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Finding Bill Withers and Making "Still Bill"

Friday, April 10: 5:16 p.m.
Posted by Alex Vlack

As part of the Rock Hall's Celebration Day, the Museum will screen the Bill Withers documentary, Still Bill, at 5pm ET. In this post, the film's co-director (along with Damani Baker) Alex Vlack, shares how he found Bill Withers, his hero, and transformed the experience into a movie.

2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers

Everyone who's ever turned on the radio, walked into a restaurant, been in a bar, lived in this country for more than a few days knows Bill Withers' biggest songs. But most people don't know his name, and most people don't know most of his music.

I didn't really discover it until college, when my friend Jon Fine turned me on to Still Bill, Withers' second record. We listened to it on cassette over and over and over. I'd grown up on blues and jazz and rock, and thought I was pretty well-versed – when you're 18 years old, you can think of yourself as a lot of things! – so how could an album like this have slipped past me? It was, simply, the best album I'd ever heard. Fine and I started a band, and one of the first things we did was ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Event

Is "Transformer" Lou Reed’s Best Solo Work?

Friday, April 10: 3 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley

The story of Lou Reed Transformer album 1972 art

In 1970, Lou Reed quit the Velvet Underground at the end of a nine-week performance residency at the famous rock club Max’s Kansas City (in New York City), leaving the VU album Loaded recorded but unmixed; and leaving the VU to continue on with none of its original members.

Two years later, Reed released his self-titled, first solo album on RCA records. The album was mostly made up of songs he had written for – and in some cases even performed live with – the Velvet Underground. While the release generated a lot of buzz, it turned out to be a critical and commercial flop. There are some strong songs, but even listening to it today it feels… well, lost. It doesn’t have the bite of the early VU songs like “Heroin,” nor the pop sensibilities of songs like “Sweet Jane.”  So with the album as disappointment to everyone including Reed, what to do next?

Bowie, Ronson and Reed

David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson were longtime fans of the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, so when it was suggested that they produce the next Reed album, they jumped at the chance.

Reed, for his part, was enamored with ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Event

The Rock Hall's Guide to the Essential Bill Withers Songs

Thursday, April 9: 5:54 p.m.

TK


“Ain’t No Sunshine”
The song that set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct,  no-frills lyric and in-the-pocket groove.
 
“Grandma’s Hands”
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you."  
                                           
“Who Is He(and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone of menace and an unrelenting repeated funky riff drives   this testament of a jealous lover home. 
                          
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers’ first Number One hit took us to church. "It's a rural song that translates across demographic lines,” Withers recalled. “My experience was, there were people who were that way. They would help you out. Even in the rural South, there were people who would help you out even across racial lines. Somebody who would probably stand in a mob that might lynch you if you pissed them off, would help you out in another way."
 
“I Can’t Write ...


continue Categories: Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, History of Rock and Roll, Exhibit, Inductee, Hall of Fame

The Rock Hall's Guide to the Essential "5" Royales Songs

Thursday, April 9: 5:21 p.m.

TK


“Baby Don’t Do It”
From the first rolling piano chords through the soaring vocals and swinging horn arrangement, this first “5” Royales appearance on the charts signals that they are here to rock and take no prisoners.

“Help Me Somebody”
Starting out as a gospel-tinged slow drag,  the “5” Royales throw a double-time curve into the bridge of this song, their second big hit.

“Monkey Hips and Rice”

This song dares you keep your seat, tugging you up to dance to its infectious beat and the compelling interplay between vocal and saxophone.
     
“When I Get Like This”

The matchless lead vocal on this song is simply stunning, transforming heartbreak and loss into a sonic masterpiece.

"Think"
This song embodies all of the soul and swagger of the “5” Royales in one catchy, finger-snapping hit, punctuated by Lowman Pauling’s masterful guitar work.

“Messin’ Up”
A decidedly exuberant romp that starts out in overdrive and never lets up for a moment – messin’ up was never more fun.

“Dedicated to the One I Love”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Mamas and the Papas’ and the Shirelles’ versions of this song are put to shame by the “5 ...


continue Categories: Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, History of the Blues, History of Rock and Roll

8 Incredible Items in the 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee Exhibit

Monday, April 6: 11 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee exhibit opens April 11, 2015, and will feature amazing stories and incredible pieces from this year's class: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the "5" Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and Bill Withers.

Here are eight of our favorite items in the new exhibit, from a mirrored-star shirt designed by Slash's Mom to an infamously muddy outfit that was at the center of a near-riot at Woodstock '94.

2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers

1. Bill Withers' Main Guitar

Bill Withers was in many ways an anomaly in the music business. In the “Black Power” era of funk and flash, as he put it, “[In] 1970, 1971 or something, you know, I’m this black guy coming out sitting on a chair with an acoustic guitar.” His songwriting and performance style was understated, subtle, simply and straightforwardly constructed, and both articulate and honest. Withers' Martin acoustic guitar model D-35 was his main instrument, used to write and record with, and on stage for live performances.

2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Green Day Woodstock 1994 Billie Joe Armstrong

2. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day's Woodstock '94 Outfit

Woodstock '94 in Saugerites, New York, was ...


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

You Better Believe Gospel Shaped Rock and Roll

Sunday, April 5: 10 a.m.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates gospel music every day at the Museum as one of the essential musical roots of rock and roll. Three gospel performers who have had a profound influence on popular music have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Mahalia Jackson (pictured above), whose fervent contralto was one of the great voices of the 20th century; The Soul Stirrers, who brought gospel out of local churches to a national audience, setting the pace for gospel and pop vocal groups; and The Staple Singers, who landed gospel on the pop charts with songs that advanced the Civil Rights movement.

Gospel echoes throughout the history of rock and roll. We hear it in the early vocal groups like The Drifters and this year’s inductees The “5” Royales (who started out in North Carolina singing gospel as the Royal Sons Quartet); the Motown sounds of the Temptations, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; the soul music of legends like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Darlene Love, Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Wilson Pickett; and in the message and spirit of The Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire in the 70s; as well as the extraordinary music ...


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2015 Grammy Awards Deliver Surprise Rock Hall Connections

Tuesday, February 10: 12:28 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West perform together at the 2015 Grammy Awards

This week, millions of music fans, pop culture mavens and dedicated viewers tuned in to the star-studded 2015 Grammy Awards. Over the course of more than three hours, the ceremony offered up a whirlwind of performances – nearly two dozen, in fact – and there were a handful of awards presented, some to Kanye West's chagrin. Throughout it all, there were many Rock and Roll Hall of Fame connections. Did you catch them all?

AC/DC Goes Down a "Highway to Hell"
Although Aussie rockers AC/DC have taken their unmistakable, hard-charging, loud and fiery brand of music-making around the world for more than 40 years, it was the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees first time on the Grammy stage. The group opened with new track "Rock or Bust" before segueing into classic rock anthem "Highway to Hell" – the same song they played at their 2003 Hall of Fame Induction. Other familiar nods? Angus Young's signature school boy outfit, one of which is also featured in the Rock Hall's heavy metal exhibit alongside the handwritten lyrics to "Highway to Hell."

 

Hozier and Annie Lennox cover Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You"
Irish songwriter ...


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

Essential Eddie: Van Halen’s Greatest Guitar Solos

Monday, January 26: 3:59 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley

Eddie Van Halen Greatest Guitar Solos of All time

In the pantheon of rock and roll's greatest guitarists, there is a cadre of fabled axemen who consistently bubble to the top, including such Hall of Fame Inductees as Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, BB King and Jimmy Page – all artists represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. And no discussion of six-string masters would be complete without Eddie Van Halen, the innovative firebrand that turned the world of guitar playing on its ear in the late 70s and early 1980s.  "I was so used to doing old blues licks with the first three fingers," Van Halen once explained to a reporter. "When I started using my pinky and finding more spread things, that's when I started getting my own style." That style went on to influence millions of budding shredders. Here are five tracks that contributed to that influence:

Guitar Solo, from Live Without a Net (1986)
Van Halen went out with something to prove during the live tour for the 5150 album. With new singer Sammy Hagar, the band had to show fans and critics alike that it could keep rocking without Diamond Dave ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit, History of Rock and Roll, Rock's Greatest Guitar Players, Jimi Hendrix, Hall of Fame
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