the Backroom



Bob Dylan’s First Album Released Fifty-Five Years Ago

by Chris Murray on March 20, 2017  |  Comments Off on Bob Dylan’s First Album Released Fifty-Five Years Ago

Dylan playing harmonica Bob Dylan playing harmonica, New York City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

Fifty-five years ago on March 19th Bob Dylan’s first album was released, and yesterday I flew to Havana with Ted Russell’s photographs of Dylan for an exhibition at Cuba’s national photo gallery, Fototeca de Cuba. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 opens in Havana on Friday evening, March 24th. The exhibition is organized in association with Govinda Gallery.

Bob Dylan and Mark Spoelstra Bob Dylan with Mark Spoelstra in the basement at Gerde’s Folk City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

Russell photographed Dylan in his first apartment in New York City in 1961 and in performance at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, before the release of his first album. These photographs from the exhibition depict the young folk singer at the start of a most remarkable career.

Bob Dylan adjusting his cap Bob Dylan adjusting his cap onstage, Gerde’s Folk City, 1961. © Ted Russell.

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James Baldwin and Bob Dylan

by Chris Murray on March 9, 2017  |  3 Comments »

James Baldwin writing James Baldwin writing, Istanbul, Turkey, 1966. © Sedat Pakay.

These two remarkable photographs taken in the ’60s of two of America’s great writers are inspiring. Ted Russell’s photograph of Bob Dylan is featured in his upcoming exhibition in Havana at Fototeca de Cuba, Cuba’s national gallery of photography, opening March 24th. Sedat Pakay’s photo of James Baldwin is in the Academy Award-nominated film for Best Documentary Feature, I Am Not Your Negro.

Bob Dylan writing Bob Dylan writing, 161 W 4th St., New York City, 1964. © Ted Russell.

Dylan and Baldwin were together in 1963 in New York City when Dylan was being presented with the Tom Paine Award at the Emergency Civil Liberties Union’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner. Here is a photo of them together at the dinner taken by Ted Russell. One of Russell’s photographs of Dylan and Baldwin is featured in the new documentary film.

James Baldwin and Bob Dylan at the James Baldwin and Bob Dylan at the Emergency Civil Liberties Union’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner, 1963. © Ted Russell.

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Bob Dylan Exhibition in Cuba Organized by Govinda Gallery and Presented by Fototeca de Cuba

by Chris Murray on February 27, 2017  |  2 Comments »

Bob Dylan catching a taxi in Greenwich Village, 1964. © Ted Russell. “Positively 4th Street,” 1964. © Ted Russell.

Bob Dylan is the subject of a compelling photography exhibition in Cuba at their national photo gallery, Fototeca de Cuba. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964, featuring the photographs of Ted Russell, opens on Friday, March 24th in Havana. The exhibition will continue through April 24th. This groundbreaking exhibition is the first in Cuba to depict the legendary musical artist who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ted Russell’s photographs document scenes from Dylan’s first year in New York City in 1961. When Russell began photographing Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village, the up-and-coming folk singer’s first album had not yet been released.

Bob Dylan performing at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village, 1961. © Ted Russell. Bob Dylan performing at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, 1961. © Ted Russell.

In 1963, Russell photographed Dylan at the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee’s annual Bill of Rights Dinner, where he was being awarded the prestigious Tom Paine Award. Ted Russell photographed James Baldwin with Dylan at the dinner where, in his acceptance speech, Dylan acknowledged “all the young people” who were traveling to Cuba at that time.

Russell photographed Dylan in his apartment again in 1964, at which point Dylan had already transformed popular music with songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War, and The Times They Are A-Changin.’ In a series of stunning images from that day, Russell photographed Dylan writing at his desk. After 50 years lying largely dormant in a file cabinet, this unique collection has been brought to light in Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 (Rizzoli 2015). The book includes texts by Ted Russell and Chris Murray, and a foreword by Donovan.

Chris Murray, exhibition curator and co-author of the accompanying book, writes: “This collection of photographs by Ted Russell is a unique document of Dylan’s first years as a musical artist in Greenwich Village. In the photographs, as in Dylan’s music, we can see his conviction and compassion, his humor, and his love of song. We are enriched by this portrait of the artist as a young man.”

Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo in their New York City apartment, 161 W 4th St. Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo in their New York City apartment, 161 W 4th St., 1961. © Ted Russell.

