springsteen’s break though into superstardom.

After his performance, Sylvester stopped by the Hall of Fame to check on the installation of the New Inductees exhibit.  Sylvester handed over the acoustic guitar used on the Hollies 1974 hit “The Air That I Breathe” for the exhibit, giving me information about the guitar for the exhibit text. It’s a curator’s dream to have an exhibit donor at hand to provide pertinent details about the artifacts!

This year’s group ...


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Happy Birthday, Beachland Ballroom!

Tuesday, March 2: 12:44 p.m.

In the spirit of rock and roll and pride for the Cleveland music scene, the Rock Hall frequently partners with area venues in celebration of rock and roll as an art form, and one such venue is the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. In its now 10 year run, the Beachland has become one of the most renowned places to perform at and see live music. Rock Hall Assistant Curator Meredith Rutledge shares its history and hopes with Beachland co-owner Cindy Barber.

A local and national music treasure celebrates its 10th anniversary March 5. Cindy Barber, co-owner of the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, an anchor of Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood, is planning on commemorating this milestone with t-shirts sporting the slogan, “The Beachland – Celebrating 10 Years of Deficit Spending!” When asked about her inspiration for starting a music venue, Barber replies, “Insanity is what made me think of starting the Beachland!” Barber is only half-joking about the challenges that have faced the Beachland during its run as one of the nation’s premier and most eclectic venues. She had been working as co-founder and editor of the Cleveland Free Times, and at the end of the 1990s was offered another ...


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Fashion Meets Rock and Roll

Friday, February 12: 12 p.m.

Assistant Curator Meredith Rutledge discusses late fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s influence on the look of rock and roll

When talking about rock and roll’s relationship to the world of fashion, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chief curator Jim Henke said, “virtually every artist defines (themselves) as much by the way they look as by the music they play.”

It’s been said that fashion and style are the natural visual counterparts to creative musical expression. Rock and roll artists have had a long relationship with the world of high fashion — picture Elvis Presley’s iconic gold lamé suit designed by Nudie, then fast forward to Madonna’s equally iconic gold bustier designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.  Fashion designers like Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and  Gianni Versace have all become synonymous with the branding of rock stars like Madonna, Mick Jagger and Elton John. That’s why the tragic death of clothing designer Alexander McQueen, whom Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour called “one of the greatest talents of his generation,” has especially resonated here at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. McQueen was a favorite designer of the rock world, creating red carpet, stage and album cover looks ...


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