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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame foundation was established in 1983 by Ahmet Ertegun, who assembled a team that included Rolling Stone publisher Jann S. Wenner, record executives Seymour SteinBob Krasnow, and Noreen Woods, and attorneys Allen Grubman and Suzan Evans. The Foundation began inducting artists in 1986, but the Hall of Fame still had no home. The search committee considered several cities, including Philadelphia (home of Bill Haley and American Bandstand), Memphis (home of Sun Studios and Stax Records), Detroit (home of Motown Records), Cincinnati (home of King Records), New York City, and Cleveland.

Cleveland lobbied for the museum, with civic leaders in Cleveland pledging $65 million in public money to fund the construction, and citing that WJW disc jockey Alan Freed both coined the term "rock and roll" and heavily promoted the new genre—and that Cleveland was the location of Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball, often credited as the first major rock and roll concert. Freed was also a member of the hall of fame's inaugural class of inductees in 1986. In addition, Cleveland cited radio station WMMS, which played a key role in breaking several major acts in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s, including David Bowie, who began his first U.S. tour in the city, Bruce SpringsteenRoxy Music, and Rush among many others. Cleveland business leaders and media companies organized a petition demonstrating the city's support that was signed by 600,000 Northeast Ohio residents, and Cleveland ranked first in a 1986 USA Today poll asking where the Hall of Fame should be located. On May 5, 1986, the Hall of Fame Foundation chose Cleveland as the permanent home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Author Peter Guralnick said the hall should have been located in Memphis in a 2016 interview. Cleveland may also have been chosen as the organization's site because the city offered the best financial package. As The Plain Dealer music critic Michael Norman noted, "It was $65 million ... Cleveland wanted it here and put up the money." During early discussions on where to build the Hall of Fame and Museum, the Foundation's board considered a site along the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. Ultimately, the chosen location was along East Ninth Street in downtown by Lake Erie, east of Cleveland Stadium. At one point in the planning phase, when a financing gap existed, planners proposed locating the Rock Hall in the then-vacant May Company Building, but finally decided to commission architect I. M. Pei to design a new building. Initial CEO Dr. Larry R. Thompson facilitated I. M. Pei in designs for the site. Pei came up with the idea of a tower with a glass pyramid protruding from it. The museum tower was initially planned to stand 200 ft (61 m) high, but had to be cut down to 162 ft (49 m) due to its proximity to Burke Lakefront Airport. The building's base is approximately 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2). The groundbreaking ceremony took place on June 7, 1993. Pete TownshendChuck BerryBilly JoelSam PhillipsRuth BrownSam Moore of Sam and DaveCarl Gardner of the Coasters and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum all appeared at the groundbreaking. The museum was dedicated on September 1, 1995, with the ribbon being cut by an ensemble that included Yoko Ono and Little Richard, among others, before a crowd of more than 10,000 people. The following night an all-star concert was held at Cleveland Stadium. It featured Chuck BerryBob DylanAl GreenJerry Lee LewisAretha FranklinBruce SpringsteenIggy PopJohn FogertyJohn Mellencamp, and many others. In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, the museum documents the entire history of rock and roll, regardless of induction status. Hall of Fame inductees are honored in a special exhibit located in a wing that juts out over Lake Erie. Since 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has selected new inductees. The formal induction ceremony has been held in New York City 26 times (1986–92, 1994–96, 1998–2008, 2010–11, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019); twice in Los Angeles (1993 and 2013); and five times in the hall of fame's home in Cleveland (1997, 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018). As