Fated to Die Prematurely

“He was as fated as Byron, Shelley, and Keats to die prematurely, the same as James Byron Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and his famous look-alike, the poet-singer of the perverse, Jim Morrison of The Doors”

Jack Fritscher
Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980

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In Music I Trust

James Joseph Marshall

 
 

“I love all the musicians – they’re like family. Looking back I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”

 

Jim Marshall (1936-2010) was born in Chicago and moved to San Francisco with his family when he was only two years old. There in the City by the Bay he remained during his lifetime. A Brownie camera was one of his first toys. Later he bought a Leica when he was in high school. After coming back from the serving in the Air Force, Marshall met John Coltrane. One day, while he was photographing backstage at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1960, Coltrane asked him for directions to Berkeley. “He asked me for directions to a club,” Marshall said later. “I told him I’d pick him up and take him there if he’d let me take his picture.” This way the visual linkage between Marshall and the best jazz and rock performers was strengthened.

 
 

John Coltrane

 
 

Thelonious Monk & Allen Gingsberg

 
 

Ray Charles

 
 

Miles Davis

 
 

63 marshall

Miles Davies & Steve McQueen

 
 

The Beatles

 
 

The Rolling Stones

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Janis Joplin

 
 

Grace Slick

 
 

Jefferson Airplane

 
 

Jim Morrison

 
 

Led Zeppelin

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

The Who

 
 

Bob Dylan

 
 

Johnny Cash & June Carter

 
 

John Lennon

One-of-a-Kind Garment

China Machado, original photographs from cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. Photos by Bill King

 
 

Harper’s Bazaar cover, April 1971 issue

 
 

Tie-dyed suede shirt by Halston, 1971

 
 

The earliest surviving examples of Pre-Columbian tie-dye in Peru date from 500 to 810 AD. Their designs include small circles and lines, with bright colors including red, yellow, blue, and green.

Tie-dye is a modern term coined in the mid-1960s in the United States for a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques, and for the products of these processes. The process of tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye(s). The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. More sophisticated tie-dyes involve additional steps, including an initial application of dye prior to the resist, multiple sequential dye and resist steps, and the use of other types of resists (stitching, stencils) and discharge.

Tie-dyeing was known in the US by 1909, when Professor Charles E. Pellow of Columbia University acquired some samples of tie-dyed muslin and subsequently gave a lecture and live demonstration of the technique.

Although shibori and batik techniques were used occasionally in Western fashion before the 1960s, modern psychedelic tie-dying did not become a fad until the late 1960s following the example set by rock stars such as Janis Joplin and John Sebastian (who did his own dyeing).

Tie-dying, particularly after the introduction of affordable Rit dyes, became popular as a cheap and accessible way to customize inexpensive T-shirts, singlets, dresses, jeans, army surplus clothing, and other garments into psychedelic creations. Some of the leading names in tie-dye at this time were Water Baby Dye Works (run by Ann Thomas and Maureen Mubeem), Bert Bliss, and Up Tied, the latter winning a Coty Award for “major creativity in fabrics” in 1970. Up Tied created tie-dyed velvets and silk chiffons which were used for exclusive one-of-a-kind garments by Halston, Donald Brooks, and Gayle Kirkpatrick, whilst another tie-dyer, Smooth Tooth Inc. dyed garments for Dior and Jonathan Logan.

The Richard Avedon of Asia

Self-portrait

 
 

Russel Wong is a Singapore-born Hollywood celebrity photographer. He had his primary and secondary education at Anglo-Chinese School. His celebrity portraits have earned him celebrity status. He is heralded as “the Richard Avedon of Asia” –an association Wong doesn’t seem to mind.

Like Avedon, Wong creates stunning portraits that are minimal, dramatic, and brilliantly composed. However, his photographs lack the cool indifference and stiffness of Avedon’s work; instead, the imagery is warm, personal, engaging.

