Tag Archives: Janis Joplin

Michael Friedman’s Rock Photos: “Exposed”

Michael Friedman has done a lot in his 78 years.

The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate produced “Hello, It’s Me.” He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) the careers of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.

He sold Americana and folk art. He owned the Ash Creek Saloons in Fairfield and Norwalk, along with Darien’s Goose restaurant.

With such varied careers — and so much going on — he could be forgiven for losing the negatives of photos he took half a century ago.

They were not random snapshots of the Friedman family at the beach, or their naked newborn in a bathtub.

These were up close, personal — and superb — shots of some of the biggest names in the music world.

Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. All are artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.

In 2016, his wife Donna stumbled upon them. They’re remarkable — not just for their power and professionalism, but because they’re atypical musician images.

They’re much more human. Freidman took his photos as a friend, not a “photographer.”

But he was a damn good one, for sure.

Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos.

He displayed them at a pop-up gallery the next year, in Bedford Square. Developer David Waldman offered him the space, after seeing one photo and hearing his stories.

Janis Joplin (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The show was well received. The photos were shipped to the California Heritage Museum, then to a year-long exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Attendees in LA and Cleveland repeated what Westport gallery-goers said: Michael should compile them into a book.

More than 5 years later, that daunting project is almost complete.

“Exposed: The Lost Negatives and Untold Stories of Michael Friedman” is in the Kickstarter phase — almost ready to print. Many of the 100 photos have never been seen — not even in the photographer’s shows. They’re accompanied by essays and explanatory text.

It was a long process. One of the hardest parts was figuring out exactly where each photo was taken, and when.

Donna spent many of hours researching. For example, a shot of an outdoor concert with Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge looked like a college — but there were no records they performed outside, on a campus.

Finally, Donna saw a photo online of a building that matched one in the background. The site: Columbia University.

Friedman also had no idea where he took a well-composed image showing a mother, child, VW bus and police officers.

Eventually, he and his wife realized the police officers were not Americans. They followed that rabbit hole all the way to the 1970 Festival Express in Toronto. They found a documentary film from 2003, which showed the same scaffolding behind the bus.

Friedman’s essays complement the photos. They are short but insightful portraits of nearly everyone he’s met in the music industry, from mega-stars to mighta-beens.

The essays also provide context for his life — including his introduction to rock music, as a Westport boy growing up in the 1950s.

He describes Mike Borchetta, the Staples High School student who brought Bo Diddley and Harvey & the Moonglows to town (and who asked 15-year-old Friedman to take over as drummer, when the Moonglows’ percussionist passed out drunk).

Harvey & the Moonglows gave Michael Friedman a signed photo. Leader Harvey Fuqua told their stand-in drummer: “Mike, you count to 4 good for a white boy.”

Friedman writes about his time with Westport’s first rock band, the Schemers (with lead singer Barry Tashian, later of the Remains).

Prodded by Donna, he brings the reader into the photos. “People want to know what it was like to be 25 years old in 1968 — in the middle of the music business,” he says. “I want them to take the journey with me.”

But it’s the photos that take center stage. The Stones on stage. Janis Joplin chatting in a hallway. Todd Rundgren in the studio. Levon Helm being Levon.

Michael Friedman with a photo of Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.

Those images fill the 233 pages of “Exposed.”

Michael gives his wife — who found the negatives in the first place — credit as “curator, director, producer, editor, consultant and psychiatrist” for the project. “She had a clear picture in her mind, of how to put it all together.”

Unwilling to cede creative control to an agent or publisher, the Friedmans are self-publishing.

It’s a risky — and costly — venture. But it’s in fitting with Michael’s multi-varied career.

And his personal philosophy, honed in the music business and articulated by his longtime friend Kris Kristofferson: “By not having to live up to other people’s expectations, I was somehow free.”

(To see the Kickstarter page for “Exposed,” click here.)

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Michael Friedman Enters The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

You saw them in a pop-up gallery on Church Lane.

You know the photographer: Michael Friedman. The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate had a long career in music. He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.

Nearly 3 years ago, he discovered an astonishing series of photos he’d taken almost 50 years earlier.

Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny  Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. Tom Rush. Professor Longhair. Paul Butterfield — all were artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.

Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos. Each was up close, and personal.

Michael Friedman in the Church Lane pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.

After the Westport show, the photos headed to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

Now they’re in Cleveland — at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The exhibit includes the guitar that Janis Joplin played on “Me and Bobby McGee” in concert. Friedman’s photos of her with the instrument — which she used onstage only twice, and only for that song — are the only ones known.

Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” guitar, with his photo of her.

It took more than a year for the exhibit to come together. His wife Donna Vita provided invaluable help.

