Grammy Award-winning art director Tom Wilkes, who helped design the iconic covers for the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet and Neil Young’s Harvest, died of a heart attack in his Pioneertown, California home on June 28th, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the last decade, Wilkes also suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Wilkes was 69.
Wilkes was also the creative force behind album covers like George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Concert for Bangladesh, the Flying Burrito Brothers’ Gilded Palace of Sin, Eric Clapton’s 1970 self-titled debut and Janis Joplin’s Pearl, which featured Barry Feinstein’s photographs of the singer days before she overdosed, the LAT writes. Additionally, Wilkes notably served as art director for the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, creating many of the famed festivals’ iconic posters and graphics. Wilkes won a Grammy in 1973 for Best Recording Package for his stunning pinball image for the London Symphony Orchestra’s version of the Who’s Tommy.
Wilkes “was able to capture a certain essence of what was on the record and the person who made it,” Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke told the LAT. “The magic and the sort of importance of album design was to be able to catch the eye, to try and get a sense of what the music and the personalities were inside and also make you want to buy it,” Fricke said. “You look at something like Neil Young’s Harvest, the texture of the cover and that very simple, almost antique lettering, and you get a feel of what Neil was trying to do in that record, the honesty and the grit and the deep Americana of what that record represents now.”
Rolling Stone continues to celebrate the underappreciated art of album cover design — check out more stories on LP covers here: