Jim Marshall, the legendary San Francisco photographer who captured some of rock & roll’s most unforgettable early images including photos of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at Monterey Pop and Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin, died in his sleep last Wednesday night in New York. He was 74.
According to Rolling Stone, Aaron Zych, a manager at the Morrison Hotel Galleries in New York City, confirmed Marshall’s death on Wednesday. Zych says Marshall had been scheduled to appear at another gallery on Wednesday night to promote his new book with celebrity photographer Timothy White and apparently died alone in his sleep in his New York City hotel room.
Marshall had more than 500 record album covers to his credit. He began his career as a professional photographer in 1959. Marshall was given unparalleled access to rock’s biggest artists, including the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Who, Miles Davis and Ray Charles. He was the only photographer granted backstage access for the Beatles’ final full concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966.
Marshall was born in Chicago in 1936 and grew up in San Francisco. He purchased his first camera in high school and started documenting the artists and musicians in San Francisco’s burgeoning beat scene. After serving in the Air Force, Marshall returned home, where he had a chance encounter with John Coltrane: when Coltrane asked him for a lift, Marshall obliged and the jazz legend returned the favor by letting Marshall shoot nine rolls of film. Soon after, Marshall moved to New York and was hired by Atlantic and Columbia to shoot their artists at work in the studio, including Dylan and Charles. When Marshall returned to the San Francisco in the late Sixties he produced what are known as his most classic works, taking hundreds of photographs of the Dead, Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Santana.
Presenting Marshall with the MOJO Image Award at 2005’s MOJO Honours List ceremony, fellow photographer Anton Corbijn said, “I like myths and I like truths, but above all I love someone who can capture both in one photograph.”
Marshall, who had no children, was passionate about his work up until the end. “I have no kids,” he said. “My photographs are my children.”