Visitors drifted through the Clinton Presidential Center on Sunday to the sound of rock 'n' roll music that shaped and reflected the politics of the day.
Displays traced the music's history through presidential administrations -- from Eisenhower to Obama -- featuring lyrics to songs that came to define American social and political movements.
"There's something in rock 'n' roll for everybody," said former President Bill Clinton, speaking to a packed room Sunday evening.
Clinton, known as the first rock 'n' roll president, welcomed the opening of the new temporary exhibit on the ties between the music and the country's political and social history, sharing personal memories of how the music shaped his life and recalling his experiences with famous musicians.
The exhibit, titled "Louder than Words: Rock, Power and Politics," will open to the public today.
"It's full of poetry, and it's been about politics," he said of the music.
More than 50 artists and political figures contributed to the exhibit, which features instruments, stage costumes and hand-written lyrics, according to the center. The artists who contributed to the exhibit include Neil Young, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen, among others, according to the center.
The exhibit explores the critical role music can play in influencing social and political change, said Stephanie Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation.
Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was also on hand to welcome the exhibit to Little Rock.
"Rock 'n' roll is the sound of freedom around the world," he said.
One exhibit display outlined how music defined perceptions of the Vietnam War.
Visitor Matthew Bryant recalled the era, saying that the music a person listened was often an extension of his thoughts on the war.
"It was a divided country," he said.
Another display included hand-written lyrics to the Bob Dylan song "The Times They Are a-Changin'."
"Bob Dylan couldn't carry a tune, but he could carry a country," Clinton said. "Whether his voice [is] good or bad, he's still a genius, always."
When he became president, Clinton said he was "shameless" in using the office to meet musicians he had always loved, including the late rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
"I got Chuck Berry," he said. "And I know he was a controversial guy, but I got him. And I mourn his loss."
He also recalled the time he gave the National Medal of Arts to the legendary Ray Charles, something Clinton described as one of the great honors of his life.
Decades earlier, Clinton said he had seen Charles perform in Fort Smith.
"I heard him in the most memorable concert of my life, June the 24th, 1967," he said, mentioning that he carried the ticket stub for 10 years.
He looked back on how Charles teased the crowd with the beginning chord of "Georgia On My Mind."
"Finally he said, 'Georgia?' And the whole crowd stood up and started cheering. ... We'd been through all [this] junk and all of a sudden here was something that brought everybody together at a deeply human level," Clinton said.
After the concert, Clinton said, he found himself so excited he couldn't sleep -- so he got up out of bed and ran 3 miles.
He also spoke about what he called the best birthday present Hillary Clinton ever gave him.
"I went playing golf with a friend of mine," he said. "And when I got off the golf course, on my 64th birthday, the phone rang and Paul McCartney was singing 'When I'm 64'."
Metro on 03/12/2018
Print Headline: LR exhibit off to a rock-y start; Ex-president opens library up to relics of American music