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CLEVELAND (WJW)-  Music is a universal language, bridging cultures and evolving through the contributions from people of different heritages.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is highlighting Hispanic inductees during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month who helped shape the genre and generation. 

“Since the beginning of Rock and Roll we’ve seen deep influences of Latino music,” said John Goehrke, Director of Guest Experience.

On display at the museum is the electric guitar that a young Ritchie Valens used to write his smash hit reinterpretation of a Mexican folk song, “La Bamba.”

“By introducing Spanish lyrics into a Rock and Roll song even that alone in 1958 hadn’t been done before, so that was groundbreaking, that was innovative,” said Goehrke.

Valens’ contributions join those of other artists of Hispanic heritage who their names etched in gold on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee wall.

“Vinny Lopez a.k.a mad dog of Bruce Springsteen’s E St. Band. Everybody from Greg Errico of Sly and the Family Stone, Ritchie Valens, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead,>Robert Trujillo of Metallica and Linda Ronstadt among others.”

Linda Ronstadt may come as a surprise to some. “We don’t maybe think of her falling into that category of Hispanic heritage but she was very proud of her Mexican roots from her grandfather and previous generations and recorded and entire album kind of celebrating her roots,” explained Goehrke.

Precious artifacts help tell the inductees’stories like Trujillo’s bass guitar and the satin vest worn by Errico.

“In our brand new play it loud structural exhibit we feature the famous ‘Wolf’ guitar by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.”

Goehrke says the Dead fostered a powerful communal aspect. “Jerry Garcia always talked about how he tried to break down those barriers between performer and audience, it was more about we are all sharing in this experience together.”

One musician that he says certainly has shared their heritage is Carlos Santana, who collaborated with many artists of different genres and backgrounds.

“These collaborations, it’s doing what we’ve seen in music today. It’s introducing his music to the fan bases of these other artists and vice versa.”

Pre-pandemic, the museum has participated in events like the Annual Latino Heritage Festival. But in today’s world, they encourage people to make use of their free online educational resources and Spotify playlists.

“Rock and Roll has never been one thing. It’s never looked one way, it’s never sounded one way. If you have one image of rock and roll I would encourage you to broaden that representation.”

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