Ah, music! Called “the food of love” by Shakespeare, “the language of the spirit” by Kahlil Gibran, and “the only truth” by Kerouac; few can doubt the power of music. On the other hand, many have housed musicians during their global traverses to spread the craft. Below are just some of the Storied Hotels that sheltered or inspired heroes of music and contributed hospitality to history’s finest art.
Erected in December 1913, this stately hotel sits regally among the landscape of Swiss mountain ranges, just outside the nearby hamlet of Gstaad. Frequented by nobility and fame of all walks, the Gstaad Palace earned its place in music history during the 1960’s when Louis Armstrong resided as staple entertainment for gala dinners. Joining him, Ella Fitzgerald also frequently aired her enrapturing voice for fortunate guests in the lounge.
More recently, the Palace Hotel has hosted the likes of Liza Minelli, Madonna, and more. It is even rumored that Michael Jackson was so charmed by Gstaad Palace, that he once made an offer to buy it on the spot. This offer was, for better or worse, declined.
Imagine the scene. Its 1961 in the Venetian Room of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. As you settle into the warmth and vibrancy of the music hall, you catch the sight of mayor George Christopher and future mayor Joseph Alioto, enjoying their drinks, perhaps a cigar. Through the rich, smoky air, you turn to gaze the stage just in time to see Tony Bennet step out in front of a big brass band.
The crooner takes the microphone and begins singing a tune new to you and everyone else present. Three and a half minutes later, the whole audience, hell, the whole city has a new favorite song; “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
Barring time travel, your opportunity to take part in such an iconic first moment lives on at the Fairmont Hotel. In 2016, the Fairmont erected a statue to commemorate Bennet’s 90th birthday, and one can even reserve a room in the incomparably luxurious Tony Bennet Suite.
At the Copa, Copacabana Hotel, also known as the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Barry Manilow, and Bruce Sussman incepted the 1978 hit single “Copacabana.” The story goes that the two were so enamored with the rhythm and feel of the word “Copacabana” they began to speculate if anyone had ever written a song by the title.
The song eventually released by Manilow actually tells the tale of showgirl Lola and bartender Tony at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, but this Brazilian hotel will always hold the honor of being the site of inspiration.
Across the country, this beachside slice of paradise is known as the go-to for international celebrities visiting Rio De Janeiro. Furthermore, it has routinely been voted the best hotel in South America. In 2009, The Copacabana won the prestigious World Travel Award. I’ll dance to Manilow, but if we’re betting on the longevity of legacy, my money is on the brick and mortar Copacabana.
When it first invited guests in 1962, it’s doubtful anyone guessed The Hilton Amsterdam would make international headlines just seven years later.
In 1969, using the publicity of their marriage to promote world peace, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their infamous “bed-in” in room 902. Having since been renumbered room 702, today guests can still stay in the room where the influential couple protested the Vietnam War by staying in bed for a week and inviting the press to witness their angelic rest under signs reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace.” An account of the event is chronicled in “The Ballad of John and Yoko” where Lennon sings “Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton, talking in our beds for a week, the newspapers said, say what’re you doing in bed, I said we’re only trying to get us some peace.”
If visiting the Hilton Amsterdam, ask about “The John and Yoko Suite” for your chance to re-trace the activist and artistic steps of music history’s most infamous power couple.
Originally opened as The Gene Autry Hotel in 1963, this Hollywood staple was renamed the Hyatt House in 1976. This renaming soon gave way to the hotel’s lasting nickname “The Riot House” (Riot rhymes with Hyatt…get it?)
Far from earning this nickname on the merits of rhyme alone, The Riot House, officially named Andaz West Hollywood since 2009, is fatefully located about a mile away from prominent nightclub Whisky a Go Go. Consequently, in the 60’s and 70’s, hard-partying touring bands visiting Whisky a Go Go, which had already amassed fame by launching acts such as The Doors, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and more, often would stay, and riot, at The Riot House.
Among the notable debaucheries include tales of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham driving a motorcycle through the halls, Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards dropping a TV out of room 1015’s window, and Robert Plant on balcony shouting “I am a golden god!” across the Sunset Strip. Supposedly Motorhead’s Lemmy wrote the song “Motorhead” at the Andaz, strumming loudly in the dead of night.
