“Backstage Pass” — An in Depth Look at the People of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Mr. Isaac Cleveland

HINESBURG, VT – It has been around 60 years since Rock ‘n’ Roll began, a genre that brought change, helped desegregate the US, and created a new groove for the Baby Boomer generation to “get down” to. The number of artists that represent the Rock sounds of the ‘60s to the ‘90s is almost too many to count, ranging from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix to

Image Courtesy of Containerlist.glaserarchives.org

Image Courtesy of Containerlist.glaserarchives.org

Aerosmith, and this is only naming a few of the many music geniuses that influenced the American people.

Many people know these artists’ music by heart, yet their life outside of the spotlight is far from well-known. Shelburne Museum’s newest exhibition, “Backstage Pass,” shows the famous artists of the era in a new light, depicting the emotions and the activities of the musicians offstage. The photographs display an extremely important peace of our culture and history, celebrating the people who changed the world through music.

The exhibition consists of over 200 photographs, either B&W or color prints, ranging from the influencers of Rock ‘n’ Roll such as Miles Davis, to the style and nonconformity of David Bowie.

Though Bill Haley and the Comets may be the official start of the Rock & Roll era, Elvis Presley was debatably one of the most influential characters of the time. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “Elvis Presley was rock & roll’s first real star, not to mention one of the most important cultural forces in history, a hip-shaking symbol of liberation for the staid America of the 1950s.” Albert Wertheimer’s “Elvis Kiss” photograph is seen in the exhibit. This photograph almost represents America’s love of Elvis, in his “looks,” his music, and his incredible stage presence.

Moving onto Jerry Schatzberg’s photo of The Rolling Stones in drag, the photo looks to paint a different image of Rock & Roll as a rebellion against the norms, instead of  an image created by the “Natural sexuality” of Elvis Presley. Both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles are seen frequently in the exhibit, representing the British Invasion and how it impacted the music genre.

Other musicians such as Bob Dylan are looked at even more closely through the photographs taken of him. In the photo above, he poses next to a sign protesting against conformity. His views are both seen in this photo, as well as in songs such as Blowin in the Wind. According to Kris Gruen, son of the famous Rock ‘n’ Roll photographer Bob Gruen, when looking at the photograph, “the viewer creates a real experience of their own of that era rather than being shown absolutely what it is through the [music].”

The musicians of the time fought for what they believed in and they inspired much of the Baby Boomer generation to take action against oppression and inequality. The hundreds of photos hung on the walls of the Pizzagalli Center of Art and Education represent the American culture and the people’s fight for their rights. Rock ‘n’ Roll changed the late 1900’s, and now the music of the early 2000’s must also start to inspire change in the American people.