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Classic Photos of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin Celebrated at Gallery Opening

July 18, 2008 12:56 PM ET

Last night in New York, the Morrison Hotel Gallery opened its doors to showcase the first morsel of Sony BMG's legendary archives. The newly released photographs, mostly taken by unsung music photographer Don Hunstein, reveal intimate details from Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio recordings. Tony Bennett, in front of his own fulsome smile, noted, "These are pictures of a great time in music — the Fifties and Sixties. It was horrible that they tore down the 30th Street Studio, with all the history, all the talent that happened there." Through the collection however, 30th Street lives on in images like Billie Holiday singing with a half-burned, unfiltered cigarette and Bob Dylan curiously plucking at a Fender bass. Rock photographers Mick Rock and Bob Gruen perused photos of the Brubeck crew snapping their fingers the first time they ever heard "Time Out," while Paul Ellington stood before an image of his grandfather, cross-armed and looking aimless the year he won three Grammys. The real focus of the room, however, was Aretha Franklin. People seemed to gravitate toward the evocative portrait of the then-18-year-old Lady Soul gazing meditatively beyond the slanting mike before her. "It's not who she is, it's about the expression in her eyes," Gruen said. "In these pictures, you can hear Bennett laugh; you can hear Dylan sigh. These pictures have feeling. That's why they're so good."

Photo Gallery: Dylan, Franklin and More at Columbia's 30th Street Studio

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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