Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits
Photographer Rowland Scherman, who grew up in Pelham Manor, NY, began his career as the first photographer for the newly formed Peace Corps in 1961. He went on to work for the likes of Life, Time, National Geographic, Playboy, and countless other magazines.
As far as Rowland is concerned, he views himself as "the Forrest Gump of Photography," consistently stumbling into the right place at the right time—and he was there to document some of the most iconic moments of the 1960s and 1970s. Rowland told The Gothamist about his iconic photograph cover of "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits," which won him a Grammy Award.of
This photo was taken at the Washington Coliseum in 1966. Me and the wife went up there and we had pretty good seats, but I could see that there was some backlash stuff happening and I wanted to go where that was. So I said, 'I'll be right back!', and I went backstage. They said 'nobody backstage' and I said, 'Get out of my way, Life magazine.'
I was a hardworking freelancer at the time; I had a lot of photos in Life, but I wasn't there that night on assignment. I wouldn't be denied and they finally gave in and let me go backstage. I shot about 6 or 7 or 8 shots, click click click click, and I could see that he was so happy. He was playing the harp, his hair was all backlit, and you know, that color, bang bang bang. And I said, 'Okay, that's it, I can't top that, thanks a lot' and I went back to my seat. Then the pictures turned out as good as they did—you really couldn't miss with that stage lighting.
I took them up to John Berg, the art director at Columbia—he'd done dozens of album covers, and he looked through this stack, which was only about an inch-thick stack of slides, and the third one he picks up, he said, 'That's the next cover.' It happened faster than i just told you about it.
Dylan had no direct input in it. It was in his contract that he could veto any picture he didn't like. But this was actually in between contracts. He got another contract a month or so later, but in between contracts he didn't have the chops to change it.
John Berg, smart as he was, blew it up big and cropped it real tight and flopped it so his face was looking the other way, and then wrote the type in the top of his head. It was my idea to shoot it backlit, and this may be the first backlit album anywhere. But it was his design that really made it as strong as it was.
I heard at some point that Dylan didn't like it. But for his "Greatest Hits Volume 2," he picked a picture that looked just like this one. Berg said, 'You little bastard, you didn't like the first one and then this one's the same picture,' and Bob sort of shuffled around and looked embarrassed or something. I guess he knew he was wrong the first time, because that picture really did illustrate a big section of the 60's: Dylan with his hair and his harp and his halo.
I got paid three hundred bucks for shooting that album cover. Three hundred bucks. In 1966, that wasn't bad dough, it was a couple of months rent.
The cover photograph of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits won the 1967 Grammy award for "Best Album Cover, Photography". The original album package also included Milton Glaser's now-familiar "psychedelic" poster depicting Dylan. A similar image taken at the Concert for Bangladesh by Barry Feinstein, in 1971 was selected for Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, a compilation Dylan had much more control over. John Berg, Senior Art Director at Columbia Records, recognized that a backlit image such as Scherman's would work because of Dylan's unique sartorial style. It was his design, as well as Scherman's photo, that won the Grammy.
See also: Rowland Scherman
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