Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

At the Hard Rock, living and dying in 4/4 time

Sure, the 179 Hard Rock hotels, restaurants and casinos worldwide are filled with memorabilia. And if you stop and look at the walls, any particular piece can attract your interest for a moment or two.

But two exhibits opening Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood attempt to tell hold your attention for a considerable amount of time, while telling compelling stories in the process. "Gone Too Soon" pays tribute to music icons who died young. Meanwhile, "Music Gives Back: Rock 'N' Roll Philanthropy" focuses on artists who have worked on or founded charitable campaigns. Both shows will run through June 10.

"Gone Too Soon" includes an outfit worn by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes during TLC's CrazySexyCool tour, Kurt Cobain's eighth grade yearbook and Elvis Presley's custom-made karate uniform. "Music Gives Back" features Elton John's sequined "Uncle Sam" outfit and a purple silk shirt worn onstage by Jimi Hendrix.

Hard Rock historian and tour curator Jeff Nolan says he spent almost two years scouring the Hard Rock's 77,000-piece collection to put everything together. We recently spoke to him about the shows.

What is your favorite piece?

Oh, man, that's an impossible question. I have different faves every day. That said, the Kurt Cobain display is pretty amazing. It features an Ovation acoustic guitar that belonged to his aunt, Mari Earl. Kurt used to play this guitar a lot as he was developing as a player and songwriter. And I love to look at old rock-star yearbooks. They make me wonder how many of the other kids pictured are telling fibs about how friendly they were with the star in school. I've found that the vast majority of rock stars were total nerds in school, so I seriously doubt they were hanging with the cheerleaders.

I'd guess every item has a story to it?

There's a great Bruce Springsteen display that features a handwritten poem he wrote for the late Clarence Clemons. In it, he uses each letter of Clarence's name to start a line. The second "C" is: "C is for the C-note he's owed me since last year." There's also a killer Guild 12-string acoustic that Bob Marley used to record the song "Is This Love." I think Marley is a perfect example of an artist who transcended genre to become a universally beloved figure.

In the one for the deceased rockers, does it make you feel melancholy?

It can, but rock stars dying young isn't a news flash to anybody. I think there's a fascination with the idea of eternal youth. Jimi Hendrix will always be 27 years old. He never had a chance to screw up his legacy and make some bad records. Of course, he also never had a chance to live his life, have children, grandchildren or evolve as an artist. Dying young turns these folks into mythological creatures. In reality, many were just talented people who succumbed to the trappings of fame.

For more information, go to

Copyright © 2018, South Florida