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Tina Turner once lobbied for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to be built in Cleveland: Here's the story

Turner was among a group of artists who wrote in support of the Rock Hall to be built in Cleveland in 1985.

CLEVELAND — Music fans from around the world are mourning the passing of Tina Turner. The iconic singer and stager performer died on Tuesday at the age of 83, following a long illness. 

Turner is a two-time inductee in Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She was voted in along with Ike Turner in 1991, then was enshrined as a solo artist in 2021. But her connection to Cleveland and the Rock Hall runs much deeper. 

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors in Cleveland in 1995, but the journey to get the museum located in Northeast Ohio took many years. After the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established in 1983, officials began a nationwide search to find a permanent site for the hall. Cleveland was one of several candidates, along with such cities as New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, and Detroit. 

As the search ramped up, several artists, including Turner, wrote letters to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in October, 1985 to lobby for Cleveland as the site. Those letters were published by Cleveland Scene. 

Here's what Turner wrote:

"To whom it may concern,

“I am pleased to support the efforts of the people of Northeast Ohio to promote Cleveland as the site of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

"The roots of Rock ‘N’ Roll run deep in Cleveland. It was there that Alan Freed gave Rock ‘N’ Roll its name, and the city has a strong reputation as a springboard for the new talent within the industry, giving them support and a chance for national attention. Cleveland radio is recognized for their innovative and trendsetting programming, and the large variety of musical venues offer fans of live music the opportunity to attend hundreds of area concerts in record numbers. The people of Northeast Ohio have shown their support for Rock ‘N’ Roll since the beginning, and it is only fitting that they host the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

"I wish the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio the best of luck in acquiring the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and congratulate them on their tremendous effort toward attaining that goal."

Tina Turner

You'll recognize other names who wrote in support of Cleveland, including future Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Neil Young, Sting, Glenn Frey, and Pat Benatar. The band Foreigner, who arguably should be in the Rock Hall, also contributed a letter. You can read the letters below. (Courtesy: Cleveland Scene and Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery)

After months of continued lobbying, which included finishing first in a USA TODAY poll, Cleveland finally was named the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in May of 1986. 

Turner's final Cleveland performance came at Gund Arena (now Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse) on October 6, 2000. You can see her setlist here. Turner also performed at Gund Arena in 1997, alongside Cyndi Lauper. At the height of her solo success in the 1980s, she made several appearances in Northeast Ohio, appearing with Lionel Richie for two shows at the Richfield Coliseum in 1984. She returned to the Coliseum in 1985 with Frey as her opening act, then played at Blossom Music Center in 1987, and again in 1993.

"She brought all of the Tina Turner swagger, and growl, and softness to these songs that just became iconic," said Barry Gabel, Vice President of Marketing for Live Nation, who worked with Turner in the mid-1980's for Belkin Productions to market concerts throughout the Midwest.

"She was really one of those special artists that was able to communicate to those fans, young and old. That's the key in the live music business, if you have that long career, it's usually because you relate to multicultural and multigenerational audiences," Gabel said.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies were held in Cleveland in 2021, however Turner did not attend. Instead, she sent the below video message:

 Actress Angela Bassett, who portrayed Turner in the 1993 film "What's Love Got to Do With It?" presented Turner for induction. Bassett was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.

Turner also did not appear for her enshrinement to the Rock Hall in 1991 as part of Ike and Tina Turner. Phil Spector, who produced the duo's epic 1966 song "River Deep - Mountain High," accepted the award on behalf of the pair during the ceremony in New York. 


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