The impulse to do AMERICAN MUSIC, writes famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, “came from a desire to return to my original subject and look at it with a mature eye. Bring my experience to it…make it a real American tapestry.” Her ambitious idea became AMERICAN MUSIC, a stunning collection of photographs of the musicians, places and people that enrich the landscape of American music.
As Rolling Stone’s chief photographer for over thirteen years, Leibovitz created a legendary body of work. Her portraits of some of the world’s most talented musicians capture more than the performer, they convey the art of making music. For AMERICAN MUSIC, Leibovitz traveled across the country to juke joints in the Mississippi Delta, honkytonks in Texas, and jazz clubs in New Orleans “to take pictures in places that mean something.” In her signature style, she shares stunning portraits of American greats -- B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Beck, Bob Dylan, Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi, S teve Earle, Ryan Adams, Miles Davis, Etta James, Pete Seeger, Emmylou Harris, Tom Waits, The Dixie Chicks, Dr. Dre, The Roots and many more.
AMERICAN MUSIC includes a commentary about the American Music project by Leibovitz, short essays by musicians Patti Smith, Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, Mos Def, Ryan Adams, and Beck as well as biographical sketches of all the musicians.
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It looks like a gorgeous nostalgia trip to judge by the cover image alone. The photo is of an old school record player that lies unplugged, a white label test-pressing waiting on the turntable, while a band of paper wrapped around the cover announces the title in ye olde woodblock-looking type, American Music. A reading of the small type on the back cover reveals the image to be the very record and turntable left in Elvis Presley’s bedroom the day he died, and the mind reels, thinking about whether the King listened to this record on that day or not, and who are the Stamps, anyway? An excellent selection of musician portraits interspersed with crumbly wooden jook joints and wide open fields in the South, American Music covers a wide gamut of jazz, blues, punk, country, hip-hop, rock and roll, folk and gospel musicians. And while most of the pictures were shot between 1999 and 2002, some go back to the early 1970s, when Leibovitz first became Rolling Stone magazine's chief photographer. Some of the artists are very well-known (Michael Stipe, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan) and some of them are not (Jessie Mae Hemphill, Other Turner, Carlos Coy). Leibovitz really has a way of relaxing her performers, and this is a great part of her gift. Even when the pictures are so posed as to be ridiculous (like, what's Michael Stipe doing on that bedbug-ridden mattress—-the guy's a billionaire?), she catches her subjects at their most "real." They are lost in their music, or just doing some "real person" thing (look, there is Beck in his car—does Beck really drive his own car?). The presentation may be a little hokey, but this book is sure to please most any music fan. --Mike McGonigalAbout the Author:
ANNIE LEIBOVITZ is one of the most celebrated and admired photographers of our time. She began her work photographing for Rolling Stone magazine and quickly established a reputation as a chronicler of popular culture, eventually becoming a contributing photographer at Vanity Fair and Vogue. Her first book, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, was published in 1983. In 1999 she published the bestselling Women, with a Preface by Susan Sontag, for which the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington exhibited a selection of portraits in conjunction with the hardcover publication.
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