If I ever had a dream job it would have been that of “Photographer of the Rock Gods”, such as Jim Marshall had from the time he first picked up a Leica camera in 1959 up until his death this week at age 74. By chance one day in 1959, he photographed jazz legend John Coltrane as he was asking for directions to Berkley and soon thereafter Jim realized his calling in life. He photographed many of the greats including The Stones, Dylan, Janis, Jimi Hendirx, The Allman Brothers, The Who, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis and the Beatles. He had the good fortune of not only being back stage during the shows and the glamour, but also photographing them when they were doing all of the mundane things we all do as mortals such as eating breakfast, sitting in a lounge chair or “flipping the bird” in anger. Many of the iconic images of musicians and music festivals that you may have seen in magazines, posters and album covers were captured by Jim and his Leica Rangefinder throughout the years. His most recognizable image is that of the Beatles entering Candlestick Park in 1966 for their final concert.
In 2004 I entered a photo contest sponsored by Leica Cameras. When I found out that Jim Marshall would be one of the judges, I strategically submitted one of my black and white photographs of a young woman lighting a candle to John Lennon’s star on the walk of fame during the annual John Lennon Memorial. I was not as much interested in the grand prize (a new Leica M7) but rather the opportunity to meet Jim Marshall, show him some of my work and possibly chat about those great photo sessions of The Beatles and Johnny Cash. Although I received an email informing me I was one of the finalists, I never heard back from them again. The winner was a photo student who had traveled to the mountains of Turkey and had photographed a group of centenarian women spinning yarn. I just jumped on the Red Line subway to Vine Street and walked up to Capitol Records for my photograph of the Lennon Memorial. Rest in Peace Jim, you are now with many of the rock gods you captured on good old fashioned Film.