ST. PETERSBURG – “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” an exhibition exploring the extraordinary life of renowned music promoter Bill Graham, will open Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg.
The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 10, 2019.
Bill Graham (1931-1991) helped launch and promote the careers of countless rock & roll artists. It also traces the indomitable spirit of a man brought to the United States as an 11-year-old Jewish refugee fleeing the Nazis, fueling a lifelong passion and advocacy for social justice.
Due to the increasing peril to Jews in Germany, Graham's mother placed her son and her youngest daughter, Tanya "Tolla", in a Berlin orphanage, which sent them to France in a pre-Holocaust exchange of Jewish children for Christian orphans. Graham's older sisters Sonja and Ester stayed behind with their mother. After the fall of France, Graham was among a group of Jewish orphans spirited out of France, some of whom finally reached the United States. But a majority, including his sister Tolla, did not survive the difficult journey. He was one of the One Thousand Children (OTC), those mainly Jewish children who managed to flee Hitler and Europe, and come directly to North America, but whose parents were forced to stay behind. Nearly all of these OTC parents were killed by the Reich.
Graham's mother died at Auschwitz. Graham had five sisters, Rita, Evelyn, Sonia, Ester and Tolla. The elder four survived the Holocaust. Rita and Ester moved to the United States and were close to Graham in his later life. Evelyn and Sonia escaped the Holocaust, first to Shanghai, and later, after the war, to Europe.
Named one of the best museum shows of 2017 by the Chicago Tribune, the FHM is proud to present this iconic exhibition, organized and circulated by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, in association with the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, and made possible by the support of Alex Graham, David Graham, and Danny Scher.
“Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” is the first comprehensive retrospective about the life and career of the renowned music industry impresario. Recognized as one of the most influential concert promoters in history, Graham launched the careers of countless rock & roll legends in the 1960s at his famed Fillmore Auditorium. He conceived rock & roll as a powerful force for supporting humanitarian causes and was instrumental in the production of milestone benefit concerts such as Live Aid (1985) and Human Rights Now! (1988). As a promoter and manager, he worked with iconic artists including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and the Rolling Stones.
Through memorabilia, photographs, archival concert footage, historical and new video interviews, ephemera, and psychedelic art, “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” is both a deeply personal reflection on Graham's life and an exploration of how Graham helped transform rock music into the immersive, multi-dimensional, and highly lucrative phenomenon of rock theater that persists today. Treasured photographs and artifacts from Graham's early life and career will be on loan from the Graham family, many on view to the public for the first time. Also for the first time ever, preparatory drawings and the original artwork of several iconic Fillmore concert posters will be on museum display, revealing the signature visual styles and creative process of poster artists Bonnie MacLean, Wes Wilson, David Singer, Greg Irons, and David Byrd.
“Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” also illuminates how Graham's childhood experiences as a Jewish emigrant from Nazi Germany fueled his drive and ingenuity as a cultural innovator and advocate for social justice. Born in Berlin, Graham arrived in New York at the age of 11 as part of a Red Cross effort to help Jewish children fleeing the Nazis. He went to live with a foster family in the Bronx and spent his teenage years in New York City before being drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean War. He relocated to San Francisco just as the hippie movement was gathering steam, and became the business manager for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a radical theater company that performed for free in parks. The first show Graham presented was on Nov. 6, 1965: a fundraiser to support the legal defense of one of the Mime Troupe actors. It was a transformative moment for the 34-year-old, who'd finally found something he was good at by which he could also earn a living.
Soon afterwards he took over the lease on the famed Fillmore Auditorium, where he produced groundbreaking shows throughout the 1960s, including sold-out concerts by the Grateful Dead, Cream, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Doors, among many others. Graham's mastery at promoting, marketing, and managing artists propelled him to become one of the music industry's most important figures.
The public will also be able to see, for the first time in more than 40 years, the original apple barrel that greeted fans with fresh apples at the entrance to the Fillmore Auditorium, letters and gifts from performers and fans, and remarkable live performance and backstage photos from the Fillmore, Winterland, Day on the Green, Live Aid, and other Bill Graham Presents concerts throughout the era. An installation of "The Joshua Light Show"- the trailblazing liquid light show conceived in 1967 by multimedia artist Joshua White, which served as a backdrop to many Graham-produced shows - will be customized by White specifically for the exhibition. It will be one of several gallery components designed to evoke the sights and sounds of the era.
The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, visit www.TheFHM.org.