Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum 20th Anniversary

(March 14, 2005)
By Jann S. Wenner

“We come to celebrate, and to enjoy, and to honor that great gift that we all have in common, which is music. It’s music ­ it’s the opportunity to make it, the opportunity to be a part of creating it, to be a midwife to it, to promote and sell it, to report on it, critique it, to be near it, to hear it, to love it, and to live in times filled with music.”

Jann Wenner: This year we’re not only marking the 20th anniversary of the first Hall of Fame induction, but also the 50th anniversary of rock and roll. In 1954, came the first record from Elvis Presley, followed by Chuck Berry’s, Little Richard's, and Bo Diddley’s first releases in 1965 - the same year that Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” hit number one. Jerry Lee Lewis released his first national record in 1956, a comparative newcomer. And tonight, both Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis will be joining us on stage.

I see tonight most of the same people that I’ve been seeing nearly every other year at this dinner, and it feels like an extended family that gathers every Thanksgiving. We come to celebrate, and to enjoy, and to honor that great gift that we all have in common, which is music. It’s music – it’s the opportunity to make it, the opportunity to be a part of creating it, to be a midwife to it, to promote and sell it, to report on it, critique it, to be near it, to hear it, to love it, and to live in times filled with music. We’re all blessed to devote so much of our brief lives to something that’s so uplifting, that celebrates the human spirit, that ennobles man, that has brought so much joy, and hope, and beauty to the lives of so many.

We’re going to be showing a film tonight with the work of our long time producer/director Joel Gallon, which makes this point very powerfully. It’s a look back at great moments from nineteen years of these ceremonies, and it's glorious testimony. And we’re also celebrating the 10th anniversary this year of the opening of the hall of fame in Cleveland. Some 5 million visitors so far, and now it’s become an even richer, and even deeper collection of the treasures we collectively share. Thank you, Cleveland.

So on the occasion of this 20th anniversary, it’s an honor that’s very personal for me to dedicate tonight’s dinner on behalf of the board of directors for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to Ahmet Ertegun. To spend an evening with your friends and your family and the people you love and is filled with music and celebrating a lifetime’s work, well how blessed we are. So before we begin, let’s spend a moment in silence to remember those who have gone before us, thank you, and enjoy the evening.