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There's only one place in the world to see, hear and feel the living history of this country's most electrifying musical genre: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. This shrine to all things rock is housed in an appropriately futuristic building designed by the renowned architect I.M.Pei. The glass-paneled pyramid adjoins another tower-type structure, for a thoroughly contemporary appearance. It was opened in 1995, at a cost of $80 million, after a decade of fund-raising.

The original concept for the museum and the archive dedicated to rock and roll was initiated in 1983, when several music industry leaders created the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Their goal was to honor the men and women who made significant contributions to this musical style. In 1986, they began inducting individuals. The Museum was built to house the Hall of Fame, so they are actually two distinct entities.

Supposedly, Clevelanders were the first Americans to hear rock & roll, at least that phrase, which was coined by local D.J. Alan Freed, in the 1950s. One section of the museum has memorabilia related to disc jockeys and how individual D.J. styles and personalities made them celebrities in their own right. You can listen to audio from famous rock and roll D.J.s from different eras and regions, including a section on Alan Freed.

In new Hall Of Fame wing, honoring more than 140 rock legends who been inducted, is now four times the size of the original. The new wing was opened in April of 1998 to great fanfare. It features probably the world's most comprehensive jukebox. Four computerized kiosks are available where visitors can listen to virtually any song ever recorded by the Hall of Fame inductees. A 25,000 song database was made possible by a special data compression technology created by AT & T, the presenter of this exhibit.

From scrap papers scrawled with music lyrics to Janis Joplin's psychedelic-painted Porsche, variety is the buzz word here. But the rock hall is much more than just guitars and costumes hanging on the walls. Videos, films and interactive computers keep things up-beat. The sounds and sights are bigger than life, isn't that what rock and roll is all about? No doubt, you'll be humming and swaying all the way through this museum.

As a wordsmith myself, I enjoy the handwritten lyrics. Seeing some of the most influential rock songs scribbled by their authors, brings the process down to a very human level.

Another exhibit called Legends of Rock, replaces an earlier one entitled: I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era 1965-1969. Legends of Rock focuses on some of the rock icons of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Newly acquired collections from the Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Tom Petty are on display. A few of the highlights include Michael Jackson stage outfits such as his jeweled glove, penny loafers and clothing from "Billie Jean" and "Bad." There are three Tina Turner stage costumes, two of which were designed by the late Gianni Versace. Instruments from Led Zeppelin used to record "Stairway to Heaven" are also on display. The Legends of Rock exhibit runs indefinitely.

Since 1990, Cleveland has definitely been on the rebound, emerging with a new and improved identity. This monument to music located on Lake Erie is part of the urban renewal project known as North Coast Harbor. The Great Lakes Science Center is nearby as are the lively "Flats" entertainment district and the new football stadium. Where once the Cuyahoga River burned with toxic waste, now the riverfront are is thriving with upscale restaurants. Cleveland, and the state of Ohio can be proud of this positive turnabout.

Before the museum opened, experts predicted fans would need two and a half hours to wander through the 150,000 square foot musical history lesson, but the average stay is actually closer to four hours. Many people find they can stay the entire day. The Hall of Fame and Museum are located at One Key Plaza, Cleveland, Ohio. There are seven levels so when you need a coffee break, a cafe is located on level three. Admission is $14.95 for adults. Their extensive website has floor plans and more details about changing exhibits.