See Your Guitar Hero at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

I sat mesmerized, as Aretha Franklin played piano and sang a sultry version of “A Song For You.” Next, bandmates from Lynryd Skynyrd twanged through “Sweet Home Alabama.” Followed by Kurt Cobain whose soulful voice matched the scream of guitars on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

As the years rolled by, I watched the quality of film change; the beats of the music changed. But one thing that never changed, was feeling like the audience just sat through the world’s greatest rock concert with every guitar hero you’ve ever imitated. 

Cleveland’s signature museum, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, straddles the southwestern shore of Lake Erie. Legendary architect I.M. Pei designed the space-age collection of geometric shapes linked to a triangular glass atrium. Constantly buzzing with energy and sound, visitors enjoy dramatic views of the Cleveland skyline from the museum’s rooftop café. Its seven-sided, cantilevered theatre hovers over the lake. The complex is the showpiece within Cleveland’s downtown cultural center that includes the Great Lakes Science Museum and Greater Cleveland Aquarium. 

People are tapping their toes, head’s a-bopping, smiles beaming, while the wander slowly past Mick Jagger’s pink tank top with white football pants from the Rolling Stones’ earliest album. Directly across the hall is the Fab Four’s complete collection of outfits worn for the cover of The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Elvis Presley’s custom-designed motorcycle is part of an extensive collection of The King’s possessions and clothing. Stained legal notebook paper with Taylor Swift’s handwritten lyrics for her hit “Welcome to New York.” Lady Gaga’s bloody-red meat dress sits mercifully behind glass, as it is most likely ripe by now. 

These are a few of the unforgettable, mind blowing treasures you’ll find in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of many reasons why touring this museum should be on every American music lover’s bucket list. 

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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