black and white image of President GW Bush and Bono

Louder Than Words: Rock, Power & Politics

OPEN: MAY 20, 2016


Current travel schedule:

  • Museum of Broadcast Communications, 5/19/2019 – 8/25/2019 
  • Durham Museum, 10/12/2019 – 2/2/2020
  • George Bush Sr. Presidential Library and Museum, 3/2/2020 – 1/4/2021 

From the moment rock and roll hit the airwaves, it has played a crucial role in politics and social movements around the world.

This one-of-a-kind exhibit, “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power & Politics,” explores the power of rock to change attitudes about patriotism, peace, equality and freedom. 

Using video, multimedia, photographs, periodicals and artifacts, “Louder Than Words” will showcase the intersection between rock and politics. It will explore how artists exercise their First Amendment rights, challenge assumptions and beliefs, stimulate thought and effect change.

Beyond music’s influence on the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and gender equality, the exhibit will also feature other significant moments and figures, such as Bob Dylan, who rallied people against social inequality, the hip-hop music of the 80s that discussed police brutality in poverty stricken neighborhoods, and Pussy Riot, who utilized their music as an outlet for social activism in Russia.  


Whether you identify as red or blue, we all bleed rock and roll. Voicing political beliefs mixes its way into conversation and lyrics all the same. Whether you're a fan of Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" reinvention or Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" insightful ballad, many musical artists have broached the subject of politics or have reacted to the current political and cultural climate through note and song. Inside of a song or performance, artists feel safe expressing their opinions and inviting fans to connect with their message regardless of party affiliation.

Do those same established boundaries exist today? The stage has recently come under fire for openly expressing political critique, which prompts the question - is free speech still protected inside of a performance or song? Regardless of recent and future criticisms, artists will continue to fold political sentiments into their work, and we will continue to support those rock and rollers, unafraid of controversy, letting their music play louder than words. 

"Louder Than Words" is presented by PNC and sponsored by Hilton Hotels & Resorts, SoundExchange, AT&T and Altria.

For more information please contact Matt Seaman at [email protected] or by phone: 216-515-1209

inside the exhibit

The exhibit includes exclusive video interviews with Bono, David Byrne, Dee Snider, Tom Morello, Lars Ulrich, Gloria Estefan, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Carter and others, and combines with them interactives, photography and never-before-exhibited artifacts to examine how music has both shaped and reflected our culture norms on eight political topics: civil rights, LGBT issues, feminism, war & peace, censorship, political campaigns, political causes and international politics.

Included in the exhibit are:

  • Joe Strummer’s Fender Telecaster
  • Correspondence between the FBI and Priority Records regarding N.W.A’s "F*** the Police"
  • Original handwritten lyrics from Chuck Berry’s "School Day," and Neil Young’s “Ohio”
  • Original Village People stage costumes
  • Artifacts related to the Vietnam war, the May 4, 1970 shooting at Kent State, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement