Looking at Hispanic heritage contributions in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Hispanic Heritage Month

CLEVELAND, Oh. (NEXSTAR) — “Since the beginning of Rock and Roll, we’ve seen deep influences of Latino music in Rock and Roll and all of its branches.”

With an electric guitar, a young Ritchie Valens wrote his smash hit reinterpretation of a Mexican folk song. “By introducing Spanish lyrics into a Rock and Roll song, even that alone in 1958 hadn’t been done before, so that was groundbreaking, it was innovative and it did introduce a whole new generation of teenagers and rock and roll fans to maybe a culture they were less familiar with,” said John Goehrke, director of guest experience.

His contributions join those of other artists of Hispanic heritage who have their names etched in gold on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Wall. “Everybody from Greg Errico of Sly and the Family Stone, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Robert Trujillo of Metallica and Linda Rondstat, among others,” stated Goehrke. That last name may come as a surprise for some.

“We don’t maybe think of her falling into that category of Hispanic heritage but she was very proud of her Mexican roots from her grandfather and previous generations and recorded an entire album kind of celebrating her roots.”

Precious artifacts help tell these inductees’ stories like Robert Trujillo’s bass guitar, the satin vest work by Sly and the Family Stone’s Greg Errico. “In our brand new Play It Loud structural exhibit, we feature the famous ‘Wolf’ guitar by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.”

Goehrke said the Grateful Dead fostered a powerful communal aspect. “Jerry Garcia always talked about how he tried to break down those barriers from performer and audience, it was more about ‘We are all sharing this experience together.'”

One musician that Gorhke said certainly has shared his heritage is Carlos Santana. “These collaborations, it’s doing what we’ve seen in music today. It’s introducing his music to the fan-bases of these other artists and vice versa.”

Pre-pandemic, the museum has participated in events like the annual Latino Heritage Fest. But in today’s world, they encourage people to make use of their free online educational resources. “If you are a teacher or you are a parent and maybe you’re going to be doing some home-schooling this fall and you want to look into some of those influences.”

Tico Torres of Bon Jovi is the most recent inductee into the Rock Hall and they hope as other musicians and bands become eligible, they can continue to diversify those walls.

“Rock and Roll has never been one thing. It’s never looked one way, it’s never sounded one way. If you have one image of rock and roll, I would encourage you to broaden that representation.”

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