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Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 05/04/2011 - 7:46pm

Dylan With Tire

Bob Dylan is turning 70 on May 24 and it seems fitting to spend this month combing through the archives to share with you some of Jim’s classic Dylan photos as well as Dylan shots that will be unveiled for the very first time here on this blog.

Inarguably, Jim’s most famous Dylan shot is the one he called, “Dylan With Tire,” seen here in all its enigmatic glory.  It’s one of Jim’s in-the-moment shots that I find especially compelling for many reasons.  I think it captures such an optimistic and ebullient and inspiring time in Dylan’s life.  And also Jim’s, come to think of it.

Hero Blues

“Dylan With Tire” is one of what Jim called his “hero shots,” and it (plus the proofsheet or a vertical of the same moment) has been published in three of his books and included in nearly every article and interview that was ever done with Jim.  It’s an image so iconic and mysteriously compelling that it became much bigger than itself from the moment it was first printed; people have been trying to imbue it with meaning since The Saturday Evening Post ran it more than four decades ago.

Here are a couple of captions with Jim’s story of how this young moment was forever captured.  Published 12 years apart, note the difference in Jim’s tone and mood from one recounting to the next:

From  2009’s solo book “Trust” -- Jim definitely had his crankypants on the day he told this story to the editor:

“Bobby Dylan lived right around the corner from me in Greenwich Village and I hooked up with him around the neighborhood. The famous shot of him rolling the tire from 1963 happened when we were just going for breakfast one morning. There was me, Bobby, his girlfriend Suze, Dave Van Ronk and his wife Terri. The tire was in the fucking street, Bob picked it up, kicked it twice, end of fucking story, no big deal. Fuckers been reading into it for some meaning, the song was never going to be called ‘Like A Rolling Tire!’ There’s a nut that even went through [Dylan’s] garbage every day looking for meaning. The Saturday Evening Post ran it and it took on a life of its own.”

And from “Not Fade Away,” his first solo coffee table book published in 1997. A much more circumspect/cerebral rendition from Jim without the eff bombs:

“What did Churchill say about Russia? A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma? Well, Dylan is an enigma. This particular photo was taken one Sunday morning when Bobby, his girlfriend Suze Rotolo, Dave Van Ronk and Terri Van Ronk all were going to breakfast in New York.  Just two frames were shot – no big deal—but I feel it shows that Bob was still a kid in 1963.  Contrary to popular belief, this shot did not inspire the song ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’  No one really knows where he was coming from, but he’s one of the most brilliant songwriters of our time.  The last time I photographed him was in 1980.”

Speaking of songwriting, I’m with Jim on the dumbness of thinking the shot’s about “Like a Rolling Stone/Tire.” Featuring something that rolls is just way too trite for the way Jim worked, even in the beginning stages of his career.  Anne Leibovitz with her love of props and studio shots perhaps but not Jim.  Nah, what it makes me think of is this classic song Dylan wrote a decade after he hung out with Jim and some friends, just heading to grab some grub on a sleepy Sunday morning in downtown NYC.

Forever Young

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 8:55pm

Jim the Assyrian

You just never know where Jim’s photos are going to take you.  We start out to do a post on Ogden Nash and William Saroyan and end up with Jim’s mom.  It’s a journey, indeed, a trip.  Go figure.

With our ongoing focus on Jim’s lesser-known and/or pre-rock ‘n roll body of work, I find myself tickled again and again to be able to focus on Jim’s burgeoning talent and passions and, especially, his incredibly productive few years in New York City.

His assignments for The Saturday Evening Post stand out, in particular, such as this shot of Ogden Nash (1902-1971), an American poet, novelist and lyricist – and apparent chain smoker, as he is never without a cigarette in Jim’s entire shoot.

Nash was revered for his light verse full of nonsensical, made up words and nifty rhymes that could camouflage surprisingly deep observations, as well as his straight-ahead and well-anthologized prose.  Though his work strikes me these days as a bit outdated and stereotypical for my tastes, Nash definitely had a way with a phrase and managed to work with puns, rhymes and comic misspellings without succumbing to what I call “death by limerick.”  Here’s “Reflexions on Ice-Breaking,” one of Nash’s best known proverbs that seems tailor made for Jim:

Candy is dandy
But liquor is quicker

The Shadow of the Valley

Another ’63 assignment for The Saturday Evening Post saw Jim capturing an ebullient William Saroyan (1908-1981) at the famed Algonquin Hotel.  The caption that accompanies this shot we’re running here along with Jim’s proofsheet in “Proof” mentions that it was the second time Jim had bonded with Saroyan, the first in Paris.  It seems they hit it off and discovered a fair amount in common: Saroyan, an Armenian orphan from Fresno with strong agricultural roots and Jim, raised mostly by his mother, a Persian Assyrian who also was connected to farming families in the San Joaquin Valley.

