The Rock Hall's award-winning education department debated, arm-wrestled and ultimately high-fived their way into answering one impossible question: what song is each 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's definitive track? A tall order, to be sure, but here goes it:
Deep Purple – "Smoke on the Water" (1972)
Seriously. That riff. Who can't hum it? Formed in London in 1968, Deep Purple embraced the sounds of progressive rock, psychedelia-influenced blues and heavy metal, but the group of musicians always fit squarely within the hard rock genre that they helped solidify. Back to that guitar riff – a distinctive, repeated melody with a driving rhythm that builds a song's energy. The opening to Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is arguably the most famous riff in rock history. All credit to guitar extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore, who took four simple chords and transformed it into a monster of a melody. But it wasn't just the notes. The rhythm of the riff is equally important: Blackmore mutes—or forcibly stops—the chords strategically to highlight the song's backbeat, which anticipates Ian Paice's drumbeat. Add a liberal dose of distortion to Blackmore's guitar and boom!: hard rock history ...
It's rare to talk of an artist truly being without equal, but that's exactly who David Bowie was. A remarkable visionary, Bowie was a font of wild creativity, a transformative presence constantly evolving to address and help define our times. His art entertained, challenged and enlightened us all - and that will be an enduring legacy celebrated for many generations to come.
With tributes to the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee powering in from around the world, we take a look at the stories behind four classic David Bowie songs and fan favorites: "Fame," "Space Oddity," "Changes" and "Ziggy Stardust."
David Bowie and John Lennon Break into "Fame" ... and Lennon Forgets It
Two weeks after finishing the mix on a David Bowie album called The Gouster, one of the producers, Tony Visconti, got a call from the artist: "David phoned to say that he and John Lennon had got together one night and recorded this song called "Fame." I hope you don't mind, Tony, but it was so spontaneous and spur of the moment... He was very apologetic and nice about it, and he said he hoped I wouldn't mind...I said that it ...
Who was Ziggy Stardust, anyway? According to Bowie: "''Ziggy' was my Martian messiah who twanged a guitar. He was a simplistic character...someone who dropped down here, got brought down to our way of thinking and ended up destroying his own self. Which is a pretty archetypal story line."
As Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bowie prepared to record the song for an album provisionally called Round And Round, he motivated his musicians by telling them, basically, to think Jimi Hendrix. With lyrics about a star with a "screwed-down hair-do" who "played it left hand," "jiving us that we were voodoo," who took it all too far "but boy could he play guitar," how could anyone not have thought of Jimi?
But the song suggested a whole new concept. When the album now titled The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in June 1972, RCA promoted it with the slogan "David Bowie Is Ziggy Stardust." Not the catchiest slogan, though it did much to up the intrigue.
A month later, when DJ Kenny Everett attempted to introduce Bowie at a London concert, the androgynous figure at center-stage corrected him: "I'm ...
Allen Toussaint was one of New Orleans' great musical giants. “He was a great and tremendously versatile musician, a real gentleman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever known,” said Hall of Fame Inductee Randy Newman.
He was a gifted arranger, deft producer, engaging performer and masterful record executive. But perhaps most remarkably, he was among the rare songwriters whose musical vocabulary – though singularly recognizable – translated to myriad styles and elevated the artistry of musicians around the world.
"New Orleans and the world has lost a true musical genius," wrote Trombone Shorty on his Facebook wall. "Allen will always be one of the founding fathers of what New Orleans sounds like; he was a tremendous friend and mentor to me and other musicians in New Orleans. Everything I do is influenced by my musical upbringing in New Orleans – and Allen was a huge part of that. I thank him so much for it, and for all that he did."
His piano on Fats Domino records inspired the likes of Elton John. He produced records for Bonnie Raitt. He toured with Little Feat. He arranged the memorable horns for the Band's Last Waltz. He worked with Otis Redding ...
What songs define the career of Smokey Robinson? What are Smokey Robinson's most important tracks? From one of Smokey Robinson's first songwriting collaborations with Motown impresario Berry Gordy in 1959 to the Number Two 1981 pop hit "Being With You," this illustrated history and timeline of key musical moments in Smokey Robinson's career showcases the enduring impact of his music.
As part of its Digital Classroom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's education department provides an introduction to rock history as told through the songs that shaped rock and roll. Students and teachers can explore and find tools, strategies and resources including lesson plans, listening guides and exclusive multimedia content, including infographics like the one featured above.
In 1975, New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen was hailed as the new Dylan, the next great rock poet, the music's last prophet of social relevance. His picture graced the covers of Time and Newsweek (the same week, no less).By the time his third album, Born To Run, was released, Springsteen had added another archetype to the rock and roll pantheon: blue-collar hero, working-man's star. Born To Run's title track consolidated 25 years of rock and roll history into a universal tale of proletarian angst rendered larger than life by Spector-esque production.
Springsteen's protagonist does little more than motor down New Jersey's Highway 9 to flee small town drudgery. But to hear him tell it, he's headed down the road to glory. As the centerpiece of the hours-long sets that mark Springsteen's career, "Born To Run" provided uplift and catharsis, with the singer and foil/sax player Clarence Clemons engaging in joyous musical and physical interplay (captured in a live film clip that ranks with rock's most exhilarating concert footage).
On the surface, "Born To Run" may be little more than a song about cars and girls. Dig deeper, however, and rock ...
In 2010, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew as part of its annual Music Masters series saluting pioneering figures from the past half century. Among the many who took part in that weeklong celebration, in Cleveland, was Julian Bond.
An influential Civil Rights leader, politician, writer and professor, Bond, who passed away on August 15, 2015, provided among the more poignant remarks at the tribute to Domino and Bartholomew. He spoke of rock and roll's power to unite and the courage it required to deliver.
This is the full transcript of Bond's speech from the November 13, 2010 Music Masters tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, including a poem he wrote when he was in college and published in first Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee newsletter.
"While [Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew] records were storming the charts, major challenges were being mounted against the forces of racial segregation and discrimination — the segregation that kept black and white rock and roll fans from listening to music or dancing together, that kept Domino and Bartholomew and their bands from restaurants and hotels on the road, the segregation that kept African Americans from voting ...
On August 15, 1965, the Beatles performed before a crowd of more than 55,000 ecstatic fans in New York City’s Shea Stadium. That’s a lot of screaming.
The legendary performance was the first ever in a major U.S. stadium, and is known as perhaps the most famous Beatles’ concert – well, maybe that infamously cut short rooftop gig ranks higher.
The 1964 Ludwig drum kit played by Ringo Starr during that Shea Stadium gig was also used on six Beatles’ albums, as well as during their last official concert appearance in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966. Can you think of a more iconic drum set?
John Lennon’s 1964 Rickenbacker electric guitar used during the performance was one of two guitars made especially for Lennon while visiting America for the first time in 1964, and used on the Beatles second-ever Ed Sullivan appearance. It soon became his primary instrument, and still has the set list from Shea Stadium taped to the side.
Hard to believe that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of that Beatles’ milestone – and that Beatlemania would still be alive and well! Both the Ringo Starr Ludwig drumkit and the John Lennon Rickenbacker ...