Rock Promoter Bill Graham’s Legacy On Display At Contemporary Jewish Museum

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – From the Summer of Love to Live Aid, the Bay Area’s Bill Graham was at the center of the rock and roll universe for almost three decades.

Graham was the man presenting almost every musical event of significance around here, from the mid-60s until his death in a helicopter crash in 1991. Now he’s starring in his own show, “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” which opened Thursday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Executive director Lori Starr and Graham’s son David said the concert promoter is more than deserving of a museum retrospective.

“From his early years as a hidden child of the Holocaust, to his epic career as the greatest rock & roll impresario we will ever know,” Starr told KCBS.

“The musical explosion, the cultural explosion is an indelible part of American history … he played a major, major role in that,” said David Graham.

The exhibit is a treasure trove of Fillmore posters and concert recordings, rare photos and memorabilia, much of it collected by Graham himself.

“It’s no mistake that he saved everything,” said Alex Graham, another of Bill’s sons. “He survived the Holocaust, he is a refugee. For someone to go through that, and what this represents is triumph in the face of some of the craziest odds you can ever imagine.”

Bill Graham takes visitors through his extraordinary life and career in his own words through the audio tour, including reminiscences about the Grateful Dead, Woodstock and Janis Joplin.

Starr was stunned to find her teenage self in a photo of Graham on closing night of the Fillmore East. She said this exhibit will be full of memories, and surprises, for any fan of music, culture or history.

“This is a moment for everybody in the Bay Area to learn more of the story behind this man,” Starr said.

More from Doug Sovern
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