Exhibit Sets the Life of Rock-and-Roll Impresario Bill Graham to the Music He Brought Us All

Take a musical trip back in time.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The Bill Graham exhibition at the New-York Historical Society is visually exciting, nostalgic and accompanied by a terrific soundtrack that is technologically ingenious. As you move past the images and paraphernalia of the 60s and 70s, the appropriate music comes on through your headphones, automatically. You go from Chuck Berry to Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, CSN, Santana, the Stones, and many more. This reporter could have stood in front of the photographs of Janis Joplin, hung beside her tambourine and microphone, listening to “Piece of my Heart” all afternoon.

Janis Joplin.

But the fascinating life of Bill Graham, perhaps the greatest promoter of rock and roll of all time, beckoned. Graham was a refugee from Germany. His father died shortly after his birth and his mother perished in Auschwitz. He escaped on a humanitarian transport and ended up being adopted by a family from the Bronx. It turns out he lived on the Upper West Side when he became a naturalized citizen, as shown in the certificate below, listing his address as 8 West 86th Street.

Graham was a naturalized Upper West Sider.

How Bill Graham (who chose his American name from a telephone book) went on to become a rock-and-roll legend, owner of the Filmore West in San Francisco, and the Filmore East on the Lower East Side, is documented and displayed against a soundtrack of  iconic songs that had many visitors dancing.

Original letters from the Filmore East’s marquee.

Coordinated by Associate Curator of Exhibitions Cristian Petru Panaite, “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” will be on view through August 23, 2020.

The New-YORK Historical Society is located on Central Park West between 76th and 77th Streets. Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm; Friday: 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm. Call (212) 873-3400 for information about admission.

ART, HISTORY | 7 comments | permalink
    1. JS says:

      Thanks for this info…..can’t wait to see it!

    2. Ian De Nancy says:

      Great Exhibition !!! amazing …
      how many bands and singers he was able to put together ..

    3. Wendy says:

      If this is the same exhibit as was shown at the Los Angeles Jewish Museum A couple of years ago, it will be fabulous- I saw it there. somehow I don’t think it’s as big an exhibit given the space constraints of New York historical Society. Does anybody know if that in fact is the case?


      There is a large photograph in the exhibit of several hundred people waiting patiently OVERNIGHT on line outside the Fillmore East to buy tickets for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It made me chuckle. If you had a sufficiently strong magnifying glass you might see me and my 2 friends in that line. It was a very hot night. In the early AM, someone came with a hose and sprayed us all down. We loved it. GREAT exhibit with a GREAT sound track.

    5. Linda Davis says:

      Very enjoyable exhibit! Line management ( you can buy tix in advance as we did) was poor ( ticket holder and ticket buyers colliding). Intrusive security ( examining a pouch that held only a wallet and is NEVER ( inspected at Broadway theaters( My friend’s glass case went unexamined and it was bigger than the pouch I wore). Security told me that I MUST wear my jacket ( it was hot and she had no idea if there was coat check!) And my first audio device was defective. Bill Graham would’ve pitched a fit on how it was run! BUT hugely informative. Great music and wonderful memories brought back.

    6. Bobby says:

      Thanks Carol. I love me some Rock n Roll.

    7. Steven Firkser says:

      One of the best things of Rock N Roll I ever saw in my life! Very informative & entertaining! I had no idea who Bill was and how influential he was to music! People die! But music still lives on!!!! What an exhibit!