CLEVELAND - I am straining my ears right now, but I cannot hear it loud enough and often enough. That bugs me. That bugs me bad.
There is something missing from my life. It is also missing from yours. It is a general region-wide acceptance that Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Capital of the world. Yes, I know we acknowledge the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but we greater Clevelanders don't push it enough.
One of the first Rock and Roll concerts I attended featured Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. That Motown sound engulfed me and kept me humming, "Oooo, baby, baby." That was decades ago, but I am still singing it. That's how much rock music has captured my heart and soul.
However, the sounds of Motown and the many other styles of rock 'n' roll need to be heard throughout Cleveland and the rest of Northeast Ohio. Cleveland is blessed to have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum located in this city.
When visitors travel though Cleveland Hopkins Airport, they need to be washed in the sounds and images of rock 'n' roll music, not to the point that it is deafening or overpowering, but certainly, to the point that they realize the city is the home of the Rock Hall.
When I visit New Orleans and Nashville, I am immediately hit with images and sounds of the music for which those communities are known. New Orleans jazz jumps the sidewalks of the city. It is as much a part of the New Orleans culture as is the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The same holds true for Nashville. It promotes itself as Music City, USA.
The Rock Hall is a gemstone, nestled in a wonderful pocket of Cleveland along the city's Lake Erie shoreline. The Rock Hall and Museum does a marvelous job of promoting this great musical gift to the world. However, the city government and businesses are missing the beat when it comes to promoting the gemstone and the culture it promotes -- rock music.
There are "Cleveland Rocks" references in several public places, but not early enough. Billboards ought to pepper our highways with pictures of rock artists proclaiming what this city is all about.
I realize the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is not nearly as old as the musical heritages of New Orleans and Nashville, but the time is now to increase the volume on who and what Cleveland is. The Rock Hall is still in its adolescence, having having opened its doors in 1995. However, time is flying and Cleveland needs as much as it can on which to hang its hat.
Nashville's hat is the 10-gallon variety in more ways than one. As a music capital, known for the recording of country & western music, it sings its place in history. There are even shopping malls where the theme is Grand Ole Opry, based on the historical theater located in Nashville. Country & Western music seems to come up from the floors of its business establishments.
The same holds true for New Orleans jazz. Visit either of these cities, and you will find yourself keeping time with the music by tapping your feet. Walk through their airports, and their musical heritages and history will hit you in the face. And that's a good thing.
What I want to see is Cleveland pulsing with the music that helped put this city on the map. It is fortunate that the well-known radio disc jockey of the early 1950s promoted the phrase "rock and roll" on his Moondog radio show. It was great for Cleveland.
So much so, the first rock and roll concert was held in Cleveland in 1954. Though its promoters probably did not know it at the time, but the Moondog Coronation Ball help cement Cleveland's place in music history.
Alan Freed did not coin the term "rock 'n' roll," which was a familiar phrase denoting the sex act used by rhythm and blues artists, but Freed had a big voice. He used his disc jockey's microphone on the high-power wattage of his radio station to popularize the phrase.
His words and the melodies and lyrics of rhythm and blues and soul artists went through the air to the welcoming ears of people who wanted to hear the music, which, for most of America, was still new. It was a music which leaped into different forms and styles -- all of it under the rock and roll umbrella.
As the music grew in popularity as it crossed over from rhythm and blues to high school-age kids, a culture was born and nurtured. Rock 'n' roll music grew up and became a force. Bobby-soxers who danced to Elvis, Little Richard, James Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis grew up and are now grandparents. But they are still rockin' to the sounds of their youth. Many of them are rockin' to the new sounds, as well.
In fact, even today's advertisers use rock 'n' roll music to sell their products. Grandma and Grandpa are still rockin' to their sounds as are their grandchildren who plug into their brand of the music. Rock 'n' roll encompasses several generations of people.
So Cleveland rocks. But the city's government and the businesses do not rock enough. I want to see and hear references to the
rock and roll capital of the world in the many places I go. It's OK if there are signs proclaiming Cleveland as the rock 'n' roll capital of the world. It's OK if there is a constant rock music in department stores, and restaurants, and airports and bus stations.
The music does not have to blast. It does not blast in New Orleans or Nashville, but it is there where it served in heaping helpings. In New Orleans, eat shrimp and listen to Satchmo. In Nashville, I'll take an order of barbecue ribs along with a side of Reba McIntyre.
C'mon, Cleveland. We know how to rock because we did so when we were in grade school. We have not forgotten the lyrics. They are always with us. However, we as a large community have dropped the beat. If we are going to be the rock 'n' roll music capital of the world, let's hear it.
Thank goodness for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. That goodness it decided to build its headquarters here. It ought to be here because this is where the phrase was popularized and put on the radio airwaves for the kids of the 1950s to hear.
Well, the kids have grey hair now and have crows feet at the corners of their eyes, but the old rhythms are still there. We just have to let the world know we are here supporting a showcase of talent which has done its part. What needs to happen is for the rest of the region to do its part.
There have to be signs flashing to let the world know who we are. We have to remind ourselves who we are. We're the rock 'n' roll capital of the world. Now that we have it rockin', let's let it roll .... baby.