of 2018, the induction ceremonies alternate each year between New York and Cleveland. The 2009 and 2012 induction weeks were made possible by a public–private partnership between the City of Cleveland, the State of Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and local foundations, corporations, civic organizations and individuals. Collectively these entities invested $5.8 million in 2009 and $7.9 million in 2012 to produce a week of events including free concerts, a gospel celebration, exhibition openings, free admission to the museum, and induction ceremonies at Public Hall. Millions viewed the television broadcast of the Cleveland inductions; tens of thousands traveled to Ohio during induction week to participate in the events. The economic impact of the 2009 induction week activities was more than $13 million, and it provided an additional $20 million in media exposure for the region. The 2012 induction week yielded similar results. Since 1997, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has featured numerous temporary exhibits that range in size from major exhibits that fill the top two floors of the museum to smaller exhibits that are often installed in the main exhibition hall on the lower level. The museum's first major exhibit opened on May 10, 1997. It was called I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era, 1965–1969. It included memorabilia from numerous artists including John LennonEric ClaptonJohn SebastianJefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin, as well as items related to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and 1969's Woodstock. That exhibit was followed by Elvis is in the Building, which ran from August 8, 1998, to September 5, 1999. This year-long tribute was the first exhibit devoted to a single artist, Elvis Presley—the "King of Rock and Roll" and the first inductee into the RRHOF, in 1986. Graceland supplied a significant selection of representative artifacts for this special tribute spanning Elvis' life and legendary career. Next, the museum curated Roots, Rhymes and Rage: The Hip-Hop Story. That was the first major museum exhibit to focus on hip-hop. It ran from November 11, 1999, to August 6, 2000. It was followed by Rock Style, an exhibit that focused on rock and roll and fashion. It featured clothing from Buddy Holly to Alice Cooper, from Ray Charles to David Bowie and from Smokey Robinson to Sly Stone. After it closed in Cleveland, Rock Style traveled to other museums in the U.S. Other temporary exhibits have included Lennon: His Life and Work, which ran from October 20, 2000, to January 1, 2003. It was followed by In the Name of Love: Two Decades of U2 and then Reflections: The Mary Wilson Supreme Legacy Collection. A major exhibition titled Louder than Words: Rock, Power, Politics was on display during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Other large temporary exhibits have focused on the Clash (Revolution Rock: The Story of the Clash), the Doors (Break on Through: The Lasting Legacy of the Doors), the Who's Tommy (Tommy: The Amazing Journey), and Bruce Springsteen (From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen). Another thematic temporary exhibit focused on the role of women in rock and roll (Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power). Many of these exhibits travel to other museums after closing in Cleveland. A major temporary exhibit in 2017 told the story and impact of Rolling Stone magazine. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also curates many smaller temporary exhibits. Over the years, these exhibits have focused on such topics as the Vans Warped Tourthe Concert for Bangladesh, Woodstock's 40th and 50th anniversaries, Austin City Limits, the Monterey International Pop FestivalRoy Orbison, Motown's 50th anniversary, Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersMarty StuartPaul SimonGraham NashJohn Mellencamp, and Geddy Lee's basses. The museum also devotes exhibits to photography and artwork related to rock and roll. Among the photographers whose work has been featured at the Hall of Fame are George Kalinsky, Alfred Wertheimer, Tommy Edwards, Kevin Mazur, Janet Macoska, Lynn GoldsmithLinda McCartneyMike McCartney, Robert Alford, and George Shuba. The museum also featured the artwork of Philip Burke in one of its temporary exhibits, and a later exhibit featured Herb Ritts.

