Alan Freed memorial celebration set for Lake View Cemetery

Alan Freed. Photo courtesy: Hulton Archive/Getty Image.

A memorial celebration honoring the life of Alan Freed, the Cleveland disc jockey who coined the term “rock 'n' roll” and who produced the nation’s first rock concert, will take place at Lake View Cemetery on Saturday, May 7, at 1 p.m. Freed died in 1965 at the age of 43, and his ashes will be interred at Lake View on the day of the ceremony. The public is invited to attend the memorial event.

Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band will deliver the keynote address at the ceremony, and the Drifters—a soul group that scored such hits as “Money Honey,” “Such a Night,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Under the Boardwalk,”—will perform at the ceremony. Little Anthony, of Little Anthony and the Imperials, also is slated to perform, as is Jimmy Clanton, a 1960s-era rock singer. Deejay and rock historian Norm N. Nite will serve as the event's emcee.

Freed came to fame in the early 1950s, when he was a deejay for WJW radio in Cleveland. In 1952, he produced the first Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena. That show is widely regarded as the first rock 'n' roll concert.

After his death from uremic poisoning in 1965, Freed was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y. In 2002, his ashes were moved to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where they were part of an exhibit until August 2014, when Greg Harris took over as the Rock Hall's president and CEO. Harris called Freed’s son, Lance Freed, and asked that the ashes be removed from the museum.

“We decided that he should permanently come back home to Cleveland, where it all began,” Lance Freed said. “We thought historic and beautiful Lake View Cemetery was the right place to go, the right location for his final resting place. Our desire was to create a small public area and compelling monument where he will rest for eternity and be available for generations to come.”

Freed's interment site will be marked with a granite monument featuring an etching of Freed and an epitaph about his life.

“We are proud and privileged to have Alan Freed’s memorial here for posterity,” said Katharine Goss, president and CEO of Lake View Cemetery Association. “He joins many other famous people, such as John D. Rockefeller, President James A. Garfield, Eliot Ness, members of President Lincoln’s cabinet, and Carl and Louis Stokes.”

The cemetery is located near University Circle, and its grounds are part of three cities: Cleveland Heights, Cleveland and East Cleveland. The Cleveland Heights entrance is at Mayfield and Kenilworth roads.

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley. He is on the board of FutureHeights, and he is the co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee.

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Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 9:44 AM, 05.03.2016