Where does that gift comes from? “It’s difficult to explain”, he begins. “When I shoot someone, I feel like I’m dancing. The idea I’m working with is equivalent to the melody I hear in my head… then I improvise what that song’s ups and downs. I often try something wild at the end.”

The legendary celebrity-photographer the late Richard Avedon [1923-2004] had once sharply noted ‘my portraits are more about me than about the people I photograph’. This observation from the towering figure who chiselled his reputation on photographing the celebrated and the powerful suggests that the portrait-image could reveal as much about the photographer as it does the sitter-subject – or more. Russel Wong [b. 1961-] who (as stated before) has been christened the Richard Avedon of Asia by the popular media, wields an inventory of celebrity portraits that would exhaust most name-droppers. Joining the tradition of celebrity photographers like Avedon, Annie Leibovitz [1949-] Helmut Newton [1920-2004] and Herb Ritts [1952-2002], Wong’s practice ruptures the slender line between celebrity photography and fine art. Whilst some critics banish this genre as a soft art form shaped by the pressures and demands of celebrity publicity machines, most agree that this species of photography remains one of the most potent and most difficult to commandeer. It is one thing to wrestle for access to celebrities and quite another feat to persuade strong self-willed celebrities who are well-acquainted with camera tactics to trust if not share, one’s vision.

Several pivotal shifts in Wong’s practice occurred after his enrollment in the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1984 for a fine art degree (Photography). There he encountered tutors and mentors whose personal charisma and professional triumphs exerted great influence over his formative development. In his second year, Wong made a 4-month ‘immersion trip’ to Milan, Italy – ‘the Mecca, where all aspiring fashion photographers go to, and where all the big-name photographers pay their dues’ [Russel Wong, interview 2004]. Wong learnt the language, ate the food and hung out at the Italian fashion cafes, like The White Bear, where models and photographers congregated. Most importantly, his photographic style and approach changed radically, and these shifts were not lost on his mentors. Amongst these was Paul Jasmin [1935-], the renowned fashion designer and photographer who worked with Vogue and Interview. Jasmin introduced Wong to his agent who also represented Herb Ritts.

The agent subsequently became Wong’s first agent in his career – opening the doors to major magazine assignments. Another seminal figure was Antonio Lopez [1943-1987] the flamboyant Puerto Rican fashion illustrator noted for his portraits of Jerry Hall, Jessica Lange and Grace Jones. Lopez, a cult figure in the circles, had in the 1970s, run a Paris salon with Karl Lagerfeld for fashion celebrities. Lopez noted Wong’s work and connected Wong to the remarkable photographer Art Kane [1925-1995] who had photographed The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan among others.

“Antonio said, ‘Go to New York. I will help you!’ He invited me to his New York studio in Union Square and he called up a bunch of photographers. At the point when Antonio introduced me to Art Kane, I was ready to be an assistant, intern, anything. I didn’t really care, because I just wanted to see what it was like to do real photographic work in a New York loft.
I would have waited tables, carried the photographer’s lights, made coffee… you name it. But it turned out that I didn’t have to do any of that. I don’t know if this is good or bad but I didn’t have to assist any photographer on my way up. They liked my work, and it all began.”
[Russel Wong, interview 2004]

 
 

Antonio Lopez

 
 

David Lynch

 
 

Isabella Rossellini

 
 

Kenzo Takada

 
 

Helmut Newton

 
 

Oliver Stone

 
 

Joan Chen

 
 

John Galliano

 
 

Cindy Crawford

The Embodiment of a National Tragedy

Retroactive I, Robert Rauschenberg, 1963

 
 

Retroactive I is widely considered one of the finest of Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen paintings. Central to the work is an iconic portrait of President John F. Kennedy, a symbol of progress and promise. Ironically, Rauschenberg ordered the silkscreen of this image during the summer preceding the president’s assassination. He overcame his initial reluctance to use it following the trauma of November 1963, in part because he was committed theoretically to a non-hierarchical interest in all phenomena in the world around him. Nothing, however, can separate the power of this image from its emblematic reading as the embodiment of a national tragedy.

