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Etta James Sings "At Last" and Hits the Charts

Friday, January 24: 8 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Etta James

At the end of the 1960s, traditional R&B was moving in different directions: toward Motown and its pop-ready "Sound of Young America," and the grittier Southern soul of Stax/Volt and Fame Recording Studio. Etta James sided with the latter. Born January 25, 1938, as Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California, she had moved from a gospel choir to a girl trio to the Johnny Otis Revue by the time she had her first R&B hit at 17. “I might have been a little church girl singing gospel, but I loved all the music – soaked it up like a sponge," said James. "I remember Charles Brown, who killed me with 'Drifting Blues.' I’d hear that good time music floating out onto the street, whether it was some smooth blues like T-Bone Walker or sophisticated jazz….[I’d] poke my head into a joint, amazed by the men in their stingy-brim hats and them gators on their feet, chicks poured into skintight dresses, laughing and flirting and carrying on.” 

In the spring of 1961, “At Last” became a Number Two R&B hit and remains ...


continue Categories: Black History Month, Inductee, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Hall of Fame, Today in Rock, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

How James Brown Saved Boston in 1968

Friday, January 17: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
James Brown in 1968

In a decade marred by tumult, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr had emerged as the charismatic voice of the civil rights movement, advancing the cause with a resonant message of nonviolence and peaceful civil disobedience. He was the loudspeaker for thousands crying out, the channel through which the civil rights movement found unity. With King's assassination on April 4, 1968, the world lost among its most fearless leaders.

News of King's assassination sent shockwaves across the country and people took to the streets in frustration. As day broke in Boston on Friday, April 5, government officials nervously anticipated another night of unrest, yet an unlikely keeper of the peace came forward and helped unite a community: James Brown

Variously dubbed "the Godfather of Soul," "the Hardest Working Man in Show Business" and "Mr. Dynamite" among other monikers, Brown had been scheduled to perform in the city's center, at the Boston Garden. Amid great civil strife, Mayor Kevin White faced a quandary: aggravate a tense situation by canceling the event for overtly racial fears or dismiss concerns expressed by law enforcement. His decision came ...


continue Categories: Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Event, Inductee, Hall of Fame, Education

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Stop! In the Name of Love"

Wednesday, January 15: 5 p.m.
Posted by Alexandra Fagan
The Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

In January 1961, Motown signed the Supremes, an all-female group who emerged from the poverty of Detroit’s Brewster housing project to become among Motown’s most consistent hitmakers and the most popular female group of the 60s. 

Representing the Motown sound at its most stylized, the Supremes were the 1960s’ biggest group after the Beatles. They scored 10 Number One hits, including five in a row, right in the midst of the British Invasion. Diana Ross’ vocals achieved their greatest affect in this period because producers/songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland supplied her with novel concepts that capitalized on her penchant for melodrama. “Stop! In the Name of Love” could be the most dramatic of them all. HDH recordings used gospel elements more proudly and directly than any other Motown productions – the ever-present Motown tambourine is a gospel trademark, for example. But HDH never limited themselves.

Diana Ross and The Supremes exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum“Stop! In the Name of Love” benefits from James Jamerson’s earthquake bassline, the track's baritone sax riff and ringing vibes undercurrent, and an organ part adding tension to Ross' chilling moment: “Stop!” Stylistically, Ross had little more relationship to gospel than Frank Sinatra does, but HDH didn't put her in church, they simply ...


continue Categories: Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Inductee, Hall of Fame, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Celebrating the Songs and Life of Doc Pomus with Director William Hechter

Monday, January 13: 3 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Doc Pomus singing in the late 1940s

Remembered not only as a peerless songwriter but also as a formidable personality and cheerful raconteur, 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Doc Pomus was one of the real characters from rock and roll’s golden era. Atlantic Records producer and co-owner Jerry Wexler succinctly described his sphere of influence: "If the music industry has a heart, it would be Doc Pomus." 

Pomus authored among the greatest songs in rock and roll history: "This Magic Moment" (recorded by the Drifters), "A Teenager in Love" (recorded by Dion and the Belmonts) and "Save the Last Dance for Me" (recorded by Ben E. King). Elvis Presley recorded at least 20 Pomus originals. In Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's collection includes the hand-written lyrics to "Save the Last Dance for Me," which Pomus wrote at his wedding, while watching his new bride, Wilma Burke, dancing (pictured below).

