Why Rock and Roll Pioneer Alan Freed Won't Stay Buried
As one of the first famous disc jockey personalities and the so-called “father of rock ‘n’ roll,” Alan Freed has a big place in music history. Freed actually coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll," and hosted the first major rock concert in 1952. He also ignored the segregation prevalent in pop culture at the time, becoming the first white deejay in the North to play R&B, and refused to put white covers of black songs on the radio just because record execs thought they would play better.
Of course, Freed’s history isn’t all glowing—he was also part of the big payola scandal of the early ‘60s, when it was discovered that he had been accepting money in return for playing certain records. Nonetheless, he's still well-represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which features a large exhibit on his contributions to music history.
But there is one thing you won’t find there: Freed. Or at least, his ashes—though you would have if you had visited the museum between 2002 and 2014. When Freed died of liver cirrhosis in 1965, he was initially buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. But in 2002, the urn containing his remains was transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where they were quietly interred in an undisclosed location in a wall. At the family’s request, the urn was later moved to a more obvious spot where museum-goers could view it.
Until recently, everyone seemed happy with the placement. But in 2014, Freed’s son was asked to come pick up his father. “The museum world is moving away from exhibiting remains,” said Greg Harris, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s executive director. "Museum community colleagues across the country agree." Freed’s last day at the museum was on August 4 of last year.
If you’d like to pay your respects to the father of rock and roll, don’t worry—you’ll be able to soon. In October 2014, Freed’s family decided to build a memorial in his honor at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. It wasn’t finished as of April 2015, but the future monument will include a microphone and a likeness of Freed holding records. They plan to include an epitaph of his beloved signature sign-off: “This is not goodbye—it’s just good night.’”