Berlin writes Freed family, says city honored to have ashes
SALEM – Official or not, an effort to bring Alan Freed to Salem as his final resting place is moving ahead, former city council President Michele Mickey Weaver said Tuesday.
Freed, a 1940 Salem High School graduate who became a nationally known disc jockey and promoter, coined the term “Rock ‘n Roll,” and his remains were removed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday by his son, Lance Freed.
The move was made after the Rock and Roll HOF initiated talks with the family to have his ashes removed after being on display for more than 12 years. The Rock and Roll HOF said museums no longer display human remains.
Freed’s stature in rock and roll played a big role in opening the HOF in Cleveland in 1995.
He is an honored citizen of Salem, Weaver said noting that Mayor John Berlin wrote a letter to the Freed family on behalf of the citizens on Tuesday saying they would like very much to have Alan Freed returned to Salem.
“His formative years were spent in Salem,” Weaver said, “he was in the drama club, was assistant editor of the Quaker Yearbook and had a band called “The Sultans of Swing.”
Berlin’s letter said the city would be honored to host his ashes in the Salem Historical Society building.
“What a career he had,” Weaver said pointing to the Moondog Coronation Ball, the first-ever rock concert, when Freed rented a woefully small Cleveland arena capable of seating 10,000 people and 20,000 tried crowding in.
He was a flamboyant, flashy dresser, she said, noting his father worked at the Golden Eagle Men’s Store in Salem.
“People who met him remembered him by the way he dressed,” Weaver said, adding, “we could fill Reilly Stadium, I’m sure, with people who would enthusiastically cheer for his return.”
David Shivers, president of the Salem Historical Society, agreed.
“Absolutely,” he said noting the board of trustees discussed Freed during Monday’s meeting.
He said member David Stratton advised the board of his attempts to contact Lance Freed at his California office.
“It was so Salem is not excluded as a possible resting place for his father,” Shivers, who was shocked by the Rock and Roll HOF’s action, said.
Would the Salem Historical Society have a problem with a public display of Freed’s ashes, as was the case in Cleveland?
“I can’t see how,” Shivers began, “I don’t have a problem with having someone’s remains on display here. No, I don’t see why people would be offended by that. When you see all the things here … everything is donated and an urn is no different.
“We are not opposed … it would be an honor to have him at the museum. It’s no different than any other artifact that we have.”
Weaver said Salem has companies that are known around the world and individuals with a global reach and one is Alan Freed.
She said his final resting spot “has to be with somebody who is really proud of him. We’re here in Salem and we want him here.”
Weaver also looked at this as an opportunity “and it will not be here for long.”