Launch: Friday, March 24th, 6-9 p.m.
Fototeca de Cuba, Mercaderes 307, Plaza Vieja, La Habana Vieja, Cuba.
Admission is free.

About Ted Russell, the photographer:
Ted Russell is an American photographer and photojournalist whose work has appeared on the covers of Life, Newsweek, Time, and New York magazines, to name only a few. Born in London, he worked in Fleet St, Brussels and Frankfurt before moving to New York. Drafted into the US Army, he served as unit photographer in the Korean War. After attending the University of California at Berkeley, he returned to New York and became a regular contributing photographer for Life for over 12 years, and he was later Cover Photo Editor of Newsweek for 11 years. Russell has won numerous awards, and his work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

About Chris Murray, the curator:
Chris Murray is the founder and director of Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C., which represents many of the best fine art photographers and photojournalists in the world who have documented musical artists. Murray has organized over 250 exhibitions of many of the leading artists of our time, from Andy Warhol in the 1970s to Annie Leibovitz’s first exhibition in 1984. He is co-curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition Elvis at 21 and is the author of over fifteen books on visual culture, including Alfred Wertheimer’s Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll (Taschen 2016); The Rolling Stones 50×20 (Insight Editions 2012) and Patti Smith: American Artist (Insight Editions 2006).

About Fototeca de Cuba, the gallery:
The mission of Fototeca de Cuba is to contribute, through systematic and specialized work, to the development and appreciation of Cuban photography, as a way of expressing Cuban national culture; to preserve, promote, exhibit and divulge the photographic heritage that the institution contains in its collection as well as the various manifestations of Cuban photography, attending to the simultaneity of its values in its documentary, testimonial, historical and artistic aspects; both in Cuba and internationally. Likewise, it has the mission of bringing the public closer through various communicative strategies, cultural promotion, etc. and showing the best values of international photography in Cuba, favoring the learning and appreciation of photography among photographers and the general public.

“Here’s something you simply can’t miss: a sublime Bob Dylan exhibition . . . it’s an enriching experience and one we can’t recommend highly enough.”
-Hot Press

Special thanks to Fototeca de Cuba for hosting this exhibition. Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 is part of an ongoing collaboration between Fototeca de Cuba and Govinda Gallery.

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Eric Burdon and The Animals at Montgomery College

by Chris Murray on February 20, 2017  |  1 Comment »

Eric Burdon Eric Burdon, 1970. © Barrie Wentzell.

I was excited to hear that Eric Burdon and The Animals are performing in the area at the Parilla Performing Arts Center on Monday, March 6th. My high school band The Malibooz covered all of The Animals’ great songs during the British Invasion. Burdon was my biggest influence as the singer in my band. He is one of the greatest rock & roll blues vocalists of all time.

It was 50 years ago this year that Eric re-invented the band as Eric Burdon and The Animals. He dedicated their first album, Winds of Change, to George Harrison, whose interest in Krishna consciousness following a visit to India the previous year Burdon cited as an inspiration.

The back cover of Eric Burdon and The Animals album Winds of Change. The back cover of Eric Burdon and The Animals album Winds of Change.

I last saw Eric Burdon and The Animals perform in Amsterdam at the Paradiso in the summer 2013. It was an awesome concert, and here is a link from the Back Room to a post about that show. It will be exciting to see Eric Burdon and The Animals at Montgomery College.

Eric Burdon Eric Burdon. © Marianna Burdon.

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Rolling Stone Magazine’s 50th Anniversary, Donovan, John Lennon and Annie Leibovitz

by Chris Murray on January 23, 2017  |  2 Comments »

The 50th Anniversary issue of Rolling Stone magazine, featuring Emma Stone. The current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, with Mark Seliger’s portrait of Emma Stone on the cover.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine. Like so many people, Rolling Stone has been an essential publication for me. Rolling Stone has also been a major influence on my work as a curator, author and art dealer. Rolling Stone, along with the jackets for vinyl recordings, “album covers,” is what visually inspired me to champion significant photographs documenting rock & roll, blues, soul music and jazz. There is no other publication that has so consistently presented much of the best music photography of our time.

Meryl Streep, 1981. © Annie Leibovitz. Meryl Streep, 1981. This image was on the cover of Annie’s first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs (Pantheon, 1983). © Annie Leibovitz.

