Encouraged by Her Mother

Photo by Mark Seliger

 
 

Natalie Merchant was born October 26, 1963, in Jamestown, New York, the third of four children of Anthony and Ann Merchant. Her paternal grandfather, who played the accordion, mandolin and guitar, emigrated to the United States from Sicily; his surname was “Mercante” before it was Anglicized.

When Merchant was a child, her mother listened to music (primarily Petula Clark but also The Beatles, Al Green, Aretha Franklin) and encouraged her children to study music, but she wouldn’t allow TV after Natalie was 12. “I was taken to the symphony a lot because my mother loved classical music. But I was dragged to see Styx when I was 12. We had to drive 100 miles to Buffalo, New York. Someone threw up next to me and people were smoking pot. It was terrifying. I remember Styx had a white piano which rose out of the stage. It was awe-inspiring and inspirational.” “She [her mother] had show tunes, she had the soundtrack from West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961) and South Pacific (Joshua Logan, 1958). And then eventually… she’d always liked classical music and then she married a jazz musician, so that’s the kind of music I was into. I never really had friends who sat around and listened to the stereo and said ‘hey, listen to this one’, so I’d never even heard of who Bob Dylan was until I was 18.”

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Here Comes the Sun

Time Magazine cover. December 10, 2001

 
 

George Harrison. Photo by Mark Seliger, Los Angeles, 1992

 
 

“Here comes the sun (du du du du)
Here comes the sun
And i say
It’s alright
Little darling
It’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling
It feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun (du du du du)
Here comes the sun
And i say
It’s alright
Little darling
The smiles returning to the faces
Little darling
It seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And i say
It’s alright
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes (five times)
Little darling
I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling
It seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And i say
It’s alright
Here comes the sun (du du du du)
Here comes the sun
It’s alright
It’s alright”

 
 

Here Comes the Sun is a song written by George Harrison from The Beatles‘ 1969 album Abbey Road.

This is one of Harrison’s best-known Beatles contributions alongside Something and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The year 1969 was difficult for Harrison: he had quit the band temporarily, he was arrested for marijuana possession, and he had his tonsils removed.

Harrison stated in his autobiography, I, Me, Mine:

Here Comes the Sun was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton‘s house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote Here Comes the Sun.”

 
 

Handwritten lyrics to Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison

 
 

As Clapton states in his autobiography, the house in question is known as “Hurtwood.” When interviewed in the Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Clapton said he believed the month was April. Data from two meteorological stations in the London area show that April 1969 set a record for sunlight hours for the 1960s. The Greenwich station recorded 189 hours for April, a high that was not beaten until 1984. The Greenwich data also show that February and March were much colder than the norm for the 1960s, which would account for Harrison’s reference to a “long, cold, lonely winter.”

The song was covered by Peter Tosh in 1970 and released as a single, though was not widely available until its inclusion on Can’t Blame the Youth in 2004. In 1971, Harrison performed the song during The Concert for Bangladesh. Also in 1971, Nina Simone recorded Here Comes the Sun as the title track to her cover album released that year. American folk singer Richie Havens saw his 1971 version reach No. 16 in the U.S. The most successful UK cover was by Steve Harley, who reached number 10 with the song in 1976. Naya Rivera and Demi Lovato performed the song, as Santana Lopez and Dani respectively, in Glee ’​s fifth season episode Tina in the Sky with Diamonds. Their duet version appears on the album Glee Sings the Beatles.

To listen to this song, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

The Weight of Epitaph

Rolling Stone. Issue No. 683,  June 2, 1994

 
 

In a special edition to remember his life and legacy, Rolling Stone put a close-up photo of Kurt Cobain staring at the camera on its June 4, 1994 cover. That photo, shown at right, was taken at the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo (Michigan) on Oct. 27, 1993, according to Rolling Stone and Kalamazoo Gazette archives.

“On good days, Kurt was talkative and eager to play,” says former Nirvana publicist Jim Merlis. “On bad days, no one could make you feel so uncomfortable without saying a word.” October 27th, 1993, was a good day. Nirvana were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, ten days into a U.S. tour promoting In Utero, and Kurt Cobain was excited about that night’s show; two of his favorite bands, the Meat Puppets and the Boredoms, were joining the bill.

And Cobain’s daughter, one-year-old Frances Bean, was in the entourage. She had been shuttling between Nirvana gigs and a studio in Atlanta where her mother, Courtney Love, was recording Hole’s Live Through This. “Just the sight of Frances could change his whole attitude,” Merlis says of Cobain, who was in such a buoyant mood that afternoon he happily sailed through a long Rolling Stone cover session with Mark Seliger.

 
 

Rolling Stone No. 628, April 1992

 
 

Seliger had already shot Cobain on a bad day, for a 1992 cover story about Nirvana’s manic overnight stardom. “Kurt was very resistant,” Seliger recalls. “He didn’t want to be publicized. He didn’t want anything but to be true to his fans and to the music.” To emphasize his discontent, Cobain wore a T-shirt with the now-famous homemade inscription corporate magazines still suck. Twenty months later, in Kalamazoo, Cobain was ready to laugh at the irony of Nirvana’s superstardom. “We arranged to have Brooks Brothers suits as a response to their success,” says Seliger. “Kurt thought it was really funny. He loved it.” Cobain also posed in a female cheerleader’s outfit, complete with pompoms.