Born Jerome Solon Felder in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on June 27, 1925, he adopted the name Doc Pomus to hide his singing from his parents. Stricken with polio as a child, Pomus was confined to crutches and a wheelchair, though it never slowed him down. For ...


continue Categories: Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Event, Exclusive Interviews, Inductee, Hall of Fame, Education, Foster Theatre

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Work With Me Annie"

Monday, November 18: 4:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters

Born on November 18, 1927 (some sources note 1936), Hank Ballard wasn't the first to write smutty songs, but he was one of the more determinedly single-minded to exploit what he called the "raunch groove." His "Get It" was about, well, getting it. The title was startling coming after "The Shrine of St. Cecillia," the previous release by the Royals (as Ballard and the Midnighters were known prior to being labelmates with a "5" Royales). Its success, however, pointed the way. Ballard hit his stride with "Work With Me Annie," which is not about working. Reportedly toned down from its first draft, "Annie" still didn't leave much to the imagination: “Annie, please don’t cheat/ Give me all my meat / Oooo-weee / So good to me /Work with me, Annie / Let’s get it while the getting is good.” Needless to say, it went to the top of the R&B record charts in early 1954 despite being banned by the FCC. In a 1987 interview, Ballard recalled: "But [controversy] made the record hot. All that carryin’ on. 'What is this record about?' 'You can’t hear it on the radio – banned!' I tell you, in the Boston area ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Today in Rock, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

Steve Jordan and Bobby Keys Talk about History with the Rolling Stones

Friday, October 25: 5:01 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

On October 26, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio, musician and producer Steve Jordan lead an all-star band during a tribute concert honoring the music of the Rolling Stones. The event is part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's 18th Annual Music Masters series. Also in the band are Hall of Fame Inductees Chuck D. of Public Enemy and Ian McLagan of the Small Faces/Faces, as well as Sugar Blue, Merry Clayton, Sarah Dash, Lee Fields, Bernard Fowler, Patterson Hood, Cyril Jordan, Bobby Keys, Trevor Lawrence, Nils Lofgren, Steve Madaio, Dave Pirner, Earl Slick, Waddy Wachtel, Willie Weeks and Chris Wilson. 

In this interview, Steve Jordan and saxophonist Bobby Keys talk about putting together the Rolling Stones tribute concert, what it's like recording and performing with the Rolling Stones, favorite Rolling Stones' songs and more.


continue Categories: Inductee, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Event, Rolling Stones, American Music Masters, Exclusive Interviews

Remembering Maxine Powell and Motown's Finishing School

Wednesday, October 23: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
(l-r) Maxine Powell and Rock Hall director of community programs Ruthie Brown at Rock Hall in 1997.

Although her official title was as a director of Motown's artist development department, Maxine Powell was much more than her role suggested. "Motown owes a great debt to Maxine," says Ruthie Brown, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's director of community programs and friend of Powell. "The artists knew what she was trying to do, and deep down, they wanted her refinement. They mimicked the image of the average American teenager – white, black, it didn't matter. The crossover was extremely successful. Motown was 'the sound of young America," and Maxine helped Berry Gordy get that image across." Powell passed away on October 14, 2013. She was 98.

Powell worked with Motown artist during a pivotal period in Motown's meteoric rise, from 1964 to 1969, when she helped shaped the public – and often private – personalities of the Detroit label's biggest names. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, said that Powell “brought something to Motown that no other record company had,” adding of his artists, “She was tough, but when she got through with them, they were poised, professional and very thankful.”

Born in Texarkana, Texas ...


continue Categories: History of Rock and Roll, Hall of Fame, Inductee, Education, Exclusive Interviews

The Roots and Definition of Rock and Roll

Friday, October 18: 11:15 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Tracing the roots of and defining rock and roll music at the Museum.

How do you define rock and roll?

Each year, with the announcement of the next class of nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a debate swirls as to what music is considered "rock and roll." The announcement of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees – the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Kiss, LL Cool J, the Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A., the Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes and the Zombies – brought with it passionate discussions as to not only who should be inducted, but also how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and people all over the world interpret and define rock and roll. 

Visitors to the Museum in Cleveland will find a large type-and-graphics treatment featured in the Main Exhibit Hall, just before the Roots of Rock exhibit. It marks the unofficial start to a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and explains the roots of rock and roll, and how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognizes rock and roll today. It reads as follows:

Rock and roll is a form of ...


continue Categories: Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, History of Punk, History of Rock and Roll, History of the Blues, Inductee, Hall of Fame, Exhibit
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