Jim Marshall, Legendary Rock Photographer, Passes Away at 74
Jim Marshall, the photographer who captured some of rock & roll's
most unforgettable images including photos of Jimi Hendrix burning
his guitar at Monterey Pop and Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San
Quentin, died in his sleep last night in New York. He was 74.
After starting as a professional photographer in 1959, Marshall was
given unparalleled access to rock's biggest artists, including the
Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Who, Miles Davis and Ray Charles. He
was the only photographer granted backstage access for the Beatles'
final full concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in 1966 and he
also shot the Rolling Stones on their historic 1972 tour.
Marshall developed special bonds with the artists he covered and
those relationships helped him capture some of his most vivid and
iconic imagery. In one of his last interviews, a chat with Rolling
Stone last October, Marshall summed up his rapport with rock stars
best when talking about Joplin: "You could just call her at home and
be like, 'We have to take some pictures,' and she'd say, 'OK! Come
over!' She trusted me and knew I had her best interests at heart. I
only wanted to make her look good."
Marshall was born in Chicago in 1936 and was raised in San Francisco.
He purchased his first camera in high school and started documenting
the artists and musicians in San Francisco's burgeoning beat scene.
After serving in the Air Force, Marshall returned home, where he had
a chance encounter with John Coltrane: when Coltrane asked him for a
lift, Marshall obliged and the jazz legend returned the favor by
letting Marshall shoot nine rolls of film.
Soon after, Marshall moved to New York and was hired by Atlantic and
Columbia to shoot their artists at work in the studio, including
Dylan and Charles. But it was when Marshall returned to the San
Francisco in the late Sixties that he produced his most indelible
work, taking hundreds of photographs of the Dead, Joplin, Jefferson
Airplane and Santana. Marshall recalled one rare instance when he
photographed an intensely intimate portrait of Grace Slick and Janis
Joplin supposed rivals at the time at Slick's home in 1967. "All
that shit about them being the fighting queen bees of rock & roll was
bullshit," Marshall recalled. "They got along really well but they
had never been photographed together."
Marshall continued to be prolific even late into his life. Most
recently, he snapped portraits of everyone from John Mayer and Ben
Harper to Lenny Kravitz and Velvet Revolver. He has published five
books, including 2009's collection Trust. Marshall, who had no
children, was passionate about his work up until the end. "I have no
kids," he said. "My photographs are my children."
Remembering Jim Marshall By Rolling Stone Editor Jason Fine
Rock's most famous photographer, Jim Marshall, has died at age 74.
Look back at his remarkable life and career in our obituary and
gallery of his most iconic shots of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones
and more. Read Rolling Stone executive editor Jason Fine's
introduction to Jim Marshall's book Trust here:
The first time I met Jim Marshall, he hugged me. The next time, he
screamed and cursed me out. The circumstances don't really matter,
the emotions do.
Jim is an intense dude: volatile, unpredictable, hilarious, sometimes
infuriating, always charming and incredibly generous. Jim's force of
personality comes through in all of his photographs, which are some
of the most intimate and iconic portraits of jazz, folk and rock &
roll musicians taken over the past fifty years. Most of Jim's
photographs would not have happened had he not cajoled and charmed
his way into the lives of his subjects. They definitely would not
have happened if Jim's subjects hadn't trusted him.
Unlike a lot of the major rock photographers that followed in his
path, Jim's pictures are very straightforward they don't come with
elaborate concepts, studio props or professional styling. They are
really just moments: on stage, in recording studios, hotel rooms,
restaurants, buses, or backstage dressing rooms. Most of his shots
are taken in natural light, with an old Leica camera. The only demand
Jim makes on his subjects is access a lot of access. "If someone
doesn't want me to shoot them, fine, fuck 'em," he says. "But if they
do, there can't be any restrictions."
Back in rock's glory days when Jim was the house photographer at
Monterey and Woodstock, when he dropped LSD with the Dead (actually,
they dosed him) and he toured with the Stones in '72 Jim's appetite
for booze and drugs was legendary. In fact, one of the secrets of his
success was that he kept taking pictures after all the other
photographers went to bed.
What's most striking about his photographs is how even in the most
chaotic moments he finds clarity and candor. Jim's photographs are
remarkable for the ease with which they convey something deep and
real about their subjects.
You can see this in his most legendary shots Jimi Hendrix burning
his guitar on stage at Monterey in 1967, or Miles Davis in a boxing
ring, but you can also see it in his quieter photographs, many of
which are collected in this first-ever anthology of Jim's color work.
What comes across is a deep empathy for the musicians he
photographed, and an ability to capture their pride and sense of
purpose, even when circumstances were less than ideal. I love the
shot of Muddy Waters, for example, looking almost amused as he sits
on a threadbare chair in one more ratty Chicago nightclub or Johnny
Cash, heavy and brooding before his 1968 performance at Folsom
Prison, with the guard tower looming over his shoulder.