 
 

Skyway, Robert Rauschenberg, 1964

 
 

Signs, Robert Rauschenberg, 1970

Steven Meisel: Rock The House

Carolyn Murphy: Courtney Love. Jake Schroeder: Kurt Cobain. Dylan Schroeder Murphy: Frances Bean Cobain

 
 

Fanni Bostrom: John Lennon. Audrey Marnay: Ringo Starr. Tasha Tilberg: Paul McCartney and Trish Goff: George Harrison

 
 

Ben Northover: John Lennon. Devon Aoki: Yoko Ono

 
 

Omahyra: Prince

 
 

Karolina Kurkova: Marilyn Manson

 
 

Cyrille Victor: Jimi Hendrix. Matt Duffie: Jim Morrison. Karen Elson: Janis Joplin

 
 

Crew of models: The Rolling Stones

 
 

Hannelore Knuts: David Bowie. Diana Meszaros: Angela Bowie

 
 

Sophie Dahl: Debbie Harry

Crumbs Off a Master’s Table

Robert Crumb’s Self-portrait

 
 

Walt Kelly

 
 

Popeye, The Sailor(1933)

 
 

Uncle Scrooge

 
 

Harvey Kurtzman’s comic

 
 

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Robert Crumb, being as irreverent as he is, made his first sketches imitating the candid contours taken from animated characters created by E. C. Seglar (Popeye), Walt Kelly (Pogo), Carl Barks (Donald Duck) and many more artists from the same batch. What better source for a young boy, whose only amusement and motivation relies on comic books and nothing else?

 
 

Crumb brothers

 
 

This delight was fomented by Robert Crumb’s older brother, Charles. But it was Robert, who, on a most uncommon occasion, asserted his authority on Charles and pressed him to point toward a new direction. Eventually, Robert, Charles and Maxon (the younger brother who is also a talented illustrator) drew scenes from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Crumb brothers’ newly created version of the novel was presented to the rest of “Crumb Comic Company” members: Carol and Sandy; their sisters. Those times would be joyous for the party of five; the sons and daughters of Charles Vincent, their draconian U.S. Marine and Beatrice, their ultra-catholic mother with family ties to Andrew Jackson.

 
 

Girl Standing at the Window (1925), Salvador Dalí

 
 

Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by the Horns of Her Own Chastity (1954), Dalí

 
 

 
 

Robert Crumb was born on August 30, 1943, in Philadelphia, the city where America declared its independence from the English crown and fittingly, Robert declared his own independence as soon as he could. At an early age he liberated himself from the religious beliefs and severe discipline that would be a spanner in his childhood works. Crumb did serve in the Army, though little of that time is worth noting.

Crumb’s personal and artistic transcendence occurred when he was still very much an introverted and shy boy. But like Stevenson’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, young Robert turned into a fearless ‘monster’ while he was drawing. That peculiar hormonal boiling, felt by every adolescent, ran alongside society’s collective interest in sex which was in the air at that time. 1955’s Kinsey Report and the debut of Playboy magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and centerfold in 1953 literally thrust the topic of sex squarely in the public eye.

There are some critics who have vehemently compared him with the great satirists François Rabelais, Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain. The fact is, nobody can be indifferent in front of a Crumb drawing (you love it or you hate it). Due to the polarized reception of his work, he has been wrongly accused by some of misogyny, meanness and downright immaturity. That lack of understanding is actually due to the overwhelming honesty expressed in his drawings. For someone with a narrow, square mind it might be uncomfortable or difficult to digest Mr. Crumb’s autobiographic Epicureanism, as it is rife with explicit sexual connotations. As for subjects, style and generation, he is closer to Henry Miller, Céline, Norman Mailer and Charles Bukowski (who Crumb would later collaborate with). To a man, none of the aforementioned has been known to be interested in pleasing well-mannered crowds or being politically corrects.

 
 

 
 

In his youth, Crumb often showed his classmates the comics he was doing. In one of those panels was the prototype of what later became the milestone character from the crumbianesque iconography: Fritz the Cat. (Initially titled Fred the Cat.) He kept the idea in the inkwell until 1965, when he decided to publish it in Help!, a magazine by James Warren. A year before, Crumb illustrated his Big Yum Yum Book, which he drew in 1963 and which was finished the year he met Dana, his first wife.

Help! showcased several artists whose works were part of the counter-culture movement of the comic underground: Skip Williamson, Gilbert Shelton and Jay Lynch. Along with Crumb they would quake the foundations of comics, a land heretofore strictly reserved to children and teen readers but not anymore. Before Help! Crumb launched Foo, a humorous fanzine inspired by Mad. As a staunch follower of Harvey Kurtzman, illustrator and director of Mad, Crumb concocted a plan to get an interview with Kurtzman, who was impressed enough that he employed him at the subversively juvenile magazine.

 
 

Mr. Natural

 
 

In 1967 he moved to the hippie movement epicenter, San Francisco, where Mr. Natural was born. Philadelphia’s Yarrowstalks had provided the fertile ground from which would spring, Mr. Natural. Throughout this period, Crumb tried hard to be hip; he wanted to enjoy free love, but alas, he couldn´t get laid. He claimed he didn’t fit in because he looked like a cop from the “vice squad.” Janis Joplin (by this time, he had drawn the artwork for Big Brother and The Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills album cover) once asked him: “Crumb, what’s the matter, don’t you like girls?” She advised him to get with the program; grow his hair long, wear billowy shirts, satin jackets and platform shoes but Crumb, an iconoclast, refused to wear the fashions of the day.

 
 

 
 

Although he eschewed the trappings of hippiedom, Crumb experimented heavily with LSD. It was while he was having a “bad trip” in 1965 or 1966 thereabouts, that Robert Crumb’s style of drawing changed radically. He began sketching characters that were more cartoonish, wearing high-heel shoes and images he never drew before. Crumb’s comic artwork started to elicit harsh commentary. Numerous critics cited his pictures of overly sexualized women, often in subservient roles, calling him “the chief sexist of underground comics”. It could be said that on one hand, due to the LSD, he lost consistency but, on the other hand, he was able to create comics thoughtlessly. He didn’t give a damn if they were silly. He only cared about his sordid epiphany and those ideas were immediately accepted. Psychedelic and hippie aesthetic were in bloom all around Fog City.

 
 

And talking about shoes, in 2009 Crumb collaborated with a collection for Vans. Model Sk8 Hi (Mr. Natural‘s artwork featured on both the upper and the sole) and Slip-on (Fritz the Cat art extended all over the upper)

 
 

Despite the smashing success of the film and the societal borders it overstepped (it was the first “X Rated” animated movie), Crumb loathed the cinematographic adaptation of Fritz the Cat (1972), directed by Ralph Bakshi. During the seventies Crumb and his second wife, Aline Kominsky, lived in isolation on a farm far from the city. Aline shared his passion for illustration. During this time, somewhat surprisingly to those who didn’t know him, Crumb opted not to design a sleeve for The Rolling Stones. He was developing an autobiographic comic book based on his troubles with women. He admitted cynically that those troubles finished when he finally achieved his fame.

Robert Crumb is a famous, if compulsive, collector of early blues recordings and he founded his own old-timey revival band, R. Crumb and His Cheap Suits Serenaders in which he plays the banjo. Serendipitously, thanks to his addiction to old recordings, Crumb would meet Harvey Pekar at a record shop. Together, they would create the epic comic book American Splendor (1976) with Pekar writing the text and Crumb illustrating the panels.

In March 1981, Crumb created the comics anthology, Weirdo. After only ten issues, Crumb handed over the direction of the magazine to Peter Bagge who had approached him with the same youthful exuberance which Crumb had exhibited when he met Kurtzman at Mad. After 17 issues, the editorial reins went to Crumb’s wife, cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb (except for issue #25, which was again edited by Bagge). The three editorial tenures were known respectively as Personal Confessions, the Coming of the Bad Boys, and the Twisted Sisters.

