Aretha Franklin at Newark Symphony Hall in 1969. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

It was 1969, the year after she released songs titled emphatically like “Think” and “Respect” and went on her first European tour. Aretha Franklin was smoking Kool cigarettes and applying her makeup in a dressing room at Newark Symphony Hall. A young sports photographer moonlighting with Atlantic Records introduced himself to her brother, who stood nearby. She paid them little attention, but she had two things in common with the man she ignored: instant success in their chosen fields and a parent who performed music.

Walter Iooss Jr. shot his first assignment for Sports Illustrated when he was 18. His father was a jazz bass player performing  with the likes of Benny Goodman and Dizzy Gillespie and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. So, when his friend Jim Cummins asked him to photograph the Schaefer Music Festival concerts in Central Park with him, Iooss did. Atlantic Records noticed and gave him a four-year contract from 1968-1972. He photographed Roberta Flack and Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin, to name a few.

“It was a dangerous time,” Iooss recalled as we talked about the places and the people. It was a turbulent political era filled with Apollo missions, assassinations, race riots and questions about the Vietnam War. Then he described the summer Ray Charles and James Brown showed up in Montauk, Long Island, to play at the concert affectionately called “Back at the Ranch,” held outdoors. “Not many people showed up. I loved it.”

Many of these photographs look intimate, like he was right there onstage with them. “I brought the long lenses,” Iooss said, speaking of the tools he needed on the sidelines to capture action sports. Coupled with high-speed Ektachrome, Iooss captured the intense emotions amid the dim lights and sounds. He also captured a time. “At the Spectrum in Philly, there was a revolving stage,” he said. “It started to move when I was on it one day, and Wilson Pickett kept saying, ‘Where are you going? Where are you going?’ ‘You’re moving!’ I said.”

And they both did: forward and far.


Robert Plant with Led Zeppelin at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1969. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Buddy Guy at the Bottom Line in New York City in 1970. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Sam &a Dave, originators of “Soul Man,” at Madison Square Garden in 1969. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Janis Joplin at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in 1968. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Jimi Hendrix at the Felt Forum inside Madison Square Garden in 1968. “I can’t continue if you keep shooting flash bulbs off,” Hendrix said that night. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Tina Turner with Ike Turner at the Schaefer Music Festival in New York’s Central Park in 1970. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

B.B. King at the 1969 Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park the same night as Led Zeppelin. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

James Brown in New York in 1968. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in 1971. “I almost lost my life that night. The crowd was pushing forward; I was getting crushed,” said Iooss. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Booker T. Jones plays the piano with his band, Booker T. and the M.G’s, in New York in 1969. (Walter Iooss Jr.)

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