Two new exhibits related to the history of rock ‘n’ roll music are on display at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Both exhibits — a series of iconic Rolling Stone magazine covers and a larger collection related to the music genre’s influence on politics — opened last week and will be on display until Jan. 3.
“Backstage Pass: Baron Wolman and the Early Years of Rolling Stone” consists of a series of archival photos taken by Wolman, Rolling Stone’s chief photographer during the 1960s and ’70s. The photos, which are on loan from the Mid-American Arts Alliance in Missouri, depict internationally revered musicians such as Janis Joplin, George Harrison and Frank Zappa.
David Anaya, the marketing director for the Bush Library and Museum, said placards accompanying each photo explain the story behind the image.
“There are about 42 pieces here, and you’ll see the original picture alongside several magazine covers,” he said. “Instead of just seeing a photo, you also get to learn what Baron Wolman was thinking.”
The larger of the two exhibits, located in the museum’s Ansary Gallery of American History, is “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics.”
Displays that include Johnny Cash’s black-collared shirt, Stevie Wonder’s sunglasses and Madonna’s jewelry are arranged in chronological order by president, starting with Dwight Eisenhower and running through Donald Trump.
Each section gives a glance at what was happening in the country at the time, both politically and musically. Artifacts from artists including the Village People, Eric Clapton and Charlie Daniels are accompanied by reading material, video clips, audio and interactive screens.
“This basically covers the effects that rock ‘n’ roll has had on politics,” Anaya said. “You’ll see what a lot of musicians were singing and playing, [concerning] civil rights, the Vietnam War, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Music and politics have been intertwined for decades.”
Gerry and Melissa O’Daniel strolled through the exhibits during a stop while traveling to Houston from Dallas. Gerry O’Daniel said he recognized a number of artists and songs in the exhibit but never thought much about the political meaning behind the music.
“I’m just a lover of the music,” he said.
Fayeola Jones, a musician from Bryan, toured the exhibit with a friend and said her experience with music does center around the meaning of the lyrics.
“The messages from [the past], there was a lot going on, such as segregation,” Jones said. “And [the music] let me know that hope was still there. Life would get better. And today I still sing songs like We Shall Overcome. ... I think this exhibit is very interesting. I remember these times, and I followed the media. It’s emotional because we’ve come a ways and we still have a long way to go. It’s sad that some things you see here on exhibit, those [issues] are still happening here today.”
Anaya said much of the exhibit focuses on the musicians’ criticism of decisions by political leaders, including those of the museum’s namesake. But, Anaya said, that ultimately emphasizes a fundamental American freedom.
“Even though can look through [the exhibits] and not agree with everything you see, it makes me feel very fortunate to have my First Amendment rights, that I can say what I want without reprisal,” he said. “And when you go through this exhibit, that’s what you see.”