Photographer Profile ~ Bob Gruen

Bob Gruen is one of the most well-known and respected photographers in Rock and Roll. From Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones; Elvis to Madonna; Bob Dylan to Bob Marley; John Lennon to Johnny Rotten, he has captured the music scene for over forty years in photographs that have gained worldwide recognition. Shortly after John Lennon moved to New York in 1971, Gruen became John and Yoko’s personal photographer and friend, making photos of their working life as well as private moments. In 1974 he created the iconic images of John Lennon wearing a New York City t-shirt and, standing in front of the Statue of Liberty making the peace sign - two of the most popular of Lennon’s images.

 Bob Gruen has worked with major Rock acts such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Elton John, Aerosmith, Kiss & Alice Cooper. In 1989, he documented the epic trip to Russia of the “Moscow Music Peace Festival” featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. For many years Bob was the official photographer for the New York New Music Seminar, covering dozens of aspiring new bands in the course of a summer week. As chief photographer for Rock Scene Magazine in the ‘70s, Bob specialized in candid, behind the scenes photo features. He toured extensively with the emerging punk and new wave bands including the New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones, Patti Smith Group and Blondie.

 This seminal body of work reflects a profound commitment and long-standing personal friendship with the artists. His wealth of personal experiences and uncanny memory provide the most illuminating and comprehensive histories of rock youth culture. In the spring of 2007 FAAP University in Sao Paulo, Brazil presented an installation of Bob Gruen’s work. Titled ROCKERS, the exhibition attracted 40,000 visitors. [Via morrisonhotelgallery]
The Rock ’n’ Roll Mona Lisa Image of John Lennon in NYC/1974
The T-shirt photo shoot didn’t seem particularly portentous, Mr. Gruen said. It was August 1974, and Mr. Lennon phoned while recording the “Walls and Bridges” album to say he needed some shots for the cover package. Mr. Gruen showed up at Mr. Lennon’s East 52nd Street apartment — this was during the couple’s separation — and started snapping the musician on the penthouse’s terrace. Then he noticed the skyline.
“Do you still have that T-shirt I gave you?” he asked Mr. Lennon. (Mr. Gruen had at least seven of the shirts, which he considered part of his uniform. He used to buy them in Times Square and cut off the sleeves with his Buck knife.) Mr. Lennon retrieved it from his bedroom, they shot a few rolls and the session was over.
The photo became famous only in 1980 when Mr. Gruen selected it to be displayed in the Central Park band shell for Mr. Lennon’s public memorial. Mr. Gruen thought it was the perfect image to reinforce Ms. Ono’s point that Mr. Lennon loved the city and that it bore no responsibility for his death. “Yoko always said, don’t blame New York for John’s death,” Mr. Gruen said. “John died in New York because he lived in New York.”

Led Zeppelin, NYC, 1973
The Clash, Boston, MA, 1979
Mick Jagger & John Lennon. New York City 1972. Photo by Bob Gruen
Kiss, NYC, 1975
 Bob Dylan, NYC, 1974
Debbie Harry, NYC, 1977
Sid Vicious,1970
 Iggy Pop, Cyrinda Fox, David Bowie & Lisa Robinson, NYC, 1977
 Joan Jett

Kiss, NYC, 1974

 Joan Jett
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Pete Townshend, NYC, 1973
Alice Cooper & Salvador Dali, New York City, 1973

“People ask me how do I get to be friends with musicians,” Mr. Gruen said. “How do you get to be friends with anybody?” He thinks about it for a moment. “Joe Franklin used to say, ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.’ ”
 Mick, John & Yoko
Johnny Rotten & Sid Vicious, US Tour, 1978
Sid and the suits
 Kate Moss, Johnny Depp & Iggy Pop, London, England, 1996

Keith Richards, Tina Turner & David Bowie, NYC 1983

 Iggy Pop & Debbie Harry, in Toronto, 1977
Debbie Harry with Debbie Harry

Alice Copper ~ Baby Doll On Sword' Madison Square Garden NYC 1973
“Bob Gruen was a part of the entire rock scene, as much as any band, really, because he was one of those guys that everybody really liked,” Alice Cooper says in the Letts movie. “And he always seemed to get the money shot.”

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Wendy O williams of the Plasmatics
Sex Pistols - Sid Vicious, San Antonio, TX, 1978
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New York Dolls, NYC, 1972
Mick on stage
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, NYC, 1972, by Bob Gruen
Keith Richards, NYC, 1981

The Ramones
 Queen, NYC, 1977
Sex Pistols, Luxembourg, 1977
 Sex Pistols, Luxembourg, 1977
 Sid Vicious, USA, 1978
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Sex Pistols, London, England 1976
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Robert Plant, NYC, 1975
 The Clash, NYC, 1981
 The Clash, England, 1980
 Debbie Harry, England, 1980
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Debbie Harry, NYC, 1977
Joe Strummer of the Clash, 1981
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Steven Tyler, London, England 1976
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Jimmy Page, NYC, 1977
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AC/DC, NYC, 1977
Ramones, NYC, 1975
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Paul Stanley, Tokyo, Japan, 1977
Jimmy Page, NYC, 1975
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Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, NYC, 1972
David Bowie, NYC 1974
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Bob Marley, NYC 1976
Elvis Presley, NYC, 1972


Madonna, NYC, 1985
Michael Jackson, NYC, 1988
Tina Turner, Paris, France, 1984
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David Byrne & Andy Warhol, NYC, 1978
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Ace Frehley, Japan, 1978
John Lennon & Yoko, NYC, 1973
John Lennon & Yoko Ono, NYC, 1972
Yoko and friends, 1985
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Debbie Harry - Blondie, Coney Island, NY, 1977

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Guitar in Gutter, NYC, 1975

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