Jim Marshall, the photographer who captured some of rock & roll’s most unforgettable 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 night in New York. He was 74.
After starting 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 and he also shot the Rolling Stones on their historic 1972 tour.
Marshall developed special bonds with the artists he covered and those relationships helped him capture some of his most vivid and iconic imagery. In one of his last interviews, a chat with Rolling Stone last October, Marshall summed up his rapport with rock stars best when talking about Joplin: “You could just call her at home and be like, ‘We have to take some pictures,’ and she’d say, ‘OK! Come over!’ She trusted me and knew I had her best interests at heart. I only wanted to make her look good.”
Marshall was born in Chicago in 1936 and was raised 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. But it was when Marshall returned to the San Francisco in the late Sixties that he produced his most indelible work, taking hundreds of photographs of the Dead, Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Santana. Marshall recalled one rare instance when he photographed an intensely intimate portrait of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin — supposed rivals at the time — at Slick’s home in 1967. “All that shit about them being the fighting queen bees of rock & roll was bullshit,” Marshall recalled. “They got along really well but they had never been photographed together.”
Marshall continued to be prolific even late into his life. Most recently, he snapped portraits of everyone from John Mayer and Ben Harper to Lenny Kravitz and Velvet Revolver. He has published five books, including 2009’s collection Trust. 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.”