Saroyan, a novelist, playwright and short story writer who won a Pulitzer for Drama and an Oscar for best original story for “The Human Comedy” in 1943, was one of those guys that gets to be called a “literary lion” with a bibliography of powerful, diverse work that just goes on and on.  In addition to his published work, Saroyan is strongly remembered for his championing of the Armenian cause in the wake of the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I, something I first heard about in depth from Jim, who I believe also had Armenian roots on his dad’s side.

It’s no big secret that swarthy, big-nosed Jim had a lot of issues with his background and his family.  Jim really was, first and foremost, an American; he would pronounce it sort of like ’merakin with an aw-shucks southern/western accent.  But, that adjective barely got out of his mouth before he stressed that what he REALLY was, was ASSYRIAN, descended from ancient, venerable tribes.  He could even speak a passable version of Aramaic, the semitic language known since the 9th century.

Back in the day, he could talk hours about it.  One of the very few times I saw Jim express true regret about his body of work was sometime in 1988 or so around the fact that he had not documented “where he was from like Saroyan had.”  I remember him late at night, head in hand, moaning about how he’d blown his chance, they were all dead and it would never be the same.  To make matters worse, he was estranged from his mom – a major falling out because she blamed him for the break up of his second marriage and he couldn’t bring himself to forgive her (another story for another blog).

Saroyan, not surprisingly, sums it up powerfully in his 1936 book of stories, “Inhale and Exhale,” “There is a small area of land in Asia Minor that is called Armenia, but it is not so. It is not Armenia. It is a place. There are only Armenians, and they inhabit the earth, not Armenia, since there is no Armenia. There is no America and there is no England, and no France, and no Italy. There is only the earth.”

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Fri, 04/22/2011 - 1:56am

The Power of the Word

Jim could get a bit reactionary. Yeah, that’s an understatement.  I think what helped me deal with his right-wing rants was a deep down knowledge that beyond the Second Amendment, his first and truest love was No. 1, freedom of speech.  It think it’s why he always considered himself a visual journalist, a teller of truth at his core, no matter how poetic his images or how many prints sales and gallery shows he had.

It got us to thinking about great writers, screenwriters and directors who were caught by Jim’s lens: Elia Kazan on assignment and Dalton Trumbo, a speaker at a peace rally who Jim photographed out of sheer admiration.

Elia Kazan

I’m leading with this portrait of director/actor Elia Kazan -- which Jim shot in 1963 on assignment for Cavalier Magazine -- even though I am of very mixed feelings about Kazan due to his outing of communists in 1947 during the Red Scare.  It’s impossible to capture the immense output, credits, bio, etc of Kazan, who lived to see age 94.  Suffice to say, he inspired Marlon Brando, James Dean, Julie Harris, Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty, Lee Remick, Karl Malden, and Robert De Niro and directors such as Sidney Lumet, John Cassavetes, Arthur Penn, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese.

I know Jim was proud of this shot and when I admired the way the cigar smoke curled so elegantly and framed him just so, the next thing I know I’m getting a print despite my major problem with Kazan due to his naming names.

This is another instance where my memory is not as sharp as I’d like it to be … but I have a vague recall that Jim figured Kazan “regretted it most likely” and that his body of work made up for it.  Maybe it was a bit of wishful thinking on Jim’s part, I mean Kazan did create one of Jim’s all-time favorite films “East of Eden,” James Dean’s first lead role.

Dalton Trumbo

And then, Jim gives me the shot you see here of Dalton Trumbo, novelist and screenwriter (“Johnny Got His Gun," "Exodus" and Spartacus") and one of the Hollywood 10 blacklisted for a significant part of his career.  For most of my time in NYC, especially when I lived in a nearly 3,000 sq.-ft. converted loft in the Meatpacking District and had a bunch of wall space, I hung Kazan and Trumbo side by side.  It made for some lively dinner party conversations, believe me.

