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Rock 'N' Roll Pioneer's Remains Removed From Rock Hall Of Fame

Freed claps out the beat in a promotional picture taken for a Rock 'n' Roll Revue show he hosted in 1957
Freed claps out the beat in a promotional picture taken for a Rock 'n' Roll Revue show he hosted in 1957

The man who may have coined the term "rock 'n' roll" is being moved out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The ashes of Alan Freed are leaving the Rock Hall in Cleveland on Monday. They had been on display since 2002 but were removed from public view on Friday. Freed died in 1965.

His son, Lance Freed, will be picking up the ashes. He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Rock Hall President Greg Harris had told him having ashes on display was "strange."

Freed, who was inducted into the hall in 1986, will be honored instead with a display of a pair of his microphones, which the museum considers a more appropriate nod to his career as a broadcaster.

On the radio in Cleveland and then New York in the 1950s, Freed was a champion of early rock 'n' roll — and is widely credited with being the first to apply that term to a musical form. He also hosted the event since thought of as the first major rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in Cleveland in 1952.

Freed's connections to Cleveland were one reason why the hall was located there in the first place. But having his ashes there — first contained inside a wall and later moved to a display case at the family's request — may have been out of keeping with the hall's generally celebratory showcasing of gold records, guitars and costumes.

"The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not a mausoleum," radio programmer Jon Gorman told member station WKSU. "What are we going to do, have the ashes of all the great rock stars that chose to be cremated? It just doesn't belong. It just doesn't fit."

Having moved Alan Freed's ashes from a mausoleum in Hartsdale, N.Y., the family will find an appropriate final resting place in Cleveland.

"I'm a little bit emotional right now, because this is the third time I'm moving my dad," Lance Freed told CNN. "But hopefully it will be the last."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.