The so-called “Father of Rock and Roll” was finally and definitely laid to rest on Saturday, May 7th in a ceremony celebrating his life and accomplishments. A memorial, black marble and shaped like a Rockola jukebox, was unveiled at Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery, final resting place to President James Garfield and Hiram-born bizillionaire John D. Rockefeller.
Freed, the Ohio-bred disc jockey, coined the term “Rock and Roll” in 1951. He hosted the very first rock concert in early 1952. The initial “Moondog Coronation Ball” at the Cleveland Arena drew tens of thousands of participants until it was shut down by the police and fire marshal due to overcrowding. Freed’s popularity soared and he left Cleveland for New York City. The eventual “Payola” scandal haunted Freed and may have very well contributed to his very untimely death at age 43. He died in Palm Springs in early 1965.
The 1:00 dedication drew about a thousand people, even though a light rain started about halfway through the proceedings. Freed’s family, including several of his children, came to Cleveland to see their father finally laid to rest after being unceremoniously removed from both his initial burial place in Hartsdale, New York and a short stint entombed in the walls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The urn containing the cremated remains of Mr. Freed were removed from the museum a few years ago upon the request of the Rock Hall. A fitting final resting place, Lakeview Cemetery contains many of the Forest City’s most prominent industrialists, celebrities, and curiosities. Both the “Untouchable” Eliot Ness and comic book creator/jazz aficionado Harvey Pekar lie less than five hundred feet from Mr. Freed’s memorial.
Several speakers gave their thoughts on the legendary disc jockey. Steven Van Zant of The E Street Band attended, as did Michael Stanley. The most current incarnation of legendary Rock Hall inductees The Drifters provided a few musical selections, including “Stand By Me,” made famous by early Drifter Ben E. King.
Lance Freed, the DJ’s oldest son, spoke eloquently about his father. Relating his father’s importance to the development of the art form known as “Moondog” music, the younger Freed said that his father was “Present at the birth of rock. He got to be a midwife and even got to give the baby its name.”
A fitting tribute if there ever was one.