Was Kazan a hero for naming names and outing potential communists and communist sympathizers or was he a money-grubbing rat fink who threw his friends and colleagues “under the bus” so that he could keep working?  The thing that astounds me is that Trumbo never really held a grudge. In fact, in a 2007 documentary Trumbo (through actor David Strathairn) had this to say about it all: "There was bad faith and good, honesty and dishonesty, courage and cowardice, selflessness and opportunism, wisdom and stupidity, good and bad on both sides; and almost every individual involved, no matter where he stood, combined some or all of these antithetical qualities in his own person, in his own acts."

I think for Jim, where Kazan was concerned it was a classic case of love the work, not the man.  Kazan later explains that he took "only the more tolerable of two alternatives that were, either way, painful and wrong.”

But it's this Kazan quote that really stopped me: “I realize now that work was my drug.  It held me together.  It kept me high.  When I wasn't working, I didn't know who I was or what I was supposed to do."  He just said it a little sooner than Jim that's all.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 8:31pm

Broadway Jim

Another secret about Jim and his poetic passions: He loved theater and musicals, seemingly the sappier, the better.  It’s not something he broadcast much – I would hazard a guess that he didn’t go share just how much he LOVED Carol Channing or a great Cole Porter number or Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work with his mechanic or the guys he got his guns from – but, if he thought you were receptive to the power of it all, he’d definitely bend your ear.

There was so much more to Jim than the rock ‘n roll hard-livin’ lunatic genius.  That’s one aspect of his life and there’s ample evidence for it, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see a lovely sap willing to make a fool of himself at the drop of a hat, especially after he’d had a glass or two of whatever high-end whiskey or scotch he happened to favor that month (Pendelton, Macallan, Glenrothes, you get the idea).

It’s like I’ve said before, Jim was never ashamed to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he was hugely sentimental, almost comically so.  Jim liked a great song, sure, but he also seemed to dig the poetry, catharsis and pathos at the heart of most remarkable theater, musical and otherwise.  And if, at it’s core, there was a love story full of betrayal, heartbreak and redemption, hey, so much the better.  I think it was as close to therapy as Jim would let himself get.

One Enchanted Evening

Amelia says it best:  “Jim just LOVED certain musicals, like ‘South Pacific,’ especially the song ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.’  I mean he was just crazy about that show.  So in January 2009 there was a revival here at the Curran Theatre and Bonita and I surprised him with tickets for Christmas.  He had seen that it was coming to town, and he kept saying how great it would be to go, but for the 13 years that I knew him, he would talk about going to movies and shows but then lose heart.  The only way he would do it was if somebody went with him.

“I remember he even put his hearing aids in that night, which you know meant it was a very special occasion.  Of course, we had to drive and go to dinner first and then we took him there and I kept looking over at him and he was just humming and singing along, tears streaming down his face.  It was crazy how much he loved it!”

In fact, when “South Pacific” was remade with Glenn Close, Jim was so impressed with her performance as Ens. Nellie Forbush that he sent her a print in appreciation.  So who was the original actress to play Nellie and sing all those brilliant Hammerstein lyrics?  Mary Martin.  I’m just guessing, but I bet Jim had a thing for Martin based on her role in “South Pacific.”  All I know is he just raved about her and made a point of showing me the shot we’re running here of her recording the “Jennie” cast album in 1963 in NYC.

Again, 1963 comes up.  Jim in NYC, starting off his career before rock 'n roll.  If you want to see the true breadth of his vision, check out his wonderful 2004 book “Proof,” the Shelley Winters and Russell and Channing proof sheets are featured there.

Confession time: I had sort of heard of Martin because she originated the Peter Pan role on Broadway in 1954 for which she won a Tony.  But Jim connected the dots for me by saying she was also Larry Hagman’s mom (at the time Hagman was a huge star playing J.R. Ewing on ’80s mega hit TV show “Dallas”).  Ohhhhh, that Mary Martin.

That was the very cool thing about Jim and his passions, he may have made fun (gently) of me for not knowing in 1984 who these people were ... let alone understanding their talent and relevance.  Yet, as long as I was not outright disdainful, he went out of his way to explain and provide a context.  Certainly, he made amazing photos of most of them, but first and foremost he was a fan; a great and loyal fanatic who just wanted his passions to fall on fresh ears.

