Ford Museum exhibit explores ties between politics, rock music

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — At a time when Eminem’s freestyle rap slamming the president makes national news and Kid Rock’s name being floated around for a run for U.S. Senate, the connection between music and politics in America is unquestionable.

The history of that link is explored in a new exhibit coming to Grand Rapids this November from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Newseum.

The exhibit, “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics,” will arrive at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on Nov. 7 and remain open to the public through Feb. 11.

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“‘Louder Than Words’ highlights how artists have used their craft as a platform to express their views and shape public opinion,” said Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Items on display include videos, photographs, periodicals and artifacts like Bono’s 2002 Super Bowl jacket.

Performing at the Super Bowl in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, U2 paid tribute to victims by projecting their names on a massive backdrop as it played “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Bono wore the jacket during the performance, the jacket’s stars-and-stripes lining serves as an additional homage to the victims. 

The exhibit — created through a partnership between Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Newseum in Washington, D.C. — premiered in Cleveland in May and was on display at the Newseum from Trump’s inauguration through July 31.

It reaches back in time, exploring how artists exercise their First Amendment rights, challenge assumptions and beliefs, stimulate thought and effect change. 

Beyond music’s influence on the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and gender equality, the exhibit also features other significant moments and figures. Musicians featured include Bob Dylan, hip-hop artists of the 80s and Pussy Riot, whose music acted as an outlet for social activism in Russia.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to partner with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to bring this exhibition to the region,” said Elaine Didier, director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

From ex-Beatle George Harrison’s visit to the White House to stories of Ford’s son, Steve Ford, playing Led Zeppelin music from the White House roof, rock music has a clear connection to the Ford presidency.

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The exhibit opens to the public during a “Ford After Five” event at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7. The exhibit will be included in the museum’s regular admission fees.

For information about the museum or its companion presidential library located in Ann Arbor, visit fordlibrarymuseum.gov.


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