As a rock ’n’ roll fan who’s studied American and Jewish history, Josh Perelman was already very familiar with the late Bill Graham’s work.
Thanks to “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” which is being presented at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Perelman — the facility’s chief curator and its director of exhibitions and collections — says he now has a greater understanding of Graham’s personal history and impact on national culture.
The comprehensive exhibit, which opens Sept. 16, features more than 200 artifacts from the life and career of the Germany-born, New York-raised Graham. A longtime concert promoter-booker and manager, he is probably best known for the eclectic lineups at his Fillmore venues in San Francisco and New York during the late 1960s and early 1970s, running the longtime Day on the Green concert series in Oakland, Calif., and promoting Philadelphia’s Live Aid benefit concert in 1985. (In October 1991, Graham died in a helicopter crash near Vallejo, Calif., while returning home from a Huey Lewis and the News show in nearby Concord.)
Several items are being shown in public for the first time, among them a Janis Joplin tambourine, a handwritten Donovan note and a 1968 Gibson guitar played by The Who’s Pete Townshend.
The Live Aid component of the exhibition, Perelman says, is “especially thrilling” and “brings to life an important part of Graham’s legacy: how he used the power of rock ’n’ roll to support humanitarian causes.”
“We’ll be showing several related artifacts,” he adds, “including an original program from the event, a ticket stub, a microphone signed by Ozzy Osbourne, a pick guard signed by Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and more.”
The exhibition, which runs through Jan. 16, includes related events to be held at the NMAJH, among them the “Speakers That Rock Opening Symposium” on Sept. 18, with featured guests including Graham’s sons David and Alex, as well as longtime Philadelphia radio personality John DeBella.
— By Chris M. Junior
Images courtesy of the National Museum of American Jewish History