It was my good fortune to host Annie Leibovitz‘s first exhibition of her photographs, which was also a launch for her first book. The exhibition and book featured work from the several years that Annie had just spent as chief photographer for Rolling Stone. I bought my first photo of Annie’s in 1984 on the day we hung her exhibition together. It was her now-legendary photo of a naked John Lennon holding on to his wife, Yoko Ono. When I told Annie I was buying that photo, she told me that John had been murdered the same day she took it. Realizing it was a most significant image, I decided to find other photographs of that quality that were related to musical artists and the culture around them.

Since that time, I also had first exhibitions for Baron Wolman, who was the first chief photographer for Rolling Stone, as well as the great photographer Mark Seliger, who became Rolling Stone‘s chief photographer after Annie left.

Inaugural issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, 1967. Inaugural issue of Rolling Stone magazine, 1967.

Donovan, Los Angeles, 1969. © Baron Wolman. Donovan, Los Angeles, 1969. © Baron Wolman.

Govinda Gallery has been representing Donovan and his visual art with exhibitions of his extraordinary Sapphographs in Washington, Athens and Dublin. Donovan is the first Rolling Stone interview and it was published in the inaugural issue of Rolling Stone with his friend John Lennon on the cover. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Andy Green writes a wonderful two-page story about Rolling Stone‘s origins and Jann Wenner‘s creative collaboration with music critic extraordinaire Ralph J. Gleason. In the story in the current issue, Green writes, “At the center was a two-page Rolling Stone interview with Donovan in which he talked about Bert Jansch, the hippie movement, and George Harrison’s recent trip to Haight-Ashbury.”

Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone's offices in San Francisco, 1969. © Baron Wolman. Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone‘s offices in San Francisco, 1969. © Baron Wolman.

My thanks to Jann Wenner who founded and published Rolling Stone and to all the great photographers who contribute to Rolling Stone with their wonderful images.

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Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur

by Chris Murray on December 26, 2016  |  1 Comment »

I was very glad to hear that Joan Baez and Tupac Shakur were selected for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 2017. Those two musical artists are linked together more than a casual observer might realize.

barrie-wentzell_joan-baez Joan Baez, 1965. © Barrie Wentzell.

Joan Baez’s career has been extraordinary. She has one of the great voices of American song. She was also an outstanding advocate for social justice and human rights. She supported the careers and was a friend to numerous musical artists, including Bob Dylan and Donovan.

danny-clinch_tupac-shakur Tupac Shakur, 1993. © Danny Clinch.

Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, like Joan Baez was a committed activist and a member of the Black Panther Party. Tupac’s song Dear Mama is one of the most soulful love songs to a mother I have ever heard. His poetic lyricism and his unique vocal style have made him the first solo rapper to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

I love these photographs of Joan Baez by Barrie Wentzell and Tupac Shakur by Danny Clinch. Their photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Franca Sozzani, Andy Warhol, Bob Colacello and Madonna

by Chris Murray on December 26, 2016  |  3 Comments »

“She had the best eye for photography.” – Peter Lindbergh

franca-sozzani_peter-lindbergh Franca Sozzani, Café de Flore, 2012. © Peter Lindbergh.

© Italian Vogue, February 1991.

25 years ago, Italian Vogue published a feature story on my lifelong friend, Bob Colacello. Bob and I met in college in 1965 at Georgetown University, and have remained friends ever since. The cover story in that issue of Italian Vogue was about Madonna and that feature story had several pages of great photos as did the story on Bob Colacello.

© Madonna, 1990. © Steven Meisel.

Franca Sozzani, who passed away last week, had been editing Italian Vogue for only a couple of years when she published those stories on Bob and Madonna. To look back at that issue now proves what photographer Peter Lindbergh said about Franca’s eye for good photography.

©  Italian Vogue double-page spread, February 1991.

The layout for the story on Bob Colacello opened with a double-page spread of an image of him with his boss at the time, Andy Warhol, and myself, all of us wearing women’s hats for a photo project called American Beauty by Paul Weiss, a student in the photography program at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington.

chris-car
Chris Murray and his 1961 Chysler Newport, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980.
© Chris Makos.

In 1979 I drove Andy and Bob to the Corcoran Gallery of Art for a book signing for Exposures, Andy Warhol’s book of photographs with text by Andy and Bob. I drove them in my 1961 Chrysler Newport. The art director of that project was Chris Makos, who has had six exhibitions at Govinda Gallery.

Paul Weiss approached me at the book signing and asked me if Andy would pose for some photos for his American Beauty project. Andy agreed, and Paul took some terrific photos. Franca Sozzani loved that photograph and featured it in that issue of Italian Vogue.

