Jim Marshall Gets Grammy Posthumously

While you might not recognize the name, you've surely seen his photos over the years. Jim Marshall was a photographer of rock stars, and shot primarily with Leica gear. In fact, the background of his website features a huge Leica background. He had extended access to numerous musicians through the 1960s and 1970s, including being the only photographer allowed backstage at The Beatles last concert, and chief photographer at Woodstock. He's photographed the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream, The Who, Allman Brothers, Miles Davis, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane - the list goes on and on. Over on the Grammy website, they've got a news blurb called "Trustees Award: Jim Marshall" featuring a tribute by Henry Diltz and Graham Nash.

There's an interesting background piece on TOP called "Artists Ain't Saints: Jim Marshall, 1936-2010." The Washington Post ran this story when he died on March 26, 2010. There's also an in-depth piece over on Autoweek called "Cars, guns and cameras: The life of Jim Marshall" - which happens to feature Leica Store LA which will hold an exhibition of his work.

One of Jim Marshall's Leica M4s

Jim Marshall was my guru. He told me so himself. He was the guru of most of today's music photographers because he was one of the first and one of the best. His mantra was "Get the picture!"

I met him in the mid-'60s. He worked mostly in San Francisco and I worked mostly in L.A., but our paths crossed at the Monterey Pop Festival and at Woodstock, and then more often as the years went by.

There are many colorful adjectives that come to mind when remembering Jim: irascible, impatient, explosive, but always very, very kindhearted. He liked to drink and tell stories and he loved pretty women. "Cars, guns and cameras always get me into trouble," he used to say. He brooked no denial as he waded right in with his little Leica clicking quietly and constantly. His eye was amazing as he caught the essence of each scene before him. His subjects loved his energy and commitment to the moment. He was always very much in the moment.

I had always known Jim for his photos of San Francisco's rich music scene: the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Santana. I knew his famous photo of Johnny Cash giving the finger (a message to the warden of the San Quentin State Prison), but I was totally unprepared for the breadth of his subject matter the day I walked into a gallery in L.A.'s Bergamot Station that was exhibiting his work. There were several big rooms whose walls were completely covered with his photos from floor to ceiling with no space in between. I saw old blues singers, civil rights marches, baseball players, famous comedians, beatniks, hippies, and jazz musicians. I never saw so many pictures on a wall in my life. That huge collection of images is his living gift to us all.

Jim had no family as long as I knew him; his family was his friends, all of whom have hilarious and harried "Jim" stories they love to share. Some involve guns, some involve drugs, all involve the "F" word (his favorite), and all include an awe and a warm feeling for the man we all loved.

We still love you, Jim!

— Henry Diltz

The world is a better place because of the talent and vision of my friend Jim Marshall. He, of course, took countless iconic photographs over the years and always brought a deeper insight into the world of photography and music. His images can be likened to haiku poetry: everything in its proper place … no "extra" information … only the very essences necessary to convey what he wants us to see. Never one to be dissuaded from a good shot, he opened our eyes to the wonders of his portraits. Jim's images always have a sense of completeness and his ability to compose instantly is renowned. It's possible that I took the last portrait of Jim shortly before his untimely passing. Jim may be gone but his images will absolutely stand the test of time and be around for us to see and enjoy for years to come.

— Graham Nash