“Some Enchanted Evening”

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger across a crowded room,
And somehow you know, you know even then,
That somehow you'll see her again and again.
Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing,
You may hear her laughing across a crowded room,
And night after night, as strange as it seems,
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams.
Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.
Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love,
When you hear her call you across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side and make her your own,
Or all through your life you may dream all alone.
Once you have found her, never let her go,
Once you have found her, never let her go.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 12:39am

Jim the Poet

As driven and talented a photographer as Jim was, I think deep in his heart it wasn’t images he was really in love with, it was words. It’s the only way I can explain his incredible affinity for writers, lyricists and, especially, poets. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jim spent his youth in a place and time (San Francisco in the ’50s and ’60s) that was practically exploding with creative energy; it was unleashed, free, uncensored, and roaming the streets looking for sounds and images with which to collide.  And so was Jim. And since we are always looking for ways to dive into the Jim Marshall Photography archive that can expand beyond the expected, we’ve decided, in honor of National Poetry Month, to focus the next few blogs on Jim’s literary passions. Amelia suggested the San Francisco Beats as a natural starting point, which led her to find the wonderful shot of all the Beat poets and artists in front of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in 1965. In fact, I believe that is Ferlinghetti in the shadows under the umbrella right in front of Allen Ginsberg.

It got me to thinking about the Beats and Jim and SF in the ’60s and I flashed on a memory from October 1984 when Jim learned of poet, novelist, short story writer Richard Brautigan’s suicide in Bolinas. Though not as well known as Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure and the Beat heavyweights, Brautigan managed to hold his own while struggling mightily with depressive alcoholism. Brautigan was best known for his post-beatnik, pre-hippie 1967 novella “Trout Fishing in America.”  If you want to see how weirdly inspirational somebody who you may have never heard of can be, just search the web for: Brautigan and Trout Fishing in America … it has inspired a commune, tribute band, some folks even legally named their child “Trout Fishing in America,” I kid you not. In doing a bit of research for this post, Amelia found some wonderful shots of Brautigan, one of which I would hazard to guess is being published here for the first time, and I discovered this Brautigan poem with dedication that just jumped out at me:

“General Custer Versus the Titanic”
For the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry who were killed at the Little Bighorn River
and the passengers who were lost on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.  God bless their souls.

Yes! It’s true
all my visions
have come home to roost at last.
They are all true now and stand
around me like a bouquet of lost ships and doomed generals.
I gently put them away in a
beautiful and disappearing vase.

More than once, Jim made fun of his teenage and 20-something self, saying he was “that pretentious asshole wandering around North Beach with a battered paperback copy of Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ in his back pocket.” This is, yet again, a moment when I would like to ask Jim so many things: Did you ever really read the book? How did it affect you? Do you feel differently about it now, 50 years later? And so many, many more questions that rattle unanswered in my noggin. I am left instead with the echoes of throwaway lines from 25 years ago, searching for clues and linkages hidden in these archives and alive only in the memories of those Jim touched. I remember when Jim and I first met, he was so jazzed that I was a writer … of course, I was a writer there to write about Jim, but after my defenses fell a bit I realized he was utterly sincere in his support and praise and it meant, and means, the world to me.

And, who knows, maybe Jim bought his copy of “The Stranger” at City Lights.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 03/23/2011 - 12:00am

A Pocketful of Love: June Carter + Johnny Cash

Jim died one year ago today in New York City on the eve of a major Soho exhibition to herald “Match Print,” his collaborative book with photographer Timothy White. From your comments here on the blog and on our Facebook page, I can see that I’m not the only one who misses this profanely talented happy-sad, crazy-ass magnet of a man.  Writing this blog both helps and hinders. And that’s a good, appreciated thing.

Speaking of crazy-ass talent, it seems truly fitting to me that Jim’s last project – the gorgeously put together “Pocket Cash” and its attendant exhibitions in SF, NYC and London – is having one of its brightest moments as you read this post.  The book is in its second printing.  The exhibitions, full of never-before-seen images and first-time prints in limited editions, look brilliant.  In fact, if you’re in NYC or SF there are public openings (RSVP to attend) happening this week so you can go see for yourself.

