As one of the legendary photographers of his day, Jim Marshall has been an eyewitness to one of the most vibrant periods in our nation's music history: from the birth of rock and roll to the resurgence of jazz and back again. Despite the Annie Liebowitz description of him as "The Rock-and-Roll Photographer", Jim will stubbornly insist that he just shoots people, "Ansel Adams shoots rocks."
With his distinct gravel-worn voice and tough but lovable disposition, Marshall does not suffer fools gladly. A man of vice and passion, he is a seasoned veteran who works only one way: His. He was one of the chief photographers at the Monterey Pop Festival and the original Woodstock (armed with a semi-automatic pistol, of course) and the only photographer granted full backstage access at the Beatles last concert. He is gratefully known to photographers far and wide as the man who first insisted on all-access for his gigs. "If they don't trust me, I don't want the job," he says. When Dennis Hopper was cast as the scrappy photo journalist for "Apocalypse Now", he wisely based his character on the real deal: Jim Marshall.
With more than 500 album/CD covers to his credit, Jim's work is not only collected by close pal, Michael Douglas and funnyman Owen Wilson, but is housed permanently in the Smithsonian. His 1997 book "Not Fade Away" was an awe-inspiring collection of Jim's black and white bests – including unforgettable intimate shots of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers, Jackson Brown, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, just to name a few. To this day, he remains the only photographer to have captured Janis Joplin and Grace Slick in the same frame.
Marshall also contributed to "Early Dylan", a collaborative effort with photographers Barry Feinstein and Daniel Kramer. All three men were there at the blossoming of a young, curly-headed poet from Minnesota and had access to the singer's private life. The result is a must for any music fan.
Come fall, Marshall will be releasing two new collections from Chronicle Books. "Jim Marshall: Proof" will consist of 62 rolls scanned to include informal edit and crop marks featuring subjects in the music world and otherwise. The other book, "As Time Goes By", set as a twin to "Not Fade Away", is a lovingly gathered collection of jazz and blues greats featuring John Coltrane on the cover. The book features stunning shots of legends such as Duke Ellington, Anita O'Day, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. In one spectacular frame, Allen Ginsburg looks up at Thelonius Monk as if he were the Creator himself.
True, the subjects were eminence incarnate but it takes another astute artist to recognize a unique moment, stop time and swiftly grab a slice before it evaporates.
© 2004 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 1/28/04