In 1993, Crumb and Aline settled down in a small village near Sauve, in the south of France. It was there that Terry Zwigoff went looking for Mr. Natural’s author to get permission for Zwigoff to do a documentary about his life and work, simply titled Crumb (1994). The film was critically acclaimed, winning the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at 1995’s Sundance festival, Best Documentary 1995 by the National Board of Review and many other awards for non-fiction and documentary films. Zwigoff would continue to pay homage to Crumb in Ghost World (2000), his adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ eponymous graphic novel. Zwigoff added a character into the plot: Seymour, a blues music collector performed by Steve Buscemi.

Crumb-Kominsy couple conceived an “editorial child”, Self-Loathing Comics. It is, as the name suggests, a dark humor series about their experiences in the French village where they live.

In 2012 Crumb appeared on 5 episodes of John’s Old Time Radio Show where he talked about old music, sex, aliens, Bigfoot and played 78rpm records from his record room in Southern France.

Although Robert Crumb is not publishing as often as he used to, whenever he does it, he never disappoints the gourmands of Made in USA comics.

 
 

 

English grammar corrections by Paul Klees

I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed


Janis Joplin in Pearl ‘s album sleeve. Photo: Barry Feinstein, 1970

 
 

I taste a liquor never brewed —
From Tankards scooped in Pearl —
Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

 
 

Amy Winehouse

 
 

Inebriate of Air — am I —
And Debauchee of Dew —
Reeling — thro endless summer days —
From inns of Molten Blue —

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door —
When Butterflies — renounce their “drams” —
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats —
And Saints — to windows run —
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the — Sun —

 
 

Poem #214

Emily Dickinson

Janis and Bobby

Janis Joplin’s Self-portrait

 

Janis and Robert Crumb

 

Drawings by Robert Crumb

 
 

“Yeah, Janis, she was my buddy—poor thing. She was a very talented, gifted singer, but she got sidetracked by fame and her life went into a disastrous tailspin. In her last days she was surrounded by sycophants and music business hustlers just full of bad advice for her. She was young and, in spite of her tough, hard drinking exterior, she was innocent. She just wanted to please the crowds, who got excited when she screamed and stomped her feet and carried on histrionically on stage. The crowd loves a good show. The drawing of her that you have here is a remake of an earlier drawing I did of her back in 1969 when she was still alive. It presents this screaming showbiz Janis as she came to present herself to the public, the Janis that sweated blood to please the crowds. But personally, I think she was a better singer years before that, when she sang old time Country music and Blues in small clubs. She was great then, a natural born country girl shouter and wailer in the good old-time way. Just my opinion.”
 
Robert Crumb. November, 2008

 
 
 
“Sad case, very sad case. She tried to act like she was hard and tough, but she wasn’t at all. She was soft and vulnerable. She drank a lot, and got a lot of bad advice. She was surrounded by vultures and vampires and scoundrels, and they just did her in. She finally ended up face-down in her own vomit alone in some hotel room; too much heroin and alcohol, 27 years old.
 
Fame killed her. She couldn’t handle it. It was awful. The last time I saw her alive she had just bought this big fancy redwood mansion somewhere in Marin County. She had this big housewarming party and she invited me and Wilson. So we show up and there are hundreds of people there. And I didn’t even get to talk to her because, guess why? Because she had this circle of people around her that was impenetrable. A circle around her so tight, I could only stand on my toes and wave to her and she waved back and that was it. That was the last time I saw her.
 
Gilbert Shelton knew her when she was completely obscure in Texas, when she was still singing old time music. She was great at that! Gilbert played these tapes for me once of Janis singing with this country band, and it fit perfectly with her style, I thought. Because she’s a real redneck shouter, you know. But much later, after Big Brother and Holding Company, I think she was getting some bad advice in the music industry. They wanted her to sound more like, you know, Aretha Franklin, or I don’t know, somehow more sophisticated and black or something. But she still screamed and hollered because that’s what the audience liked. And she really wrecked her voice doing that.