“Pocket Cash” Exhibitions:

WEST COAST
San Francisco Art Exchange
458 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-441-8840
www.sfae.com
Public opening: Saturday, March 26, 7pm-10pm
If you are intrigued about Johnny and June as musicians and people, and it’s within your power to see this work up close and personal. Go. Now. You won’t regret it.

EAST COAST
Morrison Hotel Gallery, Soho, NY
124 Prince Street New York, NY 10012
212.941.8770
www.morrisonhotelgallery.com
Public opening: Thursday, March 24, 7:30pm*-10pm
*Prior to the opening, Michelle Dunn Marsh, Pocket Cash editor/designer, will give a brief talk/slideshow presentation from the book at the Apple store across from the gallery at 103 Prince St.

UK
Snap Galleries
8 Piccadilly Arcade
London SW1Y 6NH
England
+44 20 7493 1152
www.snapgalleries.com

From all the feedback we’ve been getting, I realize I’m not alone in saying that when I look at Jim’s pictures I find myself falling into them, wondering about the story behind the moment: What did Jim say?  What are they thinking?  And, mostly, how did Jim get so freakin’ close without destroying the moment?  I feel this deeply when I study his 30-year body of work documenting Johnny and June, especially June.

June Carter was a true natural-born and multifaceted talent.  Country and roots music royalty, she was born into the famed Carter Family and started out performing as a young girl with her mother Maybelle and sisters Helen and Anita.  A Grammy-winning singer (for her solo album “Press On” in 1999), dancer, actress, comedienne, humanitarian, wife and mom, June wrote “Jackson” and “Ring of Fire.” and “If I Were a Carpenter.”  Basically, she was brilliant and seemed to thrive at whatever she did, though she also seemed to be the last to think so herself.  Is it any surprise she so graciously held her own, and then some, with “The Man in Black”?

In doing a bit of research to fix my woeful ignorance of June’s biography, I came across this article by Gina Arnold from May 1999 in the Metro Newspapers online archive:

Between touring with her family and, later, touring with her husband, Cash has spent an inordinate amount of her life on the road, but always, somehow, in a position that could be termed second-fiddle.  She sounds surprised, however, when I broach that idea. “I was never looking back in regret. I never thought, ‘Oh, why didn’t I become an actress?’ or ‘Why did I just go paddling along after John?’  I’ve always walked along right by his side, and he’s always supported everything I do.  He’s just like my father that way -- my father just adored my mother and let her do whatever she wanted.  John’s like that. He’s a very rare man, a very good man, and I’ve had a good life with him.  

And Johnny, apparently, likes to walk in her wake as well. Asked if she’s planning to tour, Mrs. Cash says, “It depends on how Johnny’s feeling.  If we go back on the road, we will go together.  I’ll go where he goes, and he’ll go where I go.

Good stuff, right?  So if you’re lucky enough to own a copy of “Pocket Cash” or better yet see these prints in person, let me know if you have the same sensation that I have: The more you look at the pictures, the more powerful they seem to get.  Originally, I thought it was the love and strength June and John created, a sum more powerful than their prodigious parts.  But deep down, now that I’ve really thought some more about all of this stuff, I think it all starts with June, and I like to think Jim and Johnny would agree with that perception.

And, anyway, Jim’s not around anymore to tell me off if he thought I was wrong.  It’s at moments like these that I still can’t quite accept it.  “Tough shit,” as Jim would surely say, but he wouldn’t look me in the eye and there’d be a catch in his throat, and then he’d add: “It’s just the way it is, baby girl.”

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 03/16/2011 - 9:59pm

Arms Wide Open

I’m not the first to notice that Jim had a thing for photos that showed his subjects (usually singers and often women) with their arms flung wide open.  Both in his shot selection in the moment and later, when he was poring over proof sheets looking for unsung “hero shots,” Jim’s eye and his heart were tuned to recognize these moments.

As a great visual artist, he’s certainly not alone in that fascination, the arms wide open move can become a performer’s signature gesture and there isn’t a music photographer alive who hasn’t snapped away trying to capture it. Yet, as usual, Jim’s perfect moments take the pose out of the classic performer move, and make it feel more like a raw, all-encompassing embrace: passionate, giving and full of potential to hurt or heal … just like him.