No hotel before or since has been so central to such moments of rock and roll grit. Rest assured, no matter what wily company you bring to visit the Andaz, this hotel has seen worse.
Living up to its nickname, “The White Palace”, The Grand Hotel in East Sussex is a sight to behold. Constructed in 1875, this Gilded Age beauty reflects a wealth and class unparalleled in modern times.
From 1924 to 1939, the Grand Hotel Orchestra took over BBC airwaves every Sunday night with live performances from the Great Hall. However, the Grand Hotel made its most poignant piece of musical history a few decades earlier.
In 1905, Claude Debussy fled scandal in France with Emma Bardac, his lover-with-child. The two found their way to Eastbourne, and eventually the Grand Hotel, where Claude felt he could “relax like an animal.” Facing the English Channel, their residency in suite 200 saw the completion of Debussy’s most famous symphony, “La Mer.” Since renamed The Debussy Suite, suite 200 is still available for booking.
This hotel goes by many names. Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, Palazzo Loredan Vendramin Calergi, and Palazzo Loredan Griman Calergi Vendramin; all refer to the same distinguished, Renaissance-style palace on the banks of Venice’s Grand Canal. It even has hyper-local nickname derived from a stone engraving under a ground floor window; “Non Nobis Domine,” or, “Not Unto Us, O Lord.”
An odd plea, yet somehow fitting for the stake that this hotel has in musical history. In 1883 frequent guest and legendary composer Richard Wagner succumbed to a heart attack within the palace walls. In 1995, The Richard Wagner Museum opened on the premises to showcase a hefty collection of Wagner dedicated memorabilia, including letters, paintings, records, rare documents, and other heirlooms.
Between the honor of shadowing Wagner’s last moments and the reveling in Renaissance architecture, the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi hotel may be all the reason you need to visit Italy.
Constructed in 1901, the Sofitel Legend Metropole is a shining example of colonial French architecture in the heart of Vietnam. Regionally significant, the Metropole was the first film venue in the area and attracted international celebrities throughout the early 1900’s. It rose into the ranks of music history following the “The Christmas Bombings” of 1972.
Officially known as “Operation Linebacker II”, between December 18th and 29th of 1972 the U.S. Military dropped over 15,000 tons of explosives on targets in Hanoi and Haiphong. During these air raids, popular American singer/songwriter Joan Baez happened to be staying at the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi. Fortunately, the Metropole, by this late stage in the Vietnam War, had constructed a bomb shelter in which Baez and other guests took refuge.
It was in this shelter that Baez composed and recorded audio for the B-side of her 1973 anti-war album “Where Are You Now, My Son?” Interspersing Baez singing at the piano with sirens, cries from the citizenry, and the voices of her traveling partners describing the hellscape, this record directly captures the harrowing moments of war.
Now that the war is over, a stay at the Sofitel Legend Metropole offers the unique opportunity to stand in a scene of inspiring devastation… and give thanks for peace.
Washington D.C. boasts its fair share of storied hotels, but few can claim the intersection of pop culture and politic owned by The W Washington.
Everyone knows Elvis was eccentric. One can scarcely be “The King of Rock ‘n Roll” without a few exceptional tastes. In the case of Elvis Presley, his list of material joys included, for lack of a more elegant phrase, guns, drugs, and cars.
After receiving familial reprimands for spending over $100,000 dollars on handguns and Mercedes-Benzes as “gifts”, a pouting Presley took off and flew to Washington DC. On the flight he drafted a letter to Nixon, requesting a meeting, and saying that he would be staying at a DC hotel under the alias Jon Burrows.
That hotel was none other than The Washington Hotel, now known as the W Washington D.C.
What exactly was Elvis’ aim? He hoped to petition Nixon for induction as a federal agent. Specifically, he wanted a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
According to the biography of his wife Priscilla, Elvis had the impression that a narc badge would effectively be a hall pass that allowed him to enter any country with guns and, yep, drugs.
Insanely enough, Elvis was successful in this endeavor. After a White House aide/Elvis fan arranged a meeting, Nixon granted The King’s request.
Though playing a minor role in this bizarre chapter of music history, the W Washington D.C. remains a stately lodging frequented by high powers visiting the U.S. Capitol. A night or two will certainly have you feeling like a king, but please, don’t bring your guns or drugs.