Rock Photographer Guy Webster Dead at 79
Guy Webster, the photographer behind classic album covers from The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Doors, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, and more, has died. He was suffering from diabetes and liver cancer in the months before his death on February 5, and his death was confirmed by Webster’s biographer Harvey Kubernik, as Rolling Stone and Variety report. He was 79.
“Guy Webster established his reputation as a photographer capable not only of capturing the emotional nuance of the era, but also helping to define it, with shots of hundreds of personalities before they were legends,” Kubernik shared in a statement with Rolling Stone. “A slew of album covers Guy snapped in 1965 and ’66 of The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, The Doors, Love and The Byrds altered my life along with the sounds I investigated inside the cardboard.”
Born into show business with an Oscar and Grammy Award-winning father, songwriter Paul Francis Webster, Guy Webster made a name shooting the photos seen on Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, the Doors’ Waiting for the Sun, the Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!, the Rolling Stones’ Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle, the Mamas and the Papas’ Deliver, and more. In addition to album artwork, he also photographed individual portraits for Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Herb Alpert, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many, many more.
“I never meant to be a commercial photographer. I was going to be a fine art photographer,” Webster told Kubernik. “[Record producer] Terry Melcher said, ‘Hey, let’s do an album cover for The Rip Chords.’ And I was still in school It was for their Three Window Coupe album, with their song ‘Hey Little Cobra’…Terry actually got me started thinking, ‘I can shoot some album covers and make some money.'”
Webster’s involvement in rock music spanned from 1964 to 1971, during which he shot the cover photos for albums like the Beach Boys’ Smile sessions, Love’s Da Capo, Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk, the Mamas and the Papas’ If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, Nico’s The Marble Index, and more. Kenneth and Harvey Kubernik published their retrospective book Big Shots: Rock Legends and Hollywood Icons in 2014, featuring a forward written by Brian Wilson. In addition to his rock photography, Webster shot iconic celebrity portraits of Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and more.
“My dad was loved by all,” Webster’s daughter Sara told Variety. “He was a people’s person and touched the lives of so many. He will be greatly missed and we are heart stricken that he left us so prematurely but rejoice in the thought that he had a fucking awesome life!”