If I had to pick just one of these iconic images to muse upon, I’d choose Jim’s color shot of Nina Simone at Town Hall in New York in 1960.  It’s a lesser-known shot (though it is featured in his book of color images, “Trust”) of a complex, misunderstood artist.  As a Simone fan, I can’t quite decide what I love most about this picture: the unmitigated joy in her face or her unbelievable style in blending couture with more roots-related accessories.  Jim loved this picture – though oddly he only shot one roll of film of this performance – and he really loved singer/pianist Simone’s work, especially “Lilac Wine” and “Wild Is the Wind,” a song written by Ned Washington and Dmitri Tiomkin that was a signature for her and later inspired musical artists as diverse as Bowie, Streisand and Cat Power to cover it.

In fact, I think the “Wild Is the Wind” lyrics capture Jim’s ravenous inspiration to a tee:

Love me, love me, love me, love me,
say you do Let me fly away with you
For my love is like the wind,
and wild is the wind
Wild is the wind
Give me more than one caress
satisfy this hungriness
Let the wind blow through your heart
Oh wild is the wind, wild is the wind
  

Wild at Heart 
In line with our women-centric theme this month, we searched the overflowing Jim Marshall Photography vaults to find some early and rare examples of Jim’s enduring fascination with all things feminine, iconic and mystique-fueled. 

Here are some that caught our eyes:

- Odetta and Elizabeth Cotton joyful at the rare opportunity to see each other backstage at the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1978. The great Odetta AKA “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement” is cited as the key inspiration in the folk revival of the ’50s and ’60s. She was also a major influence for Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and Mavis Staples.  Elizabeth Cotton wrote “Freight Train,” honed the left-handed guitar style known as “cotton picken” and never played out anywhere but church until she was in her 60s, when she was discovered by the Seeger family working as their housekeeper. Nuff said.

- Mahalia Jackson, one of 13 children, the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall. She sang at President Kennedy’s inaugural ball in 1961 and for 250,000 people at the March on Washington in 1963.  Her good friend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A voice like hers comes along once in a millennium.”

- Anita O’Day, known for shattering the image of “the girl singer.”  She left a broken home at 14, cultivated a tough, cool, jazz hipster image, which was at the time quite unique and risky.  Known for her rhythmic, edgy style, O’Day went on to sing with the Krupa, Herman and Kenton big bands to much fanfare before going solo.  Despite the signature white gloves and late ’60s heroin addiction (which she managed to kick), O’Day was considered indestructible. - Miriam Makeba, born in South Africa and known as “Mama Africa,” popularized African music in the United States and globally. Makeba campaigned against apartheid feverishly for which her citizenship and right to return to her home was revoked. She returned in 1990 after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

A true, old soul Makeba once said, “Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That’s when it hurts.”

We hope these shots may inspire you to learn more about these powerful, elegant, vulnerable, earth-shaking talents, strong women one and all who have in common that for one moment – alone and together – they were caught in the throes of Jim’s wild embrace.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 8:07pm

Janis + Grace + Jim

Jim seemed on good terms with Grace Slick – he respected her, recognized her talent and beauty, seemed to think she was a class act, or at least that’s how he represented it to me – but his real connection was with Janis Joplin. Maybe it was just the alchemy that occurs when one mercurial soul magnetizes another, or his admiration for the sheer raw power of what Janis did on stage, but I think it was the trust she showed him.

IWith those old Leicas firing away, Jim seemed to be able to capture Janis’ light, whether on stage or posed, nowhere more powerfully than his now-famous images of her holding the Southern Comfort bottle on the ratty couch backstage at SF’s Winterland in 1968, one frame smiling and one frame sprawled and despondent.  To her eternal credit, Jim said Janis never once told him when to shoot or what to print.  Zits, bad hair, fat thighs, exhaustion … how many of us could have such faith in a man that we would let him see that “realness?”

When Jim showed Janis the sad-seeming vertical frame from that after-show backstage shoot (which you can see in his first book, “Not Fade Away”) he recalled she said, “Jim, this is how it is sometimes. Lousy.”

Jim always seemed so wistful when he spoke of Janis, even after all the years that passed since she died at age 27, it was like he was permanently sad at the world’s loss. “Janis was wonderful, not the prettiest girl in the world but she was not afraid of the camera. I could’ve shot her anytime at all, ‘Go ahead, baby, and take a picture.’ Janis was very important to me, real and honest.”

