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A Salute to Etta James

Friday, January 20: 12:05 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Etta James

Etta James was a pioneer. Through a career that spanned more than six decades, James' raw, unharnessed voice crossed genres, with Fifties hits such as "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy" cementing her role in the genesis of rock and roll alongside Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Little Richard, and her soulful pop and blues explorations of the Sixties ranking with the works of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. She continued to make her mark through 2011, with a string of award-winning, critically acclaimed releases that showcased her unique style.

James was born Jamesette Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Although brought up in the church singing in the gospel choir, she was drawn to rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, and by her mid-teens had formed a vocal trio named the Creolettes that worked up an answer song to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie” entitled “Roll With Me Henry.” The trio caught the attention of bandleader Johnny Otis, who arranged for the group to record “Roll With Me Henry” (retitled as “The Wallflower”) for Modern Records. Released with the group renamed the Peaches, "The Wallflower" topped the R&B chart for four weeks in 1955 ...


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Women Who Rock With Style

Tuesday, December 6: 2 p.m.
Posted by Dr. Mary Davis
Lady Gaga's Grammy Awards performance outfit from 2010

Women who rock know how to rock a look. From Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey to Janelle Monáe and Lady Gaga, the ladies who have made the music that moves us have used fashion – clothes, makeup, hairdos, hats, jewels, boots, shoes – to help express themselves. Their art goes beyond song and sound. They create entire worlds of style that connect us to their musical messages, draw us into fantasies that run the gamut from elegant to edgy, push us to understand how the spectacle of self-presentation can communicate ideas and emotions in ways that transcend words or melody. Today, the idea of rock style is a given: We’ve grown accustomed to seeing singers on the cover of Vogue, we buy the clothes and makeup promoted by stars from Madonna (featured in Versace ads) to Rihanna (a spokesmodel for Revlon); we can even dress ourselves head to toe in clothes created by rockers, such as Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. label or Beyoncé’s House of Deréon. 

It’s easy to boil rock style, in all its guises, down to two ideas: glamour and rebellion. But, as the Women Who Rock exhibit illustrates, the story is ...


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10 Essential Ozzy Osbourne Songs

Saturday, December 3: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Ozzy Osbourne / photo by Andrew King

Born in Birmingham, England, on December 3, 1948, John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne started his carreer as a musician in the late 60s, as he, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward banded together, seeking to escape the trappings of factory life in their shared hometown. The foursome began to take shape as a blues band – influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Cream – calling themselves Earth Blues Company (later shortened to Earth). Osbourne channeled his love of soul music (particularly Sam and Dave) to his duties as frontman, but the group took a tectonic shift after Osbourne penned a song about Butler's encounter with a sinister spectre, calling the song "Black Sabbath." The band eventually took Black Sabbath as their name – and the title of their 1970 debut album. The group would go on to release such heavy metal classics as Paranoid, Master of Reality, Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, effectively defining the heavy metal genre and making Osbourne the voice of it. Osbourne's delivery was melodic and well-pitched, and he never resorted to the sort of histrionic screaming that became a hallmark of metal’s lesser lights.

Osbourne took his heavy metal charge ...


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Master of Puppets 25th Anniversary

Monday, November 7: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Metallica today: (l-r) Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, James Hetfield

By 1986, Metallica was widely accepted as the heir apparent to the heavy metal throne. The band's crowning achievement was Master of Puppets, an album that not only pushed the limits of the metal genre in terms of sheer musicianship and creative force, but also redefined the paths to success and critical acclaim.

Metallica's meteoric ascent began in earnest with the release of 1983's Kill 'Em All, introducing the band's sharp thrash attack – a potent brew of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, punk and hardcore – to an audience far beyond their Bay Area stomping grounds. Although the record featured songs co-written by former bandmate (and future Megadeth leader) Dave Mustaine, the album was a cohesive thrash onslaught with little variation among arrangements and archetypal lyrics that encouraged listeners to "Jump In The Fire," "Seek & Destroy," have "No Remorse" and join a "Metal Militia." At its core were the intricate rhythm guitar and brash vocals of James Hetfield, the skillful lead guitar work of Kirk Hammett, the powerful percussive backbone of Lars Ulrich and the inimitable bass stylings of Cliff Burton. 

