Getty Images
Getty Images

Why Rock and Roll Pioneer Alan Freed Won't Stay Buried

Getty Images
Getty Images

As one of the first famous disc jockey personalities and the so-called “father of rock ‘n’ roll,” Alan Freed has a big place in music history. Freed actually coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll," and hosted the first major rock concert in 1952. He also ignored the segregation prevalent in pop culture at the time, becoming the first white deejay in the North to play R&B, and refused to put white covers of black songs on the radio just because record execs thought they would play better.

Of course, Freed’s history isn’t all glowing—he was also part of the big payola scandal of the early ‘60s, when it was discovered that he had been accepting money in return for playing certain records. Nonetheless, he's still well-represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which features a large exhibit on his contributions to music history.

But there is one thing you won’t find there: Freed. Or at least, his ashes—though you would have if you had visited the museum between 2002 and 2014. When Freed died of liver cirrhosis in 1965, he was initially buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. But in 2002, the urn containing his remains was transferred to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where they were quietly interred in an undisclosed location in a wall. At the family’s request, the urn was later moved to a more obvious spot where museum-goers could view it.

Until recently, everyone seemed happy with the placement. But in 2014, Freed’s son was asked to come pick up his father. “The museum world is moving away from exhibiting remains,” said Greg Harris, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s executive director. "Museum community colleagues across the country agree." Freed’s last day at the museum was on August 4 of last year.

If you’d like to pay your respects to the father of rock and roll, don’t worry—you’ll be able to soon. In October 2014, Freed’s family decided to build a memorial in his honor at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. It wasn’t finished as of April 2015, but the future monument will include a microphone and a likeness of Freed holding records. They plan to include an epitaph of his beloved signature sign-off: “This is not goodbye—it’s just good night.’”

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
40 Years Later: Watch The Johnny Cash Christmas Show
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Over the course of his career, Johnny Cash made a series of Christmas TV specials and recorded a string of Christmas records. In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 40 years ago—with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.

Chloe Efforn
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.


Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.


He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.


John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.


As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.


John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.


John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.


In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.


More from mental floss studios