And the shots of Janis and Grace show the Jim that’s fascinated with their friendship, determined to debunk the warring rock ‘n roll Queen Bee myth — promoted by record labels and publicists to heighten the hype.  Did you ever wonder why there were no pictures of Janis and Grace together, even when they were on the same bill, or supporting each other’s music?

Again from “Not Fade Away,” Jim recalls the only formal portrait shoot of Janis and Grace: “It was in 1967 for Teen Set magazine for an article on the two Queen Bees of San Francisco Rock. That morning I went over to Grace’s house and then had to pick up Janis. Janis wasn’t in the mood to do any pictures that day, but I begged her and she came along. Everyone always thought there was a huge rivalry between Janis and Grace, but they were dear friends. This is the only time they were photographed together, and by the end of the session, we were all getting pretty silly and clowning around.”

Anybody who spent any amount of (positive) time with Jim realized the man had an intense need for you to see what he saw, hear what he heard and, ultimately, love what he loved.

I always thought it was his rather isolated childhood that made him that way; I always thought he really would have benefited from some siblings, especially a sister or two.  Instead, he went about collecting them, and their moments, and the world is richer for it.

 

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Wed, 03/02/2011 - 8:54pm

Stand By Your Woman

Behind every great man there has to be a great woman or so the cliché goes, and I think at times Jim was a big believer in this idea of selfless support, but more often than not I think he saw through the stereotype to realize the true power and creative spark that catalyzed some amazing women, their men, friendships and the relationships that he was lucky enough to witness. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, the next few blog posts will focus on Jim’s relationship to women artists – both in front of and behind the camera -- and his unique ability to capture the lovely intensity and joy shared among compelling musical icons, their mates and muses.  Personally, I think it’s one of the greatest parts of Jim’s legacy. 

Some of the best examples of Jim’s uncanny ability can be found in his photos of the relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash so beautifully documented in “Pocket Cash,” the last book Jim approved in early 2010 before he passed away in March of last year.   

If you are in San Francisco, New York or London this month and care to see what I’m talking about, you must check out the “Pocket Cash Photo Exhibits” – featuring many never-before-printed images -- launched in support of this project. 

To spur my memory, I just finished thumbing again through my copy of “Pocket Cash,” and there are so many amazing images that capture the profound strength and intense love and support among Johnny and his closest family, friends, musical collaborators and muses -- often one and the same folks. But, to me, it was clearly the bond between June and Johnny that held the most fascination for Jim, and I think he says it best in his afterword to “Pocket Cash": 

“… (Johnny) didn’t suffer fools gladly. He kept a close bunch of friends that were very tight to him. The people who loved him, loved him fiercely, and vice versa. His wife, June Carter, was his lifeline. I remember when they got back together, about a year before the Folsom concerts. He stopped doing drugs. June kept him off the drugs and saved his life. I think the day she died, he died.” 

Interestingly, Jim said he first met Johnny Cash when he was hanging out with Bob Dylan in some Greenwich Village nightclub in 1962. 

Bob Dylan was, perhaps, the best example of this question of trust, love and control among equals.  Jim always said to me that there were two Dylans, the one before his motorcycle crash in 1968 in Woodstock and the one after.  Jim didn’t care much for the post-crash Dylan so it’s no surprise one of the most beloved of Jim’s Dylan shots was taken informally in 1963, just Dylan and his first great love, muse and creative mentor – Suze Rotolo.  Dylan, Suze, Jim, folk singer Dave Van Ronk, his wife Teri and another unidentified gal were just strolling to breakfast one morning in NYC’s West Village, Jim doing his best fly-on-the-wall Henri Cartier-Bresson impersonation.  

Suze Rotolo became an instant ’60s icon as “the girl on Dylan’s arm” on the cover of his huge 1963 breakthrough studio album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” – though she was much, much more than just an appendage.  Active in CORE and the civil rights movements, she helped the boy from Minnesota see “how the other half lived,” inspiring Dylan to write about the brutal 1955 murder of Emmett Till and, when he was pining for her while she was away for two months in Italy, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.”  Suze Rotolo passed away of lung cancer at the age of 67 on Feb. 24.  A great loss.  R.I.P. Suze. 