Now it’s up, and attracting great attention. After the ribbon-cutting, Friedman was interviewed live by chief curator Karen Herman, at the Hall.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview.

Friedman’s exhibit runs for 6 months. Yet when it ends, it’s not over.

His entire collection of over 100 images will be archived, in perpetuity.

Which makes sense. As Neil Young sings, “Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die.”

(Click here to see many of the photos on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

Musical Memories: The Sequel

Wednesday’s “06880” post about Bo Diddley‘s appearances in Westport sent Mike James scrambling for his scrapbook.

Sure enough, there it was: a ticket to one of the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer’s local shows. With an actual autograph from the star. (He apparently called himself “The Man.”)

Bo Diddley ticket - Michael James

St. Anthony’s Hall was on Franklin Street (you can read all about that history here.)

Meanwhile, Michael Friedman — the Staples grad who inspired that “06880” story — e-mailed me a few of the many photos he’s taken over his long musical career.

From Bo Diddley to Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger and Johnny Winter, he’s seen it all.

Janis Joplin (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Janis Joplin (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Edgar Winter and Janis Joplin (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin (Photo/Michael Friedman)

The Rolling Stones perform at a Hell's Angels concert in California. No, it wasn't Altamont. (Photo/Michael Friedman)

The Rolling Stones. (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Hello, it's Todd Rundgren. (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Hello, it’s Todd Rundgren. (Photo/Michael Friedman)

Clive Davis In Westport: From Janis And Springsteen To Lorde

After  nearly 6 decades in the music business, there’s little that surprises Clive Davis.

Yet when the 6-time Grammy winner, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and discoverer/promoter of megastars ranging from Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin to Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson sits down for a public conversation with Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis, Davis never knows what he’ll be asked.

Clive Davis - The Soundtrack of My Life hcThe 2 men co-authored The Soundtrack of My Life, a memoir about Davis’ long, astonishing life in the music business. They’ve done the Q-and-A format a few times before, and it’s always fascinating.

Westporters get their chance to see it this Friday, May 2 (7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School auditorium) — for free. It’s part of the Westport Library’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts series.

Davis has plenty to talk about. An orphan who earned a full scholarship at New York University and went on to Harvard Law School, he rocketed from general counsel at Columbia Records to presidency of the company.

He discovered Joplin at Monterey Pop. He’s worked with Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Arrowsmith, Alicia Keyes, Simon & Garfunkel, Miles Davis, Rod Stewart and Kelly Clarkson. His influence has extended from Columbia Records to Arista, J and now Sony Music.

Recently, I pretended I was DeCurtis. I asked Davis a few questions, like how he’s managed to stay fresh in a career that’s spanned Janis Joplin in the 1960s, and American Idol stars like Hudson today.

“I love the industry, or else I wouldn’t still do this,” he said. “Music is a natural passion for me.” At the same time he’s combing through tapes and videos of old Whitney Houston, he’s excited about signing The Voice’s 18-year-old Avery Wilson.

Davis still mourns the premature death of Houston. He is proud of discovering the crossover artist — who sold over 200 million records worldwide — and helping her develop her natural creativity.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis' heart.

Janis Joplin had a piece of Clive Davis’ heart.

Joplin’s career also ended far too soon, Davis said. In just a couple of years, he took her from “Piece of My Heart” to “Me and Bobby McGee.” He regrets never knowing what “that voice and unique talent” could have accomplished had she not died at 27.

Davis was on hand at the beginning of Springsteen’s career, too. The executive “stood back in awe” as the Boss honed his performance skills. Ever the businessman, Davis is now in awe of Springsteen’s “great concert grosses.”

Of course, no music industry mogul — not even a Hall of Fame honoree — is infallible. Davis passed on signing John Cougar Mellencamp, believing him to sound too much like Springsteen.

Davis always called that a big mistake — until Mellencamp told him he was right. “I auditioned for you way too early,” Mellencamp said. “At that time I was very heavily influenced by Bruce. Rest easy.”

Davis is 82 now, but his finger on the pulse of popular music remains strong. He called electronic dance music “not the healthiest trend,” because it has slowed the development of strong voices and held down albums sales.

Clive Davis

Clive Davis

But — pointing to artists like 17-year-old Lorde — he looks forward to the pendulum swinging back.

“I think there are individual artists out there with something to say. We have to make sure the next Dylan or Springsteen will be heard — and with albums, not singles. I think there’s great promise for that.”

Clive Davis will discuss all that — and more — in Westport on Friday. He’ll have interesting answers to Anthony DeCurtis’ provocative questions — whatever they may be.

(Clive Davis’ Malloy Lecture on May 2 is free — but registration is required. Click here for your seat.)