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A few weeks back I was traveling through Cleveland and decided to make a more focused visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wanted to avail myself of the exhibits and memorabilia that had a District angle. Wandering from floor to floor in the massive and often impressive space, however, I realized that mentions of D.C.’s impact on rock history were spare.
Sure, there were the obligatory references to Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole playing the Howard Theater, and to the Beatles’ first American concert played in D.C. But what became apparent was that according to the Rock HoF, D.C.’s singular role in rock and roll history—what it should be known for—is that of morality police.
For example, a large wall panels just inside the entrance to the main exhibit tell the story of rock and roll’s early fights against the Man.
“Rock and roll is repulsive to right thinking people and can have adverse affects on our young people.”
J Edgar Hoover, Washington DC
It doesn’t end there. Other panels reported on Tipper Gore’s decency crusade and Frank Zappa’s (pictured) appearance before Congress. And in the hip-hop exhibit is the prominently displayed letter sent by the FBI (from DC) to N.W.A’s label expressing their concern at Straight Outta Compton’s content.
Though in the interest of balance, Jim Morrison’s High School Diploma and report cards from George Washington High School in Alexandria, Va. get some wall space.