Recently, over scotches in one of Jim's favorite New York bars, I
asked what he sees in this collection of his work. "How the fuck
should I know?" he said. "I was there. I took some photographs. This
is them. I don't know what it means. I never had an agenda." Jim
likes to talk tough and make no mistake, even at age 72 he is a
badass dude but he's also got a more reflective side. As he told me
the stories behind these photographs, he started to smile and laugh,
and even teared up when he remembered his relationships with some of
"I love all these musicians they're like family," he said. "Looking
back, I realize I was there at the beginning of something special,
I'm like a historian. There's an honesty about this work that I'm
proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing."
Appreciation: Jim Marshall captured the history and spirit of rock 'n' roll
By Jim Harrington
When it comes to rock history, millions of people think in terms of
Jim Marshall images.
Bring up 1967's Monterey International Pop Festival and the first
thing most of us see in our heads is Jimi Hendrix torching his
guitar. Mention Johnny Cash performing for inmates at San Quentin
State Prison in 1969 and the corresponding visual is always Cash
waving a middle-finger salute at the camera. Recall Janis Joplin's
brilliant career, cut short by drugs and alcohol, and you might
envision her lounging backstage with a bottle of Southern Comfort in her hand.
All of those memorable images as well as countless others came
from Bay Area photographer Jim Marshall. Individually, each
documented a moment in rock 'n' roll history. Collectively, they made
their author every bit as legendary as the subjects he photographed.
Marshall, who was born in Chicago but seemed as much a part of San
Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge, died at age 74 earlier this
week. He was found dead Wednesday in a hotel room in New York City,
reportedly having passed away in his sleep. He'd come to the Big
Apple to promote his new photo book "Match Prints," which also
contained work by celebrity photographer Timothy White.
That's not, however, the end of the story not by a long shot.
Marshall accomplished so much in his life, and left behind such a
vast collection of worthy, artistic documents of rock history, that
people will continue to enjoy his work as long as people still care
about music. His credits include some 500 album covers, as well as
some of the most memorable magazine shoots of all time. During his
career, he photographed everyone from the Beatles and the Doors to
Bob Dylan and the Who to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. (Marshall was
also an accomplished jazz photographer.)
His strong suit came in documenting Bay Area music. Marshall spent
countless days documenting the Haight-Ashbury scene, photographing
the Grateful Dead, Joplin and other notable acts from the burgeoning
psychedelic-rock movement of the late 1960s. He must have been a
tireless worker, because whenever a big music event was in Northern
California be it the Beatles' last concert (1966 at Candlestick
Park) or Otis Redding belting out a soulful tune at Monterey Pop
Marshall was there to capture it.
Marshall was not, however, the easiest man to get along with. There
are countless anecdotes about his getting into heated exchanges with
those who dared to disagree with him. He was reportedly well-versed
in profanity and would prove it at the drop of a hat. Most
dramatically, I'm told, he did not suffer fools lightly. Over the
years, that kind of behavior became as much his calling card as his photos.
I can't add to the Marshall mythology in that regard. I crossed paths
with him several times over the years and he was nothing but kind to me.
The thing that struck me about Marshall on a personal level was that
he reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield, in that he would cry out that
he was getting "no respect." How odd, I thought, that arguably the
most highly respected rock photographer of all time would feel that way.
I remember sharing a table with him at Yoshi's at Jack London Square
in Oakland during a Ravi Coltrane show a few years back. He spent
much of the evening stewing over how he'd been treated by the club's
staff. He was ticked that his request to go backstage to meet
Coltrane wasn't immediately granted, and that no red carpet had been
rolled out in his honor.
That might make him sound like an unreasonable man, but the flip side
to that story which, from what I understand, was indicative of
Marshall's complicated nature was that he came with a portrait he'd
taken of Ravi's legendary father, John Coltrane, and wanted to give
it to the musician. He was sure the younger Coltrane would appreciate
the photo. Once Marshall finally got backstage to present the gift,
I'm pretty sure the saxophonist indeed was thrilled.
It should, however, come as no surprise that Marshall was too complex
to summarize by any one given encounter. He was, after all, an artist
equal to the legendary rock stars that populated his photographs.
And that's what we'll remember whenever we look through his eye at
rock 'n' roll history.
Jim Marshall dies at 74; iconic photographer shot music greats
Marshall captured Jimi Hendrix setting fire to his guitar at the
Monterey Pop Festival and Bob Dylan rolling a tire in Greenwich
Village. He also accompanied Johnny Cash to Folsom and San Quentin prisons.
By Randy Lewis
March 25, 2010
Jim Marshall, celebrated in music circles for his iconic,
attitude-laced images of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the
Rolling Stones and other '60s rock luminaries as well as equally
revered portraits of Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and
myriad folk, country, jazz and blues artists, died Wednesday in New
York City. He was 74.
Marshall apparently died in his sleep while on a promotional tour for
"Match Prints," a new collection of similar shots taken across the
decades by Marshall and Timothy White, a longtime devotee who
referred to his mentor as "royalty in my line of work."
Marshall's most famous images, which wound up on more than 500 album
and CD covers, in magazines, newspapers and on posters, include his
shot of Hendrix setting fire to his electric guitar at the Monterey
Pop Festival, Dylan rolling a tire down the littered streets of
Greenwich Village on an early morning walk and Cash flipping his
middle finger directly into the camera lens at San Quentin State Prison.
"I have always loved the photographs Jim Marshall took of my father,
and more than any other, the photos of family and friends," Cash's
son, John Carter Cash, told The Times in an e-mail Thursday. "Of
course, the most famous photo Jim took of my father was the
unforgettable 'shoot the bird shot.'
"He magically captured my father's energy and attitude at that time,"
Cash noted. "This photo is a wonderful example of my father's
edginess and aggressive nature. But my father was so much more. The
photos Jim took that mean the most are those which capture intimate,
gentle heart and spirit -- both of my father and my mother. It is
these I love the most."
Marshall was always quick to explain that Cash was simply mugging for
the camera. "It shows John's individuality," Marshall noted on his
own website in an anecdote accompanying the photo, "but the gesture
was definitely done in jest. John's got a great sense of humor and
this was not a serious shot."
Marshall lived most of his life in San Francisco, where through a
chance encounter in 1959 he snapped his first photograph of an
important musician: jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who had stopped
him to ask for directions to Berkeley. That started Marshall on a
career spent with pop musicians as well as other A-list entertainers,
who often dropped their guard in his presence for the intimate
portraits he favored.
He also worked the Woodstock and Altamont rock festivals in 1969, the
Rolling Stones 1972 tour and was the only photographer allowed
backstage at the Beatles' final tour performance at San Francisco's
Candlestick Park in 1966.
"All of these artists have given me their trust," he told the Marin
Independent Journal in November. "Trust given and trust received. And
I've never violated that trust. I've never had a lawyer, a manager,
an artist or an agent complain about a picture I used."
Some of his career-making shots came during a two-year period in the
early '60s when he moved to New York City, where the action was for
photographers at the time. He captured Dylan, Joan Baez and other
members of the folk music community just as their careers were
starting to take off.
The shot of Dylan kicking the tire down the street, Marshall noted on
his website, "was taken one Sunday morning when Bobby, his girlfriend
Suze Rotolo, Dave Van Ronk and Terri Van Ronk were all going to
breakfast in New York. Just two frames were shot -- no big deal --
but I feel it shows Bob was still a kid in 1963."
James Marshall was born Feb. 3, 1936, in Chicago. The family moved to
San Francisco when Marshall was 2, and he was raised by his mother
after his father, a house painter, left the family when he was a boy.
Marshall raced cars as a high school student, dabbled in various
jobs, including motor scooter salesman and insurance claims adjuster,
but after serving a stint in the Air Force, he put a modest down
payment on his first high-quality camera, a Leica M2, the brand he
used throughout his life.
After that first shoot with Coltrane, he frequented San Francisco's
jazz and poetry clubs, moved briefly to New York, then returned to
the Bay Area as the hippie culture was emerging.
During this period he got his famous photo of Joplin backstage,
slouched on a couch with a bottle of Southern Comfort cradled in her hands.
"Some people said I shouldn't have published that picture of her
lying back, with the bottle in her hand, but I'll defend it to the
death," he once said. "People said her legs looked too fat. But Janis
said, 'Hey, that's a great shot because it's how it is sometimes. Lousy.' "
But even his subjects' approval wasn't what motivated Marshall. It
was the photo itself.
"You know, I don't really care if Janis liked the picture or not; it
was an honest, strong picture. A strong picture. It just happened
that she liked it a lot."
He accompanied Cash to his landmark 1968 Folsom Prison concert, which
was covered for The Times by pop music critic Robert Hilburn, who
kept in touch with Marshall frequently over the ensuing years.
"Besides being able to capture the spirit of artists, Jim also had
the rare ability to know who to shoot -- i.e. to go after great
artists, not just the most popular," Hilburn said Thursday. "That's
why so many of his photos are still meaningful today: They document
moments in the lives of great artists."
At the time, gaining access to rock musicians wasn't a problem for a
photographer whose work had appeared in major publications.
Marshall opened the window to rock during one of its most creatively
explosive, but also destructively hedonistic periods, and found
himself seduced by the drugs that often went hand in hand with the music.
"There was a long, dark period fueled by cocaine," Marshall said in
2005. "The '70s were fueled by cocaine and so were the '80s. It was a
bottomless pit. So I just stopped. It was a matter of staying alive.
I had ruined a lot of relationships with it, but fortunately, most of
the good friends I have stayed with me."
He reemerged in the 1980s and continued to shoot new generations of
musicians, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ben Harper and the Cult.
The first book of his photos came out in 1997: "Not Fade Away: The
Rock and Roll Photography of Jim Marshall." Others followed,
including "Proof," a 2004 collection of several dozen of his
most-celebrated photos accompanied by the proof sheets of the shots
that immediately preceded and followed them; "Jazz" in 2006; "Trust,"
a 2009 volume of his color photography; and the new "Match Prints."
He considered himself a photojournalist, not a celebrity
photographer, and also spent time in the '60s documenting poverty in
Appalachia and the civil rights movement.
No immediate family members survive him.