The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


Madonna Shares Wild Story of First David Bowie Concert

Monday, January 11: 12:52 p.m.
Posted by Madonna

Madonna inducts David Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 speech and video

Before I saw David Bowie live, I was just your normal, dysfunctional, rebellious teenager from the Midwest, and he has truly changed my life.

I’ve always had a sentimental attachment to David Bowie, not just because I grew up with his music, but it’s because it was the first rock concert that I ever saw, and it was a major event in my life. I planned for months to go and see it. I was 15 years old, it was the end of the school year, and leading up to the week of the show, I begged my father and he said, “I absolutely refuse, over my dead body, you’re not going there, that’s where horrible people hang out,” so of course I had to go. So my best friend spent the night at my house and when we thought everyone was asleep, we snuck out of my window, which was no mean feat, as I was wearing my highest platform shoes and a long black-silk cape. Don’t ask.

We couldn’t drive, so we hitch-hiked into Detroit and I don’t know who was scarier ... the drivers that picked us up, or us in ...


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Talking Heads' David Byrne Reflects on Music of David Bowie

Monday, January 11: 12:35 p.m.
Posted by David Byrne

David Byrne of Talking Heads Inducts David Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996

When David Bowie came along, well, rock and roll needed a shot in the arm and when I first saw him it was a shock, and yet it was very familiar. It was very necessary. It was something that was needed. It was essential. And like all rock and roll, it was tasteless, it was glamorous, it was perverse, it was fun, it was crass, it was sexy, it was confusing. And like all rock and roll, it was freedom, it was pain, it was liberation, it was genocide, it was hope, it was dread, it was a dream and it was a nightmare.

It was about sex and drugs, it was about combining literature with rock and roll, with art, with anything you could name. It was about sex as an idea, and sex as a reality, and sex as a liberating force. It was about rebellion, it was about rebellion as a cliché, it was rebellion as an idea. It was about rebellion as a billboard, as an advertisement. It was about the joy of reckless prophecy. It was ironic when rock and roll became self-reverential. It was about joy and terror and confusion in our lives. It ...


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Songs That Shaped Rock: David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust"

Thursday, January 7: 5 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars Album Cover David Bowie Rock Hall

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.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, David Bowie exhibit 1972 Ziggy Stardust costume

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 ...


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Allen Toussaint Was an Artist of Great Stature

Monday, December 28: 12:18 p.m.
Posted by John Broven

New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee RIP

To say the news of Allen Toussaint’s death came as a shock is an understatement. Ever dapperly dressed and forever modest, he appeared to be the picture of health for a 77-year-old, still performing regularly until felled by a heart attack after a well-received show in Spain. Known more as a producer, songwriter, arranger, and pianist than a singer, Toussaint was born in Gert Town, New Orleans, on January 18, 1938, and died in a Madrid hotel on November 10, 2015.

I first met him in 1973 when I was conducting interviews for my book, Walking to New Orleans, republished in the U.S. as Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans. With partner Marshall Sehorn, Toussaint was in the process of opening the Sea-Saint Recording Studio at Clematis Avenue in the Gentilly area of New Orleans. He was never outward-going and it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for Sehorn, with his promotional acumen, I would never have landed the interview. To my patent surprise, even shock, Toussaint seemed to shrug aside his past, being mainly interested in the present and future. Subsequent events proved him right because for all his early success there were ...


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Drugs, Sex, Violence, Occult and the PMRC's "Filthy 15"

Thursday, December 10: 3:02 p.m.
Posted by Ivan Sheehan

PMRC Parental Advisory label Tipper Gore and Frank Zappa

What do Madonna, AC/DC, Prince, Tipper Gore and the RIAA have in common? Not a trick question: the Parents Music Resource Center.

In 1985, Gore, Susan Baker, Pam Howar, Nancy Thurmond and Sally Nevius – colloquially known as the "Washington Wives" – banded together as the Parents Music Resource Center.

Citing "explicit content in sound recordings" and working with the National Parent Teachers Association and the Recording Industry Association of America, the group successfully advocated so that "certain music releases containing explicit lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence and sex, would be identified so parents could make intelligent listening choices for their children."

Louder Than Words Rock and Politics New Rock Hall Exhibit 2016However, before the Parental Advisory Label Program was officially enacted, the resulting cause célèbre reached fever pitch during a sensational forum before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in September 1985 that pitted politicians and PMRC representatives against musicians including John Denver, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Hall of Fame Inductee Frank Zappa. 

Gore asked the record labels place "a warning label on music products inappropriate for younger children due to explicit sexual or violent lyrics." Zappa argued that "the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real ...


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Finding John Lennon's "first real major piece of work"

Thursday, December 3: 4:23 p.m.
Posted by Ivan Sheehan

The Beatles and John Lennon In My Life lyrics Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland

John Lennon called "In My Life" his "first real major piece of work." 

The song started as a long poem about the bus ride from his Aunt Mimi's house in suburban Liverpool, where he grew up, to the dockside area of the Mersey River. The poem listed Lennon's beloved childhood haunts, including one locale familiar to Beatles fans: Penny Lane.

"The words were almost irrelevant. 'In My Life' started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember," said Lennon in a 1980 interview. "I wrote it all down and it was ridiculous... it was the most boring sort of 'What I Did On My Holiday's Bus Trip' song, and it wasn't working at all. But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Paul helped with the middle-eight."

And though Lennon variously referred to "In My Life" as his, the elegiac reverie on life and love, a poignant reflection on what matters most, the essential fragile translucence of things caught in a Beatle melody was so beautiful that neither John nor Paul would ever agree on ...


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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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