Rock Hall Inductees Join Donors, Fans & Politicians For Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrating Hall Of Fame’s $135 Million Expansion

Rock Roll Hall of Fame Groundbreaking 2023 John Sykes Gina Schock Michelle Phillips Charlotte Caffey Sam Moore Martha Reeves Greg Harris credit AmberPatrick 4337
L to R: John Sykes, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Chairman; Gina Schock; Michelle Phillips; Charlotte Caffey; Sam Moore; Martha Reeves and Greg Harris, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, President & CEO

(Cleveland) Icons. Benefactors. Architects. Politicians. Fans. They were all on hand at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s groundbreaking ceremony for an $135 million expansion that will add 50,000 square feet, increase their actual exhibition space by 40% and create more designated room for education, events and live music.

For the city of Cleveland, where traceable economic impact since its opening 1995 is over two billion dollars and countless jobs, as well as 14 million fans through the doors of the I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid meant to resemble a turntable in outer space, the Rock Hall is an iconic presence. It is also a defining trope for the city where Alan Freed coined the term “rock & roll” and local album rock radio WMMS played a role breaking acts ranging from inductees Bruce Springsteen to Todd Rundgren, U2 to Patti Smith.

Those are the facts, and then there’s the crazy awesome rock & roll part of it. When Martha Reeves was acknowledged by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum President & CEO Greg Harris, she shimmied towards the podium in clingy head-to-toe camo, smoke gray braids swinging and delivered a rousing chunk of “Jimmy Mack” that showed she was still every ounce the show-woman that made Martha & the Vandellas such a force of 45 rpm/AM radio glory.

Not to be outdone, Michelle Phillips came to the podium looking every striking bit the elder sylph from the Mamas & the Papas, launching into an a capella verse of “California Dreamin’” that saw the 100s of VIPS, fans and media falling into a perfect choir through the chorus.

Returning to hosting, Harris exclaimed, “Clevelanders can harmonize.” As much an allusion to coming together in divisive times, an unstated theme, woven throughout the museum’s exhibitions, as the crowd’s ability to actually find the different parts that suited their voices.

When Charlotte Caffey and Gina Shock – members of The Go-Go’s, who were inducted into the Rock Hall in 2021 – went to the podium, Caffey announced, “In the tradition of everyone here,” and the pair launched into a percussive heavy, almost call-and-response rendition of “We Got The Beat.” From the stage hands to the kids on bicycles, it was clapping, stomping pandemonium, reminding the business leaders the emotional charge of music instead of industry or thought commerce.

Shock rode the euphoria of their punk/pop sing-along moment, one many advocates believed would never come for the first and only all-female band to top Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, witnessing at the mic when they finished. Closing her thoughts with a promise and a truth, she rhythmically exhorted, “Let me tell you: dreams can come true! It happened for me. It can happen to you.”

Following that, John Sykes, MTV founder, American entertainment chairman for iHeart and the Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, tore up his speech. Instead, he talked about buying the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” for 49 cents, the first single he ever bought; ruminating on how music marked his life. Then he took people on a tour of music’s breakthroughs, including being with Sam Moore in 1995 at the original groundbreaking, before ending his remarks with the core truth of it all: “Rock & roll never stops. Rock & roll will never die because it’s the sound of young America.”

With their commitment to education, creating space for K-12 and college students, they’re ensuring young people have the tools to create and a place to inspire their imaginations. But they also have artifacts of those who came before, strong curators who can show the connections and draw parallels, iconic images to let them glimpse the passion and kinetic charge of rock, hip-hop, pop, soul, even country influences. That is a big piece of it.

For 36-year old Cleveland Mayor Mike Bibb, looking so sharp in a close cut suit he drew Martha Reeves back to the podium to comment on how “fine’ he was, the expansion of the Rock Hall also made good on the promise of iconic Cleveland boîte Leo’s Casino and his grandmother Sarah Presley, who met her husband there and they went on to open a juke joint of their own.

Citing the tech conference Futureland and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 events both kicking off in Cleveland this weekend, Bibb sees the city moving towards a more forward and powerful place in the nation. In his remarks, he cited the music’s “excitement, joy and healing” as the Rock Hall’s gifts to the culture.

There were pictures of rock stars, executives, politicians and financial guys with shovels. There were autograph seekers and people wanting to talk about the time they saw. … And there were speeches that eschewed dreary self-congratulations to evoke what makes rock incandescent.

In 2026 when award-winning architectural firm PAU sees their work completed, there will be even more reason to celebrate. But for now, lots of divergent groups came together and agreed on one thing: rock & roll is good.

What a great place to start in a world intent on divisiveness and rancor.