Jim Marshall was born in 1936 and grew up in the Fillmore district of San Francisco. As a kid he fell in love with music, and by the time he was a teenager he was a permanent fixture in the North Beach coffeehouses. There a decade later, he began to photograph resident artists in natural light and mid-gesture.
Marshall’s response, both emotional and photographic, was strongest to the jazz and folk musicians. Not surprisingly, the first money he earned from his photography came from the sale of a musician’s portrait; Riverside bought a picture of Bev Kelly for twenty-five dollars and used it on the back of an album cover.
Since then, Marshall has photographed the world’s pre-eminent jazz, country, folk, blues and rock musicians, always with the greatest respect and affection. During the most extraordinary times yet for popular music, Jim Marshall seemed to be everywhere that mattered; an informal portrait of John Coltrane, a boyish Bob Dylan kicking a tire down a New York street, Hendrix immolating his Strat at Monterey Pop, The Who greeting the sunrise at Woodstock, Johnny Cash flipping a big F-you at the warden of San Quentin, The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East, and Miles Davis at the First Isle of Wight Festival.
Jim lived the life alongside his subjects and never betrayed their trust; he was granted second-to-none access. Marshall was the only photographer allowed backstage to what proved to be The Beatles’ final concert at Candlestick Park. Jim’s photos from the Monterey Pop Festival became as woven into the lore of the ‘60s as the breakout performances of Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding. Jim also captured moments of unguarded intimacy, such as Janis Joplin lounging backstage with a bottle of Southern Comfort and Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix strolling the Monterey fairgrounds. Marshall documented Johnny Cash during his ground breaking concerts for prison reform, at Folsom and San Quentin Prisons.
With over 500 album covers of the great musicians, and, thousands of photos of GRAMMY Award winners of the 20th century to his credit Jim Marshall has been a dominant force in bringing popular music to the masses. For every year of the GRAMMY Awards, from Count Basie and Winton Marsalis, Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne, BB King and Lenny Kravitz, Frank Sinatra and John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and Miriam Makeba, Eric Clapton and Ben Harper, there has always been a GRAMMY Award Winner who was photographed by Jim Marshall.
The evidence is the explanation: a body of work in which each picture describes the musician’s character rather than Marshall’ ego. Jim said it simply, “It’s never just been a job it’s been my LIFE.”