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Sam Cooke's magnum opus "A Change Is Gonna Come"

Tuesday, February 9: 4:21 p.m.

the story of Sam Cooke "A Change Is Gonna Come" Rock and Roll Hall of Fame music history

Without a doubt, Sam Cooke was one of the most influential performers in the history of American popular music. His work cut across the genres of gospel, R&B and pop, and Cooke is credited as being one of soul music’s primary architects. 

Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1931, and his family moved to Chicago when Cooke was a toddler. He started singing in the church, and joined the most popular gospel group in the country, the Soul Stirrers, when he was still a teenager. His career with the Soul Stirrers was enough to secure his place in the annals of music history, but his ambition and talent would take him much further.

With the release of “You Send Me” in 1957, Cooke embarked upon a career in secular music that transcended the boundaries of R&B and pop. He was a pioneering figure in African-American entrepreneurship, gaining remarkable artistic control of his music and the business surrounding it. Recognizing the importance of owning publishing rights to music, he founded his own record label, SAR, with J.W. Alexander and Roy Crain in 1961, despite being courted aggressively by the leading record labels of the day. He ...


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How Cynthia Robinson Made Sure We Were All Cool

Wednesday, November 25: 11:48 a.m.

Sly and The Family Stone Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Cynthia Robinson dead at age 69

I was just an elementary school kid when I first heard “Dance to the Music,” Sly and the Family Stone’s first hit single, in spring 1968. The song was on the radio all the time. If it wasn’t on the Top 40/pop stations WIXY or CKLW, you just had to dial up to WJMO or WABQ, the R&B/ soul stations, to hear Cynthia Robinson’s cheeky introductory demand:  “Get up and dance to the music! Get on up and dance to the funky music!”

Cynthia Robinson was one half of the horn section of the Family Stone and the de facto MC – that’s MC in the early days of hip-hop sense – the “mic controller” who would punctuate dance tracks with enjoinders to “get up” or “get down” to the music to keep dancers engaged and moving on their feet. Cynthia was doing it 10 years before the Sugarhill Gang or Grandmaster Flash dropped their first beat.

That’s just one more way that Cynthia was ahead of her time, a pioneer, showing the rest of us the way. She was a strong female presence in a band – not a vocalist, as was the usual position ...


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Did the Vietnam War Have a Soundtrack?

Tuesday, November 24: 1:52 p.m.
Posted by Doug Bradley

The Animals We Gotta Get Out of This Place Vietnam War songs

Doug Bradley, author of DEROS Vietnam, has written extensively about his Vietnam, and post-Vietnam, experiences. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1970 and served one year as an information specialist (journalist) at U.S. Army Republic of Vietnam (USARV) headquarters near Saigon.

I first became a soldier in a war zone on Veterans Day (November 11) 1970. It’s an irony I’ve wrestled with for 45 years, due in part to the precise timing of U. S. Army tours of duty in Vietnam, which meant that Uncle Sam would send me back home exactly 365 days later — on November 11, 1971.

Needless to say, the date is etched in my mind and will always be. It’s personal, of course, but in a way it’s lyrical, too. I say that because my earliest Vietnam memories aren’t about guns and bullets, but rather about music.

As my fellow “newbies” and I were being transported from Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base to the Army’s 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh, I vividly recall hearing Smokey Robinson and The Miracles singing “Tears of a Clown.” That pop song was blasting from four or five ...


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Free Download: "Smokey Robinson in Song" Infographic

Friday, November 6: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Click the image below to downland the FREE full-size Smokey Robinson infographic!

free Smokey Robinson infographic Motown and Smokey Robinson history biggest songs and career highlights illustrated Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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.


continue Categories: American Music Masters, Inductee, Education

Singer/Songwriter Eric Roberson's Touching Open Letter to Smokey Robinson

Wednesday, November 4: 6:13 p.m.
Posted by Eric Roberson

On Saturday, November 7, 2015, Eric Roberson will perform as part of the Rock Hall's Music Masters tribute to Smokey Robinson presented by Klipsch audio. Get your tickets before they're all gone!

singer songwriter Eric Roberson Rock Hall 2015 Music Masters tribute to Smokey Robinson concert

Motown was like the soundtrack of my household. That's pretty much all we played, so I was enormously familiar with Smokey Robinson, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, as well as all the Motown stuff that Smokey wrote.

He was my first example of a songwriter. Period. Not only was he an artist that wrote for himself, but he wrote for all these other artists. And there were all these hits, and it was like, man, this guy is like really working towards the betterment of music, and the betterment of like lyrics.

So as I grew and got into poetry, got into music, I was very much a student of Smokey Robinson, very much a big fan of a lot of his songs that he created, and just all the things he was doing.

It really helped me when I got into the industry and became a songwriter and was pretty well-known and was trying to become an artist as well, most of the labels ...


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From Apollo Theater to Hall of Fame with Smokey Robinson

Tuesday, November 3: 4:25 p.m.
Posted by Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1987

In this interview, 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Smokey Robinson reflects on first time at the Apollo Theater and being inducted to the Hall of Fame. Don't miss the Rock Hall's Music Masters tribute concert to Smokey Robinson on Saturday, November 7, 2015.

Wow, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was such a surprise to me, it was such an honor, such a joyful time for me.

I believe, if I'm not mistaken, I was inducted on the second induction [in 1987]. The first induction was Elvis Presley and, oh gosh, Little Richard [in 1986]. But I never thought that I would be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It just was something that I said, "Oh wow, this is great."

And they started the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And it's like a dream. It's like you have this thought that you'd like to be there. You'd love to be recognized like that. It's like when the Miracles and I first went to the Apollo Theater, ever. It was our first really professional date.



We had never really been too ...


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Smokey, Leo, Motown and the Coolest Gig in Cleveland

Monday, November 2: 2:19 p.m.

 

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles live concert at Leo's Casino in Cleveland in 1965 newspaper review Motown

Ask any Clevelander who heard Smokey Robinson perform here early on in his career, and they’ll likely tell you about Leo’s Casino.

Leo’s Casino, designated a historic rock and roll landmark by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, stood at 7500 Euclid Avenue on Cleveland’s east side. From the time it opened in 1963, Leo’s featured Motown artists on a regular basis. “It was a very important club to us,” Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., told The Plain Dealer. The Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and – of course – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were among the acts that played there, often using the 700-seat, racially integrated venue to hone their acts.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles live in Cleveland in 1968 at Leo's Casino concert performance newspaper advertisementThroughout the 1960s, the Miracles returned to Leo’s Casino at least once a year for a four-evening stint, performing as many as three shows each night. One of these performances was even filmed in 1966 for a nationally televised documentary on the Miracles. In addition to playing Leo’s traditional “Sweater Night” Thursdays, men’s nights and ladies’ nights, the Miracles – described as “a handsome young group of vocalists” by Cleveland’s Call and Post in 1965 ...


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Smokey Robinson Answers the Question: What is "The Tears of a Clown" Really About?

Wednesday, October 28: 2:07 p.m.
Posted by Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles "Tears of a Clown" meaning and history of Motown soul Stevie Wonder

"The Tears of a Clown," which is one of the biggest songs and the biggest records that I have ever been associated with as a record artist.

We used to have social gatherings. We had Christmas parties every Christmas. And like I said, all of the others are Motown were very, very, very close. One of my closest brothers is Stevie Wonder. I love Stevie Wonder, okay. And so Stevie came to me at a Christmas party, he said, "Smoke man, I got this track, man, that I've recorded here."

And he said: "It's a great track… but I can't think of a song to go with this track. … listen to this for me and see if you can come up with a song for it." So I said okay. So I took the track, and I took it home and I listened to it.

And when I first heard the track, the track that he gave me that night was complete. It's the one that's on the record. He had already recorded the track and did the music and all that. And so the first thing I hear is [the main theme] – so that ...


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