The Rock Hall's award-winning education department debated, arm-wrestled and ultimately high-fived their way into answering one impossible question: what song is each 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's definitive track? A tall order, to be sure, but here goes it:
Deep Purple – "Smoke on the Water" (1972)
Seriously. That riff. Who can't hum it? Formed in London in 1968, Deep Purple embraced the sounds of progressive rock, psychedelia-influenced blues and heavy metal, but the group of musicians always fit squarely within the hard rock genre that they helped solidify. Back to that guitar riff – a distinctive, repeated melody with a driving rhythm that builds a song's energy. The opening to Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is arguably the most famous riff in rock history. All credit to guitar extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore, who took four simple chords and transformed it into a monster of a melody. But it wasn't just the notes. The rhythm of the riff is equally important: Blackmore mutes—or forcibly stops—the chords strategically to highlight the song's backbeat, which anticipates Ian Paice's drumbeat. Add a liberal dose of distortion to Blackmore's guitar and boom!: hard rock history ...
For more than 30 years, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Slash has left an indelible mark on rock and roll, cutting a singular figure as recognizable as his oft-imitated – never replicated – guitar playing.
Slash's embrace of rocker staples like black leather and tattoos evolved alongside his now iconic top hats, creating an image that's become synonymous with rock and roll.
This year, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members voted to have displayed in the Museum a leather jacket worn by Slash during Guns N' Roses tours in the 1980s and 1990s.
The back of the jacket features images of a skull wearing a top hat, crossbones topped with guitar headstocks, a gun and a rose.
The images mirror a tattoo on Slash's upper left arm, along with the acronym "D.T.U.D." – which reportedly stands for "Drink Till U Drop" – a nod to Slash's notoriously wilder days as GNR's rabble rousing lead guitarist. Guns N' Roses were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
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 ...
"Clichéd as it might be, we've always been a good, hard rock and roll band," Angus Young has said of his group, 2003 Hall of Fame inductees AC/DC. More than simply "good," AC/DC has reigned as one of the best-loved and hardest-rocking bands in the world for decades.
In this Gallery Talk clip, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum curatorial director Howard Kramer shares the story behind the iconic schoolboy outfit worn by AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. This outfit – along with other items from AC/DC's lengthy career – is on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, in the heavy metal section of the Museum's Cities and Sounds exhibit.