"Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution" Review - The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Reveals an Expansive Life

 The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center brings a pivotal era of rock music history to life with its new exhibition, Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution, which explores the extraordinary life of renowned music promoter Bill Graham (1931- 1991) who helped launch and promote the careers of countless artists including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones. It also traces the indomitable spirit of a man brought to the U.S. as an eleven-year-old Jewish refugee fleeing the Nazis, fueling a lifelong passion and advocacy for social justice.

Bill Graham as "Father Time" atop a Golden Gate Bridge float on New Years Eve; Oakland, Coliseum Arena; Oakland, California; photo courtesy of Ken Friedman

Graham’s celebrated Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was the epicenter of rock’s evolution in the 1960s. Graham went on to promote social change as a driving force behind milestone benefit concerts such as Live Aid (1985) and Human Rights Now! (1988). Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution transports visitors to that era with an abundance of memorabilia, archival concert footage, historical and new video interviews, and psychedelic art, demonstrating the lasting influence of Graham’s vision on the immersive, multidimensional, and highly lucrative phenomenon of rock theater that persists today.


Jim Morrison at Winterland; San Francisco, California; 1967; photo by Iconic Images/Baron Wolman

The exhibition was organized by Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; highlights include:

  • Memorabilia from the Fillmore Auditorium, including the original apple barrel that greeted fans with fresh apples at the entrance.
  • Two of the Grateful Dead New Year’s Eve concert costumes worn by Bill Graham.
  • Iconic photographs from rock’s most famous photographers.
  • Costumes, musical instruments, and artifacts from the careers of Janis Joplin, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, and other groundbreaking artists.
  • An installation of “The Joshua Light Show”—the liquid light show conceived in 1967 by multimedia artist Joshua White -- customized specifically for the exhibition.
  • Preparatory drawings and the original artwork of several iconic Fillmore concert posters, revealing the signature visual styles and creative process of psychedelic poster artists Bonnie MacLean, Wes Wilson, David Singer, Greg Irons, and David Byrd.

Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia perform at "Day on The Green"; Oakland Coliseum Station; Oakland, California; 7/24/87; photo courtesy of Ken Friedman

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution illuminates how Graham’s childhood experiences as a young refugee from Nazi Germany fueled his drive and ingenuity as a cultural innovator and advocate for social justice. Born in Berlin, Graham arrived in New York at the age of eleven as part of a Red Cross effort to help Jewish children fleeing the Nazis. The exhibition follows his path from a foster family in the Bronx, to military service in the Korean War, to his arrival in San Francisco just as the hippie movement was gathering steam. Throughout his career, Graham’s mastery at promoting, marketing, and managing artists propelled him to become one of the music industry’s most important figures.

 Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution runs from July 16 to November 12, 2017 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive in Skokie. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Cente Webs




The Rolling Stone Years

August 17, 6:30 – 8:00 pm music industry’s most important figures

Baron Wolman was Rolling Stone’s Chief Photographer when the magazine was first published 50 years ago. View his iconic photos as he talks about his memorable encounters with Bill Graham and the rock stars of the time.

A book signing of The Rolling Stone Years follows the presentation.


David Bowie performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre; Mountain View, California; 10/21/95; photo courtesy of Ken Friedman


The Last Waltz

September 10, 2:00 – 3:30 pm

This Martin Scorsese documentary captures the final concert of the Canadian-American musical group The Band in a star-studded farewell performance at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, November 25, 1976. Music legends including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, and Muddy Waters are featured in the film. A post-screening discussion with Columbia College faculty Ron Falzone and Rami Gabriel will take place.


Posters that Rock!

September 24, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

 Kids and adults alike will work together to screen print a rock poster with Jay Ryan, a poster maker and musician who will also share how current rock concert poster design ideas come to life.

Recommended for ages 8+.


Eric Clapton performs at Shoreline Auditorium; Mountain View, California; 5/5/90; photo courtesy of Ken Friedman


Music for Social Change

October 1, 2:00 – 3:30 pm

From rock to soul to rap, music has the power to become the soundtrack of social change. Join National Radio Hall of Fame inductee Terri Hemmert as she spotlights musicians who have responded to social issues through their music.


Sunday, October 8 | 12:30 pm

Edith was born in Stockstadt, Germany, in 1925. Like Bill Graham, the subject of the Museum’s rock & roll exhibition, Edith was one of the “1,000 children,” a group of approximately 1,400 German Jewish children who were allowed to come unaccompanied to the United States via an organized rescue effort that occurred nine months prior to the start of World War II.

 Edith eventually settled in Chicago. Her daughter, Fern, has published several books based on her mother’s experience including “Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust.”


Listen as Bill talks about his life, from being a hidden child of the Holocaust, to his early days in upstate New York, to the full breadth of his career. Download the link at the Museum’s website and/or bring a pair of headphones to the exhibition to hear Bill’s story in his own words.

Take an electrifying trip through the 1960s-1980s and learn about the extraordinary life and career of rock impresario Bill Graham, the Holocaust refugee who promoted countless music legends—including The Grateful Dead, Santana, and Jimi Hendrix—and produced humanitarian concerts such as "Live Aid" to raise the consciousness of the world.


Bill Graham Opening Event: Alex Graham, Bill's son; Rita Gentry, Vice-President, Bill Graham Memorial Foundation; Bob Kirschner, Director, Skirball Cultural Center; Susan Abrams, CEO, Illinois Holocaust Museum; Bonnie Simmons, Executive Director, Bill Graham Memorial Foundation; Terri Hemmert, WXRT DJ; David Graham, Bill's son; photo by Ron Gould Studios

For more information, go to illinois holocaust museum website



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