‘Hello Cleveland.” Perhaps not everyone recognizes that line from the classic rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, though people often shout it when they enter Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But as they point out at the Hall, virtually everyone on Earth knows rock music. And not just here: NASA’s 1977 Explorer carried a Chuck Berry song. It may be only raucous roll. But as our museum guide rightly noted, it’s the one universal art form, and you can’t write a history of 20th-century culture without it. Including the transformation of race relations in America. One day it may even reach the beer industry.
Incredibly, a major brewery, which has since apologized, just released eight “legends of rock” beer cans each featuring a white person. Were they in a purple haze and hadn’t heard of Hendrix? Didn’t they know the first picture in the Hall is of the same Chuck Berry currently shouting “Hello Alpha Centauri” courtesy of NASA? That six of the first 10 inductees into the Hall were black, like so many of rock’s precursors it also honours?
Rock ‘n’ roll may mostly conjure up bobby-soxers rockin’ round the clock, hippies tripping to Joplin, or aimless rebellion, staged excess and slack-jawed morons interviewed about their mind-blowing wealth. Well, that and your first love. But there’s much, much more. The American military and professional sports are rightly credited with helping break down segregation, because solidarity with buddies under fire or heroes on the field is incompatible with despising them. But I think the less obvious role of rock and roll was ultimately more important. Continue Reading →
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