A year later, the quartet took an evolutionary leap with the release of Ride The ...


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American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke

Monday, October 31: 3 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley
Wearing his custom hat, Solomon Burke performs from his throne at the 2005 AMM tribute to Sam Cooke

American Music Masters Moments: Solomon Burke is the third installment in a series that shares stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters® events through the years. The first post in the series remembered Les Paul, while the second recalled the 2010 tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew. Beginning in 1996 with a tribute to Woody Guthrie, the American Music Masters series has honored artists who've been instrumental in the development of rock and roll with a range of events celebrating their careers. Each AMM brings together musicians from around the world, setting the stage for special, once-in-a-lifetime moments. These are those stories.

One of my favorite memories is from the 2005 American Music Masters honoring Sam Cooke. I spent four days working with legendary soul singer and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee Solomon Burke. During that time, I went to rehearsals with him, interviewed him about his music and life, ate meals with him and his family, and even went hat shopping with him. One of his classic stage moves was to wear a beautiful fedora-style hat during his performance and then toss it into the crowd at the end of his ...


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Today In Rock: Tom Petty Is Born

Thursday, October 20: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

For more than 30 years, Florida native Tom Petty has been the charismatic frontman and voice of among the most durable, resourceful, hard-working, likable, unpretentious and capable rock bands of all time. Together with the Heartbreakers – which has include bassist Ron Blair, guitarist Mike Campbell, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Stan Lynch and keyboardist Benmont Tench – he mastered rock and roll's fundamentals and digested its history, leading a band of the people, writing of everyday struggles and frustrations – and offering redemption through tough-minded, big-hearted, tuneful songs. The 2002 Hall of Fame inductee turns 61 today.

Although they were not punk-rockers per se, Petty and the Heartbreakers did their part to revitalize rock in the mid-to-late Seventies with their first three albums: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Breakdown,” “American Girl”), You’re Gonna Get It! (“I Need to Know,” “Listen to Her Heart”) and Damn the Torpedoes – the latter one of the essential rock albums of the decade.

Strong from start to finish, Torpedoes contained the classic tracks “Refugee,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl.” It also revealed Petty’s depth of conviction and fighting nature. When his record company changed hands, Petty ...


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Today in Rock: Wanda Jackson is Born

Thursday, October 20: 9 a.m.
Wanda Jackson

The rockabilly field of the 1950s wasn’t exactly crowded with female performers, but Wanda Jackson didn’t let that stop her from making her mark. Born on October 20, 1937, she emerged from a small town in Oklahoma to become the first Queen of Rockabilly. With encouragement from Elvis Presley, whom she met while on a package tour in 1955, Jackson moved from country music to rock and roll. "I was just doing straight country, and that's all I had ever planned on doing. [Elvis] started talking to me about his kind of music – we didn't really have a name for it at that point," said Jackson during a 2009 Hall of Fame series interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Vice President of Education and Public Programs Lauren Onkey. "I said look, I love it of course, but you're a guy, you can sing it, and I just don't think I can do it. He just kept insisting that I could do it – he said, 'you got the voice.' He took me out to his home in Memphis, and we played records that afternoon. 

"He made me promise that somewhere along ...


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Today in Rock: Chuck Berry is Born

Tuesday, October 18: 5 p.m.
Posted by Terry Stewart
Chuck Berry

Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news: it's Chuck Berry's birthday.

Let's hear it for the man who taught us about everything from cooling off your car's engine with rain water blowin' all under the hood, to all we needed to know about girls named "Carol" and "Nadine." In fact, the Shakespeare of rock and roll informed us about most the things we needed to know in those nascent days of the music that's become the soundtrack of our lives. 

Imagine what it meant to me when he referred to my hometown of Mobile in "Let It Rock." It was great being with you recently, Mr. Berry,  and it thrills me that you are still knockin' 'em out like Johnny B. Goode.

More About Hall of Fame Inductee Chuck Berry:
(pictured: Chuck Berry's Gibson ES-335, part of the Museum's featured collection)

While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very ...


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