CLEVELAND - I grew up listening to rock 'n' roll music. I was a child of the Motown sound and its smooth and heartfelt quality is still a part of me. When I am walking along any street, I can hear the music, but it is usually in my mind.
I wonder why aren't there stronger rock 'n' roll sounds emanating from the city, especially because Cleveland is the rock 'n' roll capital of America -- really of the world.
Cleveland is blessed to have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum located in this city. It does a wonderful job of promoting the music and the culture that surrounds the many, many decades of the various sounds under the rock umbrella.
But why aren't there stronger references to the rock 'n' roll capital at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Public Square, and the many shopping malls, amusement centers and other places where people gather?
Rock 'n' roll music is an important piece on which Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio can hang its hat. When you visit New Orleans, immediately stepping off the airplane at the city airport, you are hit with the theme of that community -- New Orleans-style music and food. It permeates every aspect of that city.
Visit Nashville and Country and Western music is in the air. Stores loudly proclaim Nashville as a music capital. Nashville hangs its 10-gallon hat on its music and its musical history. There are even shopping malls where the theme is Grand Ole Opry, based on the historical theater located in Nashville.
I was raised in Cleveland. Although I have lived briefly in other cities, Cleveland has been where I've hung my hat for the bulk of my life. I expect I will be buried here when that time comes. For years, I have struggled with why Cleveland has not pushed itself to a higher level.
In the years immediately before 1900, one of every six millionaires in the world lived in Cleveland. The city was known for steel, heavy industry, transportation and innovation. We are still known for great things -- among them, medicine, with Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth Medical Center leading the way.
With the proposed Medical Mart, we are positioning ourselves even more as a medical center to the world.
But there is another area on which we can build a reputation. It is with rock 'n' roll music. The Rock Hall of Fame has certainly helped put us on the map. However, if the city itself hit the right notes, that reputation could soar even higher.
We Clevelanders often beat up on ourselves. Our sports teams are sometimes competitive, but the sports championships have eluded us over the years. We are still holding on to the Major League Baseball World Series championships of 1948 and 1920. Thank goodness for the Cleveland Browns NFL Championship (before the Super Bowl existed) in 1964.
We have watched high-profile businesses leave Cleveland. We have watched our population move away from the city and watched all the new growth in Sunbelt cities.
However, there is one thing no other place has an ownership. That is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That gemstone on the shore of Lake Erie is truly a diamond. Go there and you will be inspired and you will be proud of what was accomplished here.
However, that music and the theme of the Rock Hall has to be picked up by other businesses and promoted. I visited New Orleans in September. Sitting at the world-renown Cafe du Monde restaurant within sight of the Mississippi River, there was New Orleans-style music all around. It was played live by a trio of men who serenaded the cafe customers.
I ate beignets and kept a hot cup of cafe au lait in my hand, drinking and eating New Orleans while its music washed over me. Wherever I went, there were references to New Orleans music and how it was one of the birthplaces of blues and jazz.
Well, blues and jazz are also part of the same genealogical tree as rock 'n' roll. They all emanate from the same place. They are American music styles that have been embraced by the world.
What I want to hear at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is rock 'n' roll music. I want people who fly into this city to know that this is the rock 'n' roll capital of the world.
The music did not originate here, but Alan Freed was a Cleveland disc jockey who popularized the phrase "rock 'n' roll" on his old Moon Dog radio show of the early 1950s. Freed took an old rhythm and blues phrase (which was used to reference having sex) and popularized the words on the radio. The first rock concert was held in Cleveland during that time period.
So c'mon Cleveland. Let's help the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame put the music in the streets, and at the airport, and other places where people gather. The airport has a hallway where there are photographs of great rock and roll artists, but that is not enough.
There has to be signs flashing to let the world know who we are. We are the rock 'n' roll capital of the world. Now that we have it rockin', let's let it roll, baby.
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