To me, one of the main things about Jim that was so damn touching is how touched and honored he was to witness love and trust in all its forms.  Keep in mind that I met him when he’d already lived the better part of five decades, yet he was still such a big kid in some ways especially when it came to family and friends. I always felt it was because he was an only child -- and often estranged from much of his family -- that compelled him to be able to see the best and brightest in people, at least some of the time, when he chose to. Or, as Jim would say to me time and again: “When they let me.”

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 8:04pm

Jim, John Coltrane and President Obama

One of the very first prints that Jim ever gave me was a B&W vertical 8” x 10” of a portrait he took of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in 1960.  He gave me “Coltrane” in 1984 and to say I was “woefully ignorant” of jazz music would have been a serious understatement.  I think at that time my idea of a great jazz horn player, if I even had one, would have been Chuck Mangione.   

 To Jim’s eternal credit he never made me feel stupid for what I didn’t know. Rather, he just set about educating me the best way he knew how: show his breathtaking photos, tell intimate stories about the shoot and his feelings for the artist, play favorite and/or relevant album(s) from same artist; wash, rinse, repeat … for literally hundreds and hundreds of images.  I used to tell my friends that after a very short while it was like I could “hear” the music just from the sheer strength of Jim’s images.   

 And, yet, I don’t think I truly grasped how prophetic Jim’s choice of this picture for me was. It's ironic for someone who ended up being managing editor of Windplayer magazine, right?  I guess he could tell I was fascinated by the immense dignity and intensity I saw in Coltrane’s eyes and when he played me that mythic version of “Lush Life,” with Johnny Hartman’s unbelievable singing and Coltrane’s incredible tenor and McCoy Tyner’s piano weaving in and around that voice, it brought tears to my eyes, which then made Jim cry (sentimental bastard that he was). And that was that.   

As much as it pained him, I think deep down Jim knew he was never going to be accepted into “the white man’s world” and that’s why artists like Coltrane and Miles Davis touched him so deeply.  The only child of a single mom, and Assyrian-Armenian to boot, Jim was brought up in serious poverty. His mom held three jobs at times, including working at a laundry, to keep a roof over their heads.  Jim had the acute vision and powerful yearning of someone who was always going to be on the outside looking in, no matter how many world-beating shots he made, or all-access passes he acquired. 

What comes around goes around  

We thought it appropriate to talk a bit about Jim’s relationship to black jazz artists and their affinity for him as Black History Month intersects with this week’s Presidents’ Day.  Most people who know of Jim’s legacy think his career shooting musicians began in the folk and rock worlds of the early ’60s.  His real break came some years earlier photographing relatively unknown but crucially important black musicians in North Beach jazz venues such as The Jazz Workshop.

There was a major difference between the persona Jim showed the public – ultra conservative, gun-toting, racism-spewing, lower-class hating, right-wing nut job – and the real Jim, who was the perpetual outsider looking intensely at the world from behind the mask.  Lucky for all of us, Jim learned to take the mask off and hide behind that Leica M4 instead; that was the Jim who loved Coltrane, Miles, Thelonious Monk, too many to name really, and who was loved in return.    After a gig one evening in San Francisco in 1960, Coltrane asked Jim, “How do you get to Berkeley?”  He had a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle’s legendary music critic Ralph J. Gleason at his Berkeley Hills home the next day and he had no clue how to get there.  Gleason’s bona fides are too numerous to mention (first jazz critic at a U.S. daily newspaper, came up with Monterey Jazz Festival concept, gave Jann Wenner $1,500 to start “Rolling Stone, etc. etc.).  Jim was well aware of Gleason’s crucial role connecting music, culture and politics and, sensing the import of the moment, he offered to drive Coltrane to Gleason’s and was allowed to stay and shoot … and the rest is history.      For the better part of two decades a bit of that history has lived on my walls, lucky gal that I am.  And now a similar Coltrane portrait (an 11” x 14” horizontal version) lives on a wall at the White House.  Jim has a wonderful photo snapped by a White House photographer of President Obama studying the Coltrane portrait intently and on the mat overlay the President has written: “To Jim – I’m a big fan of your work … and Coltrane!”    

I will never forget the look on Jim’s face when he stood in the gallery that was his hallway and looked at that photo of his President studying the Coltrane portrait; there was no mask, no barrier, I just saw awe, humility, and incredible color-blind, bipartisan joy.  Jim looked like he had finally come home.

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