When I first met Janis in the spring or summer of 1968, she was already a big deal in the Bay Area, I don’t know about the rest of the country. But it was easy to be around her. She was a regular gal, you know, and she was kinda homely. I mean, I was always extremely intimidated by beautiful women, and since Janis was like this plain, regular gal, she wasn’t intimidating to be around at all. I didn’t see her all that much. She liked to drink too much, and get high too much. She hung around this group of girls – not when I first met her, but like a year or so later – this group of women who were really hard-assed and scary. They sort of attached themselves to her and they were into, you know, hard partying and drinking. They were sort of rough and tough and challenging, a little bit feminist but with a tough girl attitude. Like, ‘What can you show me? What kind of man are you? Can you out-drink me? I bet you can’t. I bet you’re just a pussy.’ That kind of thing. They were kind of intimidating. There was this one girl named Sunshine. She was a hard case. Another one named Pattycakes. [laughs] And Janis had this other friend who was kind of her bodyguard, this big girl who looked rather masculine, but she was the nicest one actually. She was sort of Janis’s valet after she got famous. But these people just attached themselves to Janis like leeches. But that’s what happens when people get famous. And Janis, she was kind of innocent, she didn’t know what was going on completely. She was young and naive, insecure and all that stuff. But you had to like her because she was very vulnerable kind of person. Not a tough person really. But you know, like I said, she tried to act tough, but she really wasn’t. But those other people around her, they were tough, hard cases; hustlers, hangers-on, opportunists.”
 
CRUMB ON OTHERS, Part Three

Crumb’s comments on the famous and infamous, compiled by Alex Wood.

 
 

 Janis and Kris Kristopherson

 

Kris Kristofferson did not write Me and Bobby McGee for her friend and lover Janis Joplin. In the original version of the song, performed firstly by the country singer Roger Miller, Bobby was a woman. Sex and a few of the lyrics were changed in order to Janis’s cover. Kristoferson states that he drew inspiration from the film La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954).

 
 

Janis Joplin (The Painter)

“I always wanted to be an artist, whatever that was, like other chicks want to be stewardesses. I read. I painted. I thought.”

 
 

 Laura

 
 

 Janis and her younger sister Laura, circa 1970

 
 

Nude
 
 

Jack

 
 

The Judy Garland of rock, as she was named by Rolling Stone magazine, giving the final touch to one of the drawings she made in her childhood

 
 

Scarecrow

The Two Queen Bees of Rock



 
 
“In the beginning, the rock world was all Adams and no Eves,” Newsweek commented. But now, “the typical rock group resembles a beehive, three or four drones humming around a queen bee.” Two “queen bees” singled out by Newsweek are Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. “There would be no Big Brother & the Holding Company without Janis Joplin and her nuclear-powered blues delivery,” the magazine noted.
 
Miss Joplin joined the four-man group in 1966 and transformed it into “an acoustical aphrodisiac.” She said: “The tenor of the band is different now. The guys are starting to sing and there is something to build around: me.” Miss Slick, who sings and writes for the
Jefferson Airplane, has “a crystalline contralto that could haunt a house… and [is] author of two of its most brilliant songs, ‘Rejoice’ and ‘White Rabbit’.” She explained that she got more attention than the rest of the Airplane because “if you had a group of five cows and one pig, you’d look at the pig because he was different.”
 
BMI Magazine, March 1968

 
 

jj22gracejanis

 
“This shot of Grace Slick and Janis was taken in 1967 for Teen Set magazine for an article on the two Queen Bees of San Francisco Rock. That morning I went over to Grace’s house and then had to pick up Janis. Janis wasn’t in the mood to do any pictures that day, but I begged her and she came along. Everyone always thought there was a huge rivalry between Janis and Grace, but they were dear friends…. by the end of the session, we were all getting pretty silly and clowning around.”
 
“Not Fade Away”
Jim Marshall