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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

July 13, 2018  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Rock & roll at Holocaust Museum? Life of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham makes it happen


Bill Graham onstage before the final concert at at the Fillmore East in New York City on Jan. 1, 1970. 
Photo by John Olson/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Bill Graham onstage before the final concert at at the Fillmore East in New York City on Jan. 1, 1970. Photo by John Olson/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The Florida Holocaust Museum’s upcoming exhibit will intersect the Holocaust with the rock & roll explosion that ignited in the 1960s.

Opening in St. Petersburg in August, “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” is the first exhibition to explore the extraordinary life of renowned concert impresario Bill Graham (1931- 1991), who helped launch the careers of many music legends of the 1960s at his famed Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.

Over the years, he worked with such iconic musicians as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, the Who, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. He also 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).


Bill Graham, far right, motions backstage at Live Aid while Tina Turner and Mick Jagger perform. The concert was held in Philadelphia in 1985. 
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith Bill Graham, far right, motions backstage at Live Aid while Tina Turner and Mick Jagger perform. The concert was held in Philadelphia in 1985. Photo by Lynn Goldsmith “My grandparents were Holocaust survivors. They always emphasized to me that it is important to tell the story of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but of equal importance is to let the world know that survivors dusted themselves off and changed the world in ways big and small. Bill Graham is the embodiment of this ideal,” said Michael Igel, the museum’s incoming board chair.

“The exhibition also gives us an opportunity to talk about other Holocaust survivors and the impact their lives had on their communities and the world. Some built hospitals, some became noted philanthropists, and some taught generations of students. Being a Holocaust survivor is part of each of their identities, but every person is so much more than that,” he said.


The Florida Holocaust Museum poster for the “Bill Graham & Rock Revolution” exhibits, opening Aug. 18. The Florida Holocaust Museum poster for the “Bill Graham & Rock Revolution” exhibits, opening Aug. 18. “The exhibition is a way to bring people to the Florida Holocaust Museum who might not otherwise walk through our doors. People will come for the amazing rock & roll story, but they will walk out with an understanding of the consequences of unchecked hatred and bigotry, and with the inspiration that we will always rise above,” Igel said.

The exhibit features 400 pieces of memorabilia, including many from the musicians Graham promoted such as Janis Joplin (a velvet top, bell bottoms, boa fand tambourine rom 1968) and Keith Richards (a pair of boots worn during a 1981 tour), some of the performers’ guitars or in the case of Jimi Hendrix a fragment of a smashed guitar, archival concert footage, historical and video interviews. The exhibit also includes letters and gifts from performers and fans and live performance and backstage photos from the Fillmore and other Bill Graham Presents concerts throughout the era.


Bill Graham as Father Time on New Year’s Eve 1988 in the Oakland Auditorium 
Photo by Ken Friedman Bill Graham as Father Time on New Year’s Eve 1988 in the Oakland Auditorium Photo by Ken Friedman But what makes the exhibit unique is its illumination of 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.

Graham was born in Berlin. Due to the increasing peril to Jews, Graham’s mother placed her son and the youngest of her five daughters, Tanya “Tolla,” in a Berlin orphanage which sent them to France in a pre-Holocaust exchange of Jewish children for Christian orphans.

After the fall of France, Graham and his sister, Tolla, were among a group of Jewish orphans spirited out of France, some of whom finally reached the United States. His sister was among a large number of children who did not survive the difficult journey.

Graham was one of the One Thousand Children – 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. The Reich killed nearly all of these parents, including Graham’s mother, who died at Auschwitz.

Except for Tolla, Graham’s sisters, Rita, Evelyn, Sonia, and Ester all survived the Holocaust. Evelyn and Sonia fled to Shanghai before retuning to Europe after the war while Rita and Ester moved to the United States and were close to their brother in his later life.

After arriving in New York at age of 11 as part of the Red Cross effort to help Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, Graham 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 had finally found something he was good at and for which he could also earn a living.

Soon afterward, 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 and the Doors, among many.

Graham’s mastery at promoting, marketing, and managing artists propelled him to become one of the music industry’s most important figures and helped to transform rock music into the highly lucrative phenomenon of rock concerts as eye-popping theatrical events that continues today.

Graham died in a helicopter accident in 1991.

Treasured photos and artifacts from Graham’s early life and career are on loan from the Graham family, many on view for the first time. Among the items that the public will see for the first time in more than 40 years is the original apple barrel that greeted fans with fresh apples at the entrance to the Fillmore Auditorium.

Ranked by the Chicago Tribune as one of 2017’s best, Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution will be at Florida Holocaust Museum from Aug. 18 – Feb. 10, 2019. It follows another blockbuster show, “Operation Finale: The Capture and Trial of Adolph Eichman,” which wraps up its five-month stop here on July 15

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, in association with the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation. Besides LA and Chicago, the exhibit has been on tour in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

The Holocaust Museum is located at 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg. For more information, contact (727) 820-0100 or visit www.flholocaustmuseum.org.


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