Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Stories Behind Iconic Rock Star Photos Taken by Henry Diltz

In the world of Rock n' Roll photographers, there are none as extraordinary as Henry Diltz. A founding member of the Modern Folk Quartet, Diltz is as much at home as a musician on tour, as he is a visual historian of the last four decades of popular music.

He began taking pictures with a $20 second-hand Japanese camera purchased while on tour with the Modern Folk Quartet. When MFQ disbanded, he embarked on his photographic career with an album cover for The Lovin’ Spoonful. Despite his lack of formal training, Diltz easily submerged himself in the world of music: the road, the gigs, the humor, the social consciousness, the psychedelia, the up and down times.

For over 40 years, his work has graced hundreds of album covers and has been featured in books, magazines and newspapers. His unique artistic style has produced powerful photographic essays of Woodstock, The Monterey Pop Festival, The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jimi Hendrix and scores of other legendary artists. Here are stories behind some of his iconic shots...

Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and David Crosby, 1969. They decided to be Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) after this photo shoot was taken. When they all went back to retake the photos, the building had been torn down. This became their first album cover.

The Eagles, 1972. The band staged a Desperado photo shoot in Joshua Tree for their first album. This action shot was the back cover of that album. In the documentary History of the Eagles, Glenn Frey revealed that the band were all on peyote when the pictures for the album cover were shot.

The Doors, 1969. Ray Manzarek and his wife Dorothy were driving through downtown L.A. when they saw Morrison Hotel. When the band went to shoot photos there, the guy behind the desk told them they needed the owners permission, and that he was out of town. So, Diltz and the band shot photos in front of the window and when the guy left the desk they ran inside and got this photo.

Paul and Linda, 1971. This photo ended up on the cover of LIFE magazine. LIFE was doing an article on Paul and they wanted a photo of The Beatles, but Paul wanted a photo of himself because he had just gone solo. Diltz knew Linda McCartney when both were photographers in New York. She called him to take some pictures of Paul and her for the songbook for Ram, but they liked this photo so much that they sent it to LIFE for the cover.

Joni Mitchell, 1970. This photo was taken in Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood located in the Hollywood Hills region of Los Angeles, California.

Neil Young, 1971. He's pictured at his northern California ranch with his dog.

Richard Pryor, 1968. This photo was the front cover of comedian Richard Pryor’s first album, which he titled Richard Pryor.

Jimi Hendrix, 1969. Jimi Hendrix playing at Woodstock. “I got to stand on the stage: it was real bizarre and psychedelic,” Diltz remembers.

James Taylor, 1969. This iconic photo of James Taylor was the album cover for Sweet Baby James. The photo shoot took place at Cyrus Faryar’s farm, which Diltz describes as a creative commune that was out in the hills in L.A. Diltz was told by Taylor’s manager to just take black and whites, but Diltz liked the image of Taylor's blue work shirt against the barn, So I said, 'Don't move, James.' And I got my color camera, took a couple of shots just for myself. And that became the cover of Sweet Baby James.

Linda Ronstadt, 1968. Ronstadt was a musical "chameleon." She won numerous awards and experimented in country, rock, jazz and opera. This photo was taken in Santa Monica, Calif.

John Sebastian, 1969. John Sebastian wrote that fantastic Nashville classic, Nashville Cats. I love that song. I had met John when I photographed Lovin' Spoonful in '67. I spent a whole summer traveling around on the road with the Lovin' Spoonful. Then a few years later, they had broken up and John moved out to L.A. and lived on the Farm. He moved there and set up a tent. Among the people that lived at the Farm was a lady named Tie-Dye Annie. She taught John how to tie-dye. He got so into it that he ended up tie-dyeing every single piece of clothing that he owned, including his sheets, his pillowcases, even the sheets he hung inside the tent he lived in.

Poco, 1970. I photographed Poco for their 1970 album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, that looked like an orange crate label. Timothy B. Schmit [pictured above in the striped shirt] was the young, long-haired guy that played the bass in Poco and years later became one of the Eagles. They've always been really good friends of mine. Richie Furay lived on a big ranch in the mountains above Boulder. We all got up there one day and took a bunch of photos.

James Taylor, 1969. [Taylor's] manager, Peter Asher, called me one day and said, 'I've got this new singer who just came over from England. Will you come over to my house and take some black-and-white publicity photos?' We went to my friend [and fellow Modern Folk Quartet member] Cyrus Faryar's farm, sort of like a creative commune that was out in the hills in L.A. They called it the Farm. I just went there because there were these old sheds, barns that I liked to photograph against. That was one of my favorite trucks that I photographed a number of times. I just said, 'Go stand by that truck,' and he sat on the running board.

Joni Mitchell, David Crosby and Eric Clapton, 1968. Diltz's camera captured a famous picnic in Cass Elliot's backyard, Feb. 25, 1968: She invited Eric Clapton to come and meet some friends, 'cause he didn't know anybody, Diltz recalled. And she invited David Crosby, who brought his young protégé, Joni Mitchell, who sat and played her entire first album before anyone heard it before.

Buffalo Springfield, 1969. A musician himself, Diltz was invited by Stephen Stills to his band's sound check at a club in Redondo Beach: And as I was shooting this big mural on the back of the club, thinking that'll be great for the slide show, they come walking out the back door, he recalled. And I said, 'Hey, you guys. Just stand there for a minute.' And a couple days later Teen Set magazine called and said, 'We hear you have a picture of the Buffalo Springfield. We'd like to run that in our magazine. And we'll pay you $100.' I went, 'Oh my God!' His new career was launched.

(All photos © Henry Diltz)

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