R.I.P. Jim Marshall, Rock Photographer

When Who Shot Rock opens here on June 26, there will be several examples of Jim Marshall's work included in the exhibition.

Unfortunately, Marshall -- heralded by the New York Times as "a photographer whose images of Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and others in the 1960s and ’70s helped define their subjects as well as rock ’n’ roll photography itself" -- won't be around to participate.

The groundbreaking artist died overnight on Tuesday in a hotel in New York. He was 74.

From today's NYT:

Born in Chicago on Feb. 3, 1936, he moved with his family to San Francisco two years later. His father, a housepainter, left when he was a boy, and his mother worked in a laundry. As a child he enjoyed playing with his Kodak Brownie, but it was not until about 1960 that Mr. Marshall, equipped with his first Leica M2, found his calling through a chance encounter with John Coltrane. “He asked me for directions to a club,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I told him I’d pick him up and take him there if he’d let me take his picture.”

In addition to Coltrane, he shot Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and other jazz stars, but he is best known for his extensive catalog of 1960s and ’70s rockers, which includes most of the San Francisco psychedelic groups as well as Jim Morrison, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and the Allman Brothers Band.

In 1962 Mr. Marshall moved to Greenwich Village, where his neighbors included Mr. Dylan and Judy Collins. But after two years he returned to San Francisco, where he remained. In his career he shot for Rolling Stone and other magazines and had more than 500 album cover credits.

In crisp photographs, shot mostly in black and white and with a stable of trusty Leica rangefinders, Mr. Marshall captured pop stars in their full onstage glory, as well as in unguarded offstage scenes that humanized them as approachable or vulnerable.

Among his most famous pictures are Hendrix setting his guitar aflame at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, which established Hendrix’s early reputation as a wild man; Cash angrily gesturing with his middle finger while at the San Quentin State Prison in 1969; a boyish Bob Dylan following a stray tire down a New York street in 1963; and Janis Joplin clutching a bottle of Southern Comfort backstage in 1968.

To get those pictures he insisted on extraordinary access, and usually got it. He was a favored portraitist for many of his subjects, who sometimes allowed him to follow them for days. He was the only photographer allowed backstage for the Beatles’ 1966 farewell concert in San Francisco, was at Woodstock in 1969, and shot the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour on assignment for Life magazine.

Go here to view a NYT slideshow of Marshall's work.

Posted by Karen Davis at 12:28 PM
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