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Annie Leibovitz: American Music Hardcover – October 28, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 McGonigal


Praise for American Music

“[Leibovitz] explores more deeply than ever the landscape of America’s sound, from a New Orleans funeral to a Baptist church to an empty juke joint.”
Vanity Fair

“Leibovitz’s approach to both celebrity and non-celebrity musicians is remarkably consistent . . . [Her] conception of glamour is anything but aloof. She situates her subjects right there in front of you.”
The New York Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505072
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 1.2 x 12.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary MacDonald on December 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Gee. I've never heard that poor aesthetic quality is an essential element of art. I'm not even sure what "poor aesthetic quality" means. But if it describes the heartbreaking, iconic portrait of Johnny Cash and June Carter, then I surely want more of it. These are beautiful, sometimes funny and often emotionally moving pictures in which the subjects collaborate with the artist to present a certain face to the world. Maybe not all the faces are completely honest ones, but they're interesting and beautifully photographed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just saw this exhibit at our MoMA, and the work is outstanding. Some of the images are color, some black and white. There are a number of styles and artists, ranging from the very famous to those unknown outside of their small communities. The point is that these are images of musicians--it's that simple.

Sometimes, Liebovitz's work is witty, sometimes it is unflinching in its honest portrayal. There is vulnerability in the subjects of her black and whites because they are so close, often just the face of the subject. To term them "ugly" is simply wrong. It is rare to see behind the artifice of celebrity images and see performers without makeup and with their skin texture and pores visible. Some of the photos are taken in people's homes, or backstage rather than on a set. This lends considerably to the intimacy and honesty that she is trying to convey.

If you want shots of your favorite singer looking oh so pretty, go to their PR person. This is a serious body of work from a renowned photographer. It blends both her celebrity work with her own private interests in portrait photography for non-commercial audiences.
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Format: Hardcover
If you love the blues, or love photography this is a great book. While not specific to just Blues musicians this book just makes me think of good old delta blues. The prints in this book shine like they were hand printed by Annie herself. Theres a heart and soul driving this book from begining to end.

This is a more personal project for Annie Leibovitz and so doenst allway have her studio style inside.

That does not mean that each photograph is not amazing for they are, but some are a smaller more

candid world that Annie Leibotiz is capturing.
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Format: Hardcover
The title of this volume can mislead people who don't remember that Annie Leibovitz started out as the lead photographer for Rolling Stone. The result of her life's photographic work with these subjects is portrayed here along with some very fine notes at the end that explain who the subjects are for those you don't know. I liked the notes as much as the photographs. You will, too, unless you have an encyclopedic knowledge of American popular musicians. Those offerings are boosted in value by the essays authored by Patti Smith, Steve Earle, Rosanne Cash, Mos Def, Beck, Ryan Adams, and Annie Leibovitz.

The work cries for a companion CD tucked into the back of the book so you could match the music to the images and words. Perhaps it was just too much work to put the permissions together for such a project . . . or the publishers just assumed that we know all the music (I certainly don't).

The photography is often breathtaking in capturing musicians who have had a lasting effect on tens of millions of lives. In many cases, you are treated to large, two-page spreads where the center line doesn't interrupt your ability to focus on the image. The printing is very fine in the copy I read, and I hope it is also on yours.

Here are a few of my many favorites:

Pete Seeger, Clearwater Revival, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, 2001 (color)
Fisk Jubilee Singers, New York City, 2003
Eddie Cotton, Jr. with Jan Hobson, Jackson, Mississippi, 2000
Po' Monkey's Lounge, Merigold, Mississippi, 2000
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Format: Hardcover
Attempting to capture a moment that completely encompasses the event, the person, and her soul is really nothing new to a photographer. It becomes more difficult to depict all of this when what the photograph is cannot be seen, but only heard. If the right emotion isn't matched to the song being played, it will not only jeopardize the image, but also ruin emotion. An image can be just as loud and provoking as music. She pushes the bounds of how musicians are revealed in the photographs. Sometimes the moment is a place with music vibrating off the floorboards. Other times it is still and contemplative. Leibovitz clearly understands the bond of place and performance. From candids and portraits, soft or quiet moments to loud heart aching top of your lungs singing moments