Inductees English guitarist, singer, and songwriter Eric Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Artists are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at an annual induction ceremony. Over the years, the majority of the ceremonies have been held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. However, on January 12, 1993, the ceremony was held in Los Angeles, and was held there again in 2013. On May 6, 1997, about a year and a half after the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the ceremony was held in Cleveland. It returned to Cleveland in 2009 and again in 2012. Current plans call for the ceremony to be in Cleveland every three years. Generally, the number of inductees ranges from about a half-dozen to a dozen. Virtually all living inductees have attended the ceremonies, and they are presented with their Hall of Fame award by an artist who was influenced by that inductee's music. Both the presenter and the inductee speak at the ceremonies, which also include numerous musical performances, by both the inductees and the presenters. The first group of inductees, inducted on January 23, 1986, included Elvis PresleyJames BrownLittle RichardFats DominoRay CharlesChuck BerrySam Cooke, the Everly BrothersBuddy Holly, and Jerry Lee LewisRobert JohnsonJimmie Rodgers, and Jimmy Yancey were inducted as Early Influences, John Hammond received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Alan Freed and Sam Phillips were inducted as Non-Performers.


A nominating committee composed of rock and roll historians selects names for the "Performers" category (singers, vocal groups, bands, and instrumentalists of all kinds), which are then voted on by roughly 500 experts across the world. Those selected to vote include academics, journalists, producers, and others with music industry experience. Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists' contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll. Block approval voting is used, with those nominees who receive the most votes being inducted, subject to a minimum of 50% approval. Around five to seven performers are inducted each year. In 2012, six additional groups, the Miraclesthe Famous Flamesthe Cometsthe Blue Capsthe Midnighters, and the Crickets, were inducted as performers by a special committee due to the controversial exclusions when their lead singer was inducted. "There was a lot of discussion about this," said Terry Stewart, a member of the nominating committee. "There had always been conversations about why the groups weren't included when the lead singers were inducted. Very honestly, nobody could really answer that question – it was so long ago ... We decided we'd sit down as an organization and look at that. This is the result."

Early Influences

Early Influences includes artists from earlier eras, primarily countryfolkjazz, and blues, whose music inspired and influenced rock and roll artists. Other notable artists that have been inducted as Early Influences include Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, country musicians Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, blues musicians Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, and jazz musicians Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. After Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday in 2000, no one was inducted in this category until 2009, when rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson was selected. Unlike earlier inductees in this category, Jackson's career almost entirely took place after the traditional 1955 start of the "rock era".

Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement

Formerly the "Non-Performers" award, this category encompasses those who primarily work behind the scenes in the music industry, including record label executives, songwriters, record producers, disc jockeys, concert promoters and music journalists. This category has had at least one inductee every year except 2007 and 2009. Following the death of the Hall of Fame's co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, this award was renamed in his honor in 2008.

Award for Musical Excellence

Formerly the "Sidemen" award, this category was introduced in 2000 and honors veteran session and concert players who are selected by a committee composed primarily of producers. The category was dormant from 2004 through 2007 and re-activated in 2008. This honor was renamed the "Award for Musical Excellence" in 2010. According to Joel Peresman, the president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, "This award gives us flexibility to dive into some things and recognize some people who might not ordinarily get recognized."


La Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation fu creata nel 1983. In realtà le sede di Cleveland fu costruita solo in un secondo momento. La città fu in lizza con Memphis (casa degli Sun Studios e della Stax Records), Cincinnati (casa della King Records) e New York. Ma a favore della scelta finale intervenne il fatto che, proprio da Cleveland, il disc jockey Alan Freed, secondo molti esperti, contribuì a diffondere e addirittura a coniare il termine "rock and roll". Sempre alla stessa città è riconosciuto il primato dello svolgimento del primo concerto rock and roll. La scelta definitiva fu appannaggio naturalmente della fondazione, ma un sondaggio dello USA Today in merito vide vincere Cleveland su Memphis di circa 100.000 voti e in favore di Cleveland accorse anche una petizione sottoscritta da 600.000 fan.

Tuttavia il dibattito sui motivi che portarono a costruire la sede della fondazione è ancora aperto, in particolare si ritiene che ciò che fece pendere l'ago della bilancia definitivamente verso Cleveland fu un ottimo pacchetto finanziario. Michael Norman notò: «Non fu Alan Freed. Furono 65 milioni di dollari…Cleveland lo voleva qui e tirò fuori i soldi.»

Inizialmente la Hall of Fame doveva essere eretta nei pressi del fiume Cuyahoga. La collocazione definitiva fu individuata invece presso il Lago Erie, poco a est del Cleveland Browns Stadium e del Great Lakes Science Center.

Durante la fase di progettazione ci si rese conto che i fondi avrebbero potuto non essere sufficienti e si prese in considerazione di utilizzare come sede della Hall of Fame il vecchio palazzo della May Company. Alla fine la struttura fu costruita ex novo e progettata dall'architetto cinese Ieoh Ming Pei, tra i cui lavori figurano la piramide del Louvre e la Bank of China Tower. Il disegno vide la realizzazione, per il museo, di una torre con una piramide di vetro che da essa si protende. Inizialmente concepita per stagliarsi fino a 60 metri da terra, la torre è stata poi realizzata alta 50 metri, a causa dei problemi che avrebbe potuto arrecare al vicino aeroporto di Lakefront. La base della costruzione si estende su 13.500 metri quadrati. La cerimonia per l'inizio dei lavori, 7 giugno 1993, venne onorata della presenza di Pete Townshend e Chuck Berry. L'apertura del museo avvenne il 2 settembre 1995, a tagliare il nastro, tra gli altri, Yōko Ono e Little Richard.

