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Cleveland Pop Culture

Disc jockey Alan Freed, whose early-1950s radio show, “Moondog House,” brought black R&B music into white homes, is credited with making rock-and-roll mainstream and with organizing the first rock-and-roll concert ever. The 1952 concert at the Cleveland Arena with its packed crowd—past the building’s maximum capacity—gained Freed and Cleveland notoriety. Since then, Cleveland’s list of music notables has expanded to include: The James Gang, the 1960s group whose album “The James Gang Rise Again” is a rock classic; folk singer, songwriter Tracy Chapman, whose songs “Fast Car” and “Thinking About a Revolution,” were inspired by her experience growing up black in Cleveland; and Jim Brickman, who attended Case Western University and the Cleveland institute of music before heading out to become a contemporary pianist and songwriter who brings in crowds at Carnegie Hall. There’s more. Ian Hunter’s song, “Cleveland Rocks,” a track on his 1979 album “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic,” became the opening theme to the Drew Carey Show. In the 1970s, Cleveland pop band, The Raspberries made Clevelanders proud with hits like “Go All the Way” and “Let’s Pretend” The group was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. "A Christmas Story" isn’t the only movie with a quirky edge to use Cleveland as a muse and prominent location. In 2002, the neighborhoods Collinwood and Slavic Village were settings for "Welcome to Collinwood." George Clooney and William H. Macy played hapless small-time thieves raised in Cleveland who had a hard time catching a break. One of the most quirky movies and most compelling is award-winning "American Splendor," a semi-autobiographical story about Harvey Pekar, the underground comic-book writer who grew up and lived in Cleveland. Played by Paul Giamatti, Pekar is shown trying to find a way out of his working-class upbringing into a literary and artistic life. For entertaining romps through Cleveland landmarks, read the Milan Jacovich detective series by Cleveland Heights writer Les Roberts. In the 13 novels, P.I. Milan Jacovich solves crimes in the Greater Cleveland area. One of the best of these is "Pepper Pike." To find out how bad things in Cleveland can get, read "They Died Crawling & Other Tales of Cleveland Woe: The Foulest Crimes & Worst Disasters in Cleveland History," by John Stark II Belamy.  Belamy gives a grimy, but entertaining, account of 15 true stories about murder and mayhem in Cleveland’s past.