Know Ohio: Musical Ohio

From rock to soul to classical, the Buckeye State is a legendary musical powerhouse. There’s so much great music to choose from because Ohio is such a cultural melting pot, it claims musicians from nearly every genre – rock, folk, hip hop, country, jazz, and so many more!

In fact, Ohio is home to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the world's most comprehensive archive of materials related to the music industry. In addition to being a public museum, legendary musicians are inducted into the Rock Hall – like, for instance, soul singer Bobby Womack, or influential doo-wop group the Isely Brothers – both of whom happen to be from Ohio, by the way.

The Rock Hall is in Ohio largely because of one man: Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed, who is known for popularizing the term “rock n roll” in the 1950’s.

And he did it right here in the building I happen to be standing in. That’s right, 1375 Euclid Avenue used to be home to WJW, the rocking-est radio station in town.

Since Ohio is the home of rock 'n roll, it’s only fitting that we should have an official state rock song. In fact, Ohio was the first state to designate an official rock song. Take a listen! It’s called “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoy’s, a rock band with roots in Ohio. When it was first released in 1965, the Ohio State University marching band covered the song and it’s been a favorite ever since. In fact, Sloopy has sort of become Ohio State’s unofficial fight song. At games, fans even interject an O-H-I-O into the music break. By 1985, the song became so ingrained in Ohio culture, that the members of the Ohio General Assembly approved it as Ohio’s officially-sanctioned state rock song. 

But this song is not to be confused with Ohio’s official state song, Beautiful Ohio, which was originally written in 1918 by lyricist Ballard McDonald. McDonald’s original song describes a romance that takes place in Ohio, but in 1989, the lyrics were altered and the romance was written out. Instead, the altered song describes the diversity of Ohio’s landscapes, with “cities rising high” and farms of “golden grain.”

And Ohio is also a powerhouse for more traditional music, as it is home to four major symphony orchestras, including the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra.

The Buckeye State’s musical strength is drawn from its amazing diversity. It’s a place where different genres collide and new ideas are formed - and, because of this, the music rocks!    

Instructional Links

Website: Buckeye Beat, Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Country music from Ohio 1950-1979

Website: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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