Sunday, July 8, 2018
Daa-daa, daa-daa, da-da-da, daa-daa, daa-daa, da-da-da.
For many alive and sentient in 1992, those opening chords of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" conjure up images and feelings of a different time, when then-Gov. Bill Clinton was running for president of the United States and the rock classic was his campaign theme song.
‘Louder Than Words:
Rock, Power & Politics’
WHEN — Through Aug. 5; hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE — Clinton Presidential Center, 1200 President Clinton Ave. in Little Rock
COST — $6-$10
INFO — 501-374-4242, clintonpresidentialcenter.com
Music is one of the biggest spurs to memory. It's a tool, a motivator.
"Music is powerful," says Rebecca Tennille, Clinton Presidential Center spokesman. "It can encourage you to do things. It fires you up."
That's the point of the exhibit, "Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics," currently on display at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.
"You can say something with words," says Karen Herman, vice president of collections and curatorial affairs with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "But when you have music and you join them, they turn into something bigger, something visceral. It's the story of this country and of the world and how these people were able to personalize it and make you feel something that's larger than yourself."
The exhibit was curated by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio -- where it debuted in 2016 in time for the election -- in conjunction with Washington's Newseum. It was already in the works when, serendipitously, Cleveland was announced as the host city for the Republican National Convention. It was on display for that, then moved to the Newseum in time for the 2017 inauguration.
In addition to his taste for 1970s-era rock, Clinton also got a great deal of attention for playing the saxophone during an appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show." A saxophone loaned by Clinton is on prominent display in "Louder Than Words."
That's actually how the exhibit came to the Clinton Presidential Center's attention. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame reached out, asking for a saxophone the center could loan them. Center representatives went to view the finished exhibit and decided it would be a perfect fit for a place dedicated to a man who has been called the first rock 'n' roll president.
"President Clinton is very passionate about music," says Ben Thielemeier, communications manager for the Clinton Foundation.
Starting from the 1950s to present day, the exhibit highlights the changes and upheavals in the country: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the struggles for women's rights, the LGBT community, 9/11. All are represented through display cases, videos, interactive display stations and piped-in music.
Included are the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" scrawled in a battered spiral notebook; a piece of the Berlin Wall next to lyrics to "Right Here Right Now" from 1991; a 9/11 memorial guitar; Bob Dylan's harmonica; a flag from Kent State in 1970; "Ohio" lyrics by Neil Young; folk singer Odetta's guitar from the March on Washington in 1963; and an entire set of Village People costumes.
Every piece tells a story and, in conjunction, they show how the country has -- and hasn't -- changed.
Most of the items on display were either loaned by artists or collectors for the exhibit or are part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's collection. But a few are specific to the Clinton Presidential Center.
"We decided that we wanted to add a few that were really connected to President Clinton," Thielemeier says.
They reached out to Katy Perry, who sent the red-white-and-blue-theme dress and cape she wore when she performed at a 2015 campaign rally for Hillary Clinton.
Bill Clinton also has a close relationship with U2 and, of course, Fleetwood Mac. Handwritten lyrics to "Hands That Built America" written and signed by Bono and The Edge, birthday cards to President Clinton from Bono, letters to members of Fleetwood Mac and signed memorabilia from band members have all been added to the displays to highlight the Clintons' personal connections to some of their favorite artists.
Herman says they're thrilled the Clinton Center has added its own personal touch: "We do hope every library will make it their own and maybe blow out the story of their president a little bit more."
The point is to tell the story of the nation through song and the role popular music has played in moving that story along.
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