© Bob Colacello, Andy Warhol and Chris Murray, Corcoran School of Art, 1979. © Paul Weiss.

Fashion stylist Lori Goldstein said of Franca Sozzani and her influence that “She wasn’t trying to be revolutionary. She just was.”

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Howard Bingham 1939-2016

by Chris Murray on December 20, 2016  |  1 Comment »

Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali. © Neil Leifer. Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali. © Neil Leifer.

I heard the news that Howard Bingham passed away last week. Howard was Muhammad Ali’s best friend, since he was Cassius Clay, and he was a friend to me as well. It was because of Howard Bingham that I came to be able to call Muhammad Ali a friend of mine.

People sometimes ask me what was the greatest day ever at Govinda Gallery. There have been so many extraordinary ones but it was the day Muhammad Ali came to Govinda with his friend Howard Bingham that was my favorite day at Govinda Gallery.

© Govinda Gallery Archive. © Govinda Gallery Archive.

When I first met Howard Bingham, I asked him if he would help me celebrate Govinda Gallery’s 20th anniversary with an exhibition of his photographs of Muhammad Ali. He did, and here is a full-page ad for that exhibition in the Washington Review of the Arts. I had Muhammad and Howard sign that full-page for me. When I first showed the ad to Howard Bingham, he was with Ali and he jokingly pointed out to Ali how his name was the big name and Ali’s was smaller. He told Ali with a sly smile and Muhammad pretended he was angry! It was really funny and a great moment between two great friends. I miss them both, but their mutual legacy goes on forever. For me Howard’s passing and Ali’s passing this year mark the end of the Ali era.

Howard Bingham getting ready to sign his book of photos of Ali at his Govinda Gallery exhibition while Ali charms the Govinda Girls with some magic. © Govinda Gallery Archive Howard Bingham getting ready to sign his book of photos of Ali at his Govinda Gallery exhibition while Ali charms the Govinda Girls with some magic. © Govinda Gallery Archive.

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Sunshine Superman Donovan and Jimmy Page at the Albert Hall

by Chris Murray on December 14, 2016  |  1 Comment »

The much anticipated DVD of the Albert Hall concert recreating the entire Sunshine Superman album has just been released by Donovan Discs. Jimmy Page was a surprise guest, having played guitar on the original recording 50 years ago of both mega-hits, Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. What a great gentleman Jimmy Page is.

Beautiful photo of two great friends and two great artists; Jimmy Page and Donovan. At the Gore Hotel after-party, 2011.  © Virgilio Fino. Beautiful photo of two great friends and two great artists; Jimmy Page and Donovan. At the Gore Hotel after-party, 2011. © Virgilio Fino.

Albert Hall live concert Sunshine Superman DVD autographed by Donovan. Albert Hall live concert Sunshine Superman DVD autographed by Donovan.

Check this clip out from the concert of Donovan and Jimmy performing Sunshine Superman.

Donovan talking with the great bass player Danny Thompson with Chris Murray looking on, 2011. ©  Virgilio Fino. Donovan talking with the great bass player Danny Thompson with Chris Murray looking on backstage at intermission at the Albert Hall, 2011. © Virgilio Fino.

Check out more photos and other material from the concert.

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Shoot First – Harry Benson

by Chris Murray on December 14, 2016  |  1 Comment »

The night before last I saw the documentary film, Shoot First, about the life and times of the great photographer Harry Benson. I laughed and I cried as I watched our times flash before me in the film, beautifully narrated by a group of individuals including journalist Carl Bernstein, sports photographer & filmmaker Neil Leifer and Vanity Fair Creative Director David Friend, among others.

chris_shoot-firstjpg Chris Murray with Shoot First poster at Landmark Cinema in Washington. © Carlotta Hester.

Harry is a charming and engaging person who as a photojournalist has documented stories that have affected all of our lives, one way or another. You can’t see this film without leaving the theatre with indelible memories.

Bill and Hillary Clinton. © Harry Benson. Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Governor’s Mansion, Little Rock, AR, 1992. © Harry Benson.

What a pleasure for me to have exhibited Harry’s brilliant photographs over the years at Govinda Gallery, as well as in museum exhibitions I curated, most notably Sound & Vision: Monumental Rock & Roll Photography.

Donald Trump holding one million dollars. © Harry Benson. Donald Trump holding one million dollars at the Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, NJ, 1990. © Harry Benson.

Harry Benson’s photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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