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Jim Marshall, whose lens captured some of the most legendary moments of the classic rock era, was found dead in his New York hotel room on Wednesday only hours before he was to be honored at a John Varvatos party. The cause of death could not be learned at press time.
Marshall, age 74, had more than 500 album covers to his credit. His documentation of Woodstock, the Monterey Pop Festival, the Beatles’ final concert and the youth culture of San Francisco produced enduring images of the Sixties, such as Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire at Monterey and Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin.
Marshall lived in San Francisco, where he moved as a boy after being born in Chicago in 1936. He began taking photos as a boy and turned his avocation into a vocation, eventually photographing everything from rock stars for album covers and magazines like Newsweek and The Saturday Evening Post to the Civil Rights marches in Mississippi.
He was in New York because the Varvatos store in SoHo was set to celebrate “Match Prints,” a book of portraits by him and fellow photographer Timothy White. Over their careers, the two shot many of the same celebrities and used related compositions. The book places comparable images, taken from the Fifties to the present, side by side.
Marshall and White were slated to take questions from music writer Anthony DeCurtis and audience members on Wednesday, but in the afternoon John Varvatos e-mailed revised invitations reflecting the changed tone of the occasion, in memoriam of Marshall. Coincidentally Danny Clinch, Varvatos’ ad photographer, had been working on a documentary about Marshall, and agreed to preview some footage.
“We lost one of our closest friends and a cultural icon today,” said Varvatos. “I will miss Jim very much, but his images will not fade away.”