But before taking those photos, Seliger also quickly shot individual frames of each band member. And in this commanding close-up of Cobain’s steady, wary gaze, he caught the insecurity, frustration and mistrust that still gnawed at the Nirvana frontman. Two days earlier, in Chicago, Cobain had spoken frankly of his teenage rock & roll dreams and his ongoing war with fame. “I never wanted to sing,” he told Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke. “I just wanted to play rhythm guitar — hide in the back and just play.” But when the big time hit him, in the fall of 1991, he said, “It was so fast and explosive. I didn’t know how to deal with it. If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.” Still, he insisted, life was good and getting better: “I just hope I don’t become so blissful I become boring. I think I’ll always be neurotic enough to do something weird.”

Six months later, on April 8th, 1994, Cobain was found dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot, in a room above the garage at his Seattle home, and Seliger’s portrait, first published with Fricke’s interview, carried the weight of epitaph, on the cover of Rolling Stone‘s special issue commemorating Cobain’s life, music and tragic death.

 
 

 Caption: “Originally an inside opener for Rolling Stone cover story of Nirvana in conjunction with the release of “In Utero”, my first Polaroid (with negative) was by far the most emotional and revealing of his spirit. Two months later Kurt died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head. This photograph became the memorial R.S. Cover”

 
 

Near the Stairways

When celebrity photographer Mark Seliger acquired the old brick building at the corner of Charles Street and the West Side Highway (New York City) in 1997, his friends couldn’t understand why he wanted a place in such an unfashionable area, across the street from rotting piers on the Hudson River and not far from the infamous meat-packing district. The building had been built as a factory in 1852, and Seliger had it gutted and rebuilt (an immensely expensive job) but a little over a year after buying it he had it operating as a state-of-the-art studio. Today the meat-packing district is filled with fashion boutiques, chic restaurants, and upscale hotels. Across the street from the studio, a luxury apartment development designed by Richard Meier is going up. “I went from being the stupidest person on earth to being the smartest,” shrugs Seliger.

During the remodeling, an old elevator was disassembled and taken out, leaving an empty shaft that, to the photographer’s delight, was topped with a 20×30-foot skylight. Seliger had a wooden platform built into the shaft, creating a private space upstairs from the main studio — a small, quiet place defined by the texture of its brick walls and flooded with creamy light. Inevitably, he began taking his celebrity subjects into the rebuilt space, now part of a stairwell, to photograph them.

“Every time I had a session where there was time to shoot someone in there, I’d do it,” says Seliger. “It became another option — when I would run out of ideas for what I was going to do with someone in the studio, I would take them upstairs.”

 

Manon

 

Julia Roberts

 

Heidi Klum

 

Iman

 

David Bowie

 

Mick Jagger

 

Lou Reed

 

Chris Martin

 

Paul McCartney

 

Luciano Pavarotti

 

Mihail Baryshnikov

 

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

 

Mel Brooks using a comb to make a Hitler moustache

 

Adrien Brody

 

Liam Neeson

 

Lenny Kravitz

 

To watch more pictures taken by Mark Seliger (and Lenny Kravitz’s I Belong to You music video, also directed by Seliger), please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Fashion’s Mike Nichols Moment

WORKING GIRL (1988)

“Tess, this is business.” Georgina Chapman as Sigourney Weaver and Keren Craig as Melanie Griffith.

 
 

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (1966)

“You’re not man enough. You haven’t the guts” Winona Ryder’s Elizabeth Taylor with Marc Jacobs’s Richard Burton

 
 

THE GRADUATE (1967)

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re… trying to seduce me”. Prabal Gurung’s Dustin Hoffman with Diane von Furstenberg’s Anne Bancroft

 
 

Photos by Mark Seliger. Harper’s Bazaar, February, 2011

Vanitas in Modern Times

Skull series by Irving Penn

 
 

Cecil Beaton, Self-portrait

 
 

Manasse

 
 

Duane Michals

 
 

Mark Seliger

 
 

Guido Mocafico

 
 

Hedi Slimane

 
 

Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit, which symbolizes decay; bubbles, which symbolize the brevity of life and suddenness of death; smoke, watches, and hourglasses, which symbolize the brevity of life; and musical instruments, which symbolize brevity and the ephemeral nature of life. Fruit, flowers and butterflies can be interpreted in the same way, and a peeled lemon, as well as accompanying seafood was, like life, attractive to look at, but bitter to taste. There is debate among art historians as to how much, and how seriously, the vanitas theme is implied in still-life paintings without explicit imagery such as a skull. As in much moralistic genre painting, the enjoyment evoked by the sensuous depiction of the subject is in a certain conflict with the moralistic message.

Child Is The Father Of The Man

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

Gabriel García Márquez

 
 

Popeye and Friends (1911),  Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine

 
 

Kate Moss with children. Photos by Bruce Weber

 
 

Drew Barrymore as scout by Mark Seliger

 
 

French kids imitate Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks in Nice (France) by Milt Hinton, 1981

 
 

Bob Dylan and kids,  Liverpool, England, 1966. Barry Feinstein

 
 

Donovan. Photo credit: Chris Walter, circa 1965

 
 

Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention. Art Kane, circa 1968

 
 

For this Life magazine session, Art Kane wanted to portray the musical group as a family and took the idea of mothers — and their babies — as a theme.  He gathered some of the musicians’ infants, then booked about thirty more from a modeling agency.  As soon as they began to shoot, one of the babies urinated, which inspired the others to do so as well, creating in Kane’s words, “the fountains of Rome.”

 
 

Brotherhood, Art Kane

 
 

Norman Rockwell at Oak Mountain School (Georgia)