Jim Marshall, 74

Jim Marshall dies; rock-and-roll photographer shot hundreds of album covers

Photographer Jim Marshall captured the greats of rock and jazz, including Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 26, 2010

Jim Marshall, 74, a notoriously abrasive photographer who helped establish rock-and-roll's public image with his intimate and iconic portraits of Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and other performers in the 1960s and '70s, was found dead March 24 at a hotel in New York. The cause of death was not immediately known.

A resident of San Francisco, Mr. Marshall was in New York to promote a new book and apparently died in his sleep, said Henry Diltz, whose Morrison Hotel Gallery represents the photographer's work.

Mr. Marshall, who shot hundreds of album covers and worked for major publications, was most renowned for his candid, mostly black-and-white shots of musical celebrities. He captured them in unguarded moments onstage, backstage and offstage, creating images that revealed larger-than-life superstars in unrehearsed vulnerability or exaltation.

"He was quick and relentless, wading in with his quiet little Leica and capturing the essence of the person and the moment," said Diltz, who is also a music photographer. "He was the guru of us all."

Mr. Marshall's best-known images included Hendrix setting his guitar aflame at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 and Janis Joplin in 1968, sprawled on a couch backstage with a bottle of Southern Comfort and appearing, at the height of her fame, to be as lost and lonely as a little girl.

"Some people said I shouldn't have published that picture," Mr. Marshall said in 2005. "But Janis said, 'Hey, that's a great shot because it's how it is sometimes. Lousy.' "

In 1969, he captured Cash before his performance at San Quentin Prison, aiming his middle finger at the lens. "I said to him, Johnny, let's do a shot for the warden," Mr. Marshall once recalled. "I guess flipping the bird was his natural response."

Mr. Marshall refused to give stage directions and preferred to shoot with available light. His only requirement was non-negotiable: unfettered access to his subjects, a condition he considered essential for the documentary style he favored.

He balked when entertainer Barbra Streisand attempted to set limits during a shoot. He said he wound up swearing at Streisand, who was aghast, and then walking out.

Despite his impatience and curmudgeonliness, Mr. Marshall befriended many of the people who agreed to his terms. In 1966, he was the only photographer allowed backstage at San Francisco's Candlestick Park at what turned out to be one of the Beatles' last full-scale public performances.

He was an official photographer at the 1969 Woodstock rock festival, covered Crosby, Stills and Nash's first recording session, and documented the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour for Life magazine.

James Joseph Marshall was born in Chicago on Feb. 3, 1936, and grew up in San Francisco. While he carted around a Kodak Brownie as a kid, it was not until junior high, when a photographer snapped a clear shot of him crossing the finish line at the end of a footrace, that Mr. Marshall became mesmerized by the art form.

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