Ci sono sette piani nella struttura, che ospitano mostre permanenti o itineranti, testimonianza della storia del rock and roll. Le esposizioni temporanee ospitano oggetti consegnati al museo solo per un periodo di tempo limitato, oppure vengono proiettati film (come Concert for Bangladesh di George Harrison, del 2007). Le mostre permanenti possono svariare dalla storia della tecnologia audio, all'esposizione di manichini, sono anche esposte fotografie che immortalano la musica nelle città attraverso gli anni, per cui è possibile ammirare com'era Memphis negli anni 50, DetroitLiverpool e San Francisco negli anni 60, Los Angeles nei 70, New York e Londra negli anni 70 e 80 e Seattle negli anni 90.

Il terzo livello ospita un muro con tutte le firme degli ammessi. L'ultimo livello, il settimo, è riservato a mostre temporanee che si occupano di un gruppo o artista per un certo periodo. Occupa l'intero piano, che è anche il più piccolo dell'edificio. Tra gli artisti rappresentati: Elvis PresleyThe WhoJohn LennonU2Bob DylanThe Clash e The Supremes.

Mentre il museo è sito in Cleveland, la cerimonia annuale che rende noti gli ammessi è tenuta a New York in marzo (tranne nel 1997, quando si è svolta a Cleveland). Questo è stato fonte di controversie e tensioni tra la Fondazione e la Hall of Fame stessa. Nel Dicembre del 2007 fu annunciato che Cleveland avrebbe ospitato la cerimonia ogni tre anni a partire dal 2009.

Hall of Fame

I nomi di coloro che vengono ammessi nella Hall of Fame vengono resi noti durante una cerimonia annuale che si svolge a New York. Il primo gruppo di artisti venne inserito il 23 gennaio del 1986: Chuck BerryJames BrownRay CharlesSam CookeFats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Alan FreedJohn HammondBuddy HollyRobert JohnsonJerry Lee LewisLittle RichardSam PhillipsElvis PresleyJimmie Rodgers e Jimmy Yancey.

Attualmente possono essere proposti per l'ammissione alla Hall of Fame singoli artisti, o gruppi, solamente dopo che siano trascorsi 25 anni dalla loro prima incisione. Le nomine sono rivolte a coloro che hanno giocato un ruolo di significativa influenza nella storia del rock and roll. La Hall of Fame si compone di quattro categorie: Performers, Non-Performers, Early Influences e Sidemen (quest'ultima dal 2000).

Performers (interpreti)

Tra i performers sono annoverati cantanti e musicisti. Una commissione appositamente nominata seleziona i nomi da proporre per l'ingresso nella Hall of Fame. Avviene poi una votazione che coinvolge circa 1000 esperti del settore, tra cui accademici, giornalisti, produttori e altri. Ogni anno avvengono approssimativamente tra le cinque e le sette ammissioni (anche se, soprattutto per i primi anni, questo limite viene ecceduto). Solo per il 2012 una commissione apposita ha selezionato ed introdotto 6 gruppi d'accompagnamento di cantanti già in precedenza inseriti nella Hall of Fame.

Non-performers (non-interpreti)

Questa categoria include gli scrittori di canzoni, i produttori, i disc jockey, i giornalisti e altre figure professionali dell'industria della musica.

Alcuni dei più noti non-performers annoverati nella Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sono il fondatore della Sun Records Sam Phillips, il disc jockey e grande promotore del rock and roll Alan Freed, il produttore di Ronettes e Righteous Brothers Phil Spector, il produttore dei Beatles George Martin, il fondatore della Fender Leo Fender, il fondatore della rivista Rolling Stone Jann Wenner e il patron della Atlantic Records (oltre che fondatore e uno dei presidenti del museo) Ahmet Ertegün.

Una commissione apposita è direttamente responsabile delle ammissioni nelle categorie Non-Performers e Early-Influences (prime influenze).

Early influences (le influenze dei primi anni)

Questa sezione è dedicata agli artisti dell'epoca più lontana, tratta soprattutto di countryfolk e blues, la cui musica ha ispirato e influenzato gli artisti di rock and roll. Tra gli ultimi inseriti: Nat King Cole e Billie Holiday, nel 2000. Altri nomi famosi sono Hank Williams, musicista countryHowlin' Wolf nel blues e Louis Armstrong per il jazz.


La categoria dei sideman ("uomini di parte" letteralmente, o "comprimari") include musicisti selezionati da una commissione composta primariamente da produttori. Si tratta di veri e propri veterani nel campo della musica e concertisti.