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America’s ‘House of Rock’: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Turns 10


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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, is observing its tenth anniversary this year.  I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Faith Lapidus.  Join us today for the story of what is often called America’s “House of Rock.”

World-famous architect I.M. Pei said he created the building for the Rock and Roll Museum to show the energy of this music.  It seems that he succeeded.  Some visitors have joked that they can see the building moving.

The glass-and-steel museum honors some of the greatest names in rock and roll.  For example, Chuck Berry was one of the first stars of this kind of music.  Here is Chuck Berry singing “School Days.”

Museum exhibits include movies, videos, photographs and radio programs.  They tell the story of rock and roll from its early days to the present.  Visitors can listen to songs that helped shape this kind of music.  They can use a computer to get information about the most famous rock and roll musicians.  And they can see thousands of personal objects from famous performers.  For example, there are report cards from the school days of the Everly Brothers.

Buddy Holly was another popular rock and roll songwriter and performer.  He had many hit songs in just a few years.  He died in an airplane crash in nineteen fifty-nine at the age of twenty-two.  Here is one of Buddy Holly’s greatest hits, “Peggy Sue.”

Many visitors to the Rock and Roll Museum are the people who were teenagers in the nineteen fifties when rock and roll was born.

The top part of the museum is the Hall of Fame.  The names of the most important people in the history of rock and roll are written on black glass walls.  There are now many members of the Hall of Fame.

The idea for building the museum began more than twenty years ago.  A group in America’s music industry wanted to honor the men and women who influenced rock and roll music.  The group looked for the right place for a museum and hall of fame.  It chose the Midwestern city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Each year, a committee of music experts nominates people for the Hall of Fame.  The experts choose performers and other people who have influenced rock and roll.  A person must have played an active part in rock and roll music for at least twenty-five years to be considered.  An international group of music experts votes on the nominations.

Experts chose the first group for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in nineteen eighty-six.  Their list included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke; also, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.  Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard were chosen too.  Oh yes.  And Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley is often called “the King of Rock and Roll.”  One of his many hit songs was “Jailhouse Rock.”  It was from a movie, also called “Jailhouse Rock,” released in nineteen fifty-seven.

Just recently the Hall of Fame welcomed musicians Buddy Guy, Percy Sledge, the O’Jays, U2 and the Pretenders.  Singer and guitar player Chrissie Hynde got the Pretenders together in London in the late nineteen seventies.  Here are the Pretenders singing “Brass in Pocket.”

Many people wondered why Cleveland was chosen for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  Well, the city worked hard to get it.  Citizens and officials organized a campaign.  Six hundred sixty thousand people signed a statement urging that the museum be built there.

It seemed right for Cleveland to become the home of the museum.  A man named Alan Freed had a radio show in Cleveland in the early nineteen fifties.  He heard the music of black artists like Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, and he liked the expression “rock and roll.”  He was one of the first to play this music on his radio show.  That was in nineteen fifty-one.  Here, Chuck Berry sings “Maybellene.”

Music experts do not agree on which song was the very first rock and roll song.  However, some of them do agree on the first song that made rock and roll popular.  Bill Haley and his Comets recorded the song in nineteen fifty-four.

It was not popular at first.  Then it was used in a movie about teenagers called “Blackboard Jungle.”  The movie made “Rock Around the Clock” a huge hit.

We leave you now with another rock classic.  This one is by the Irish group U2, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”

Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver.  I’m Faith Lapidus.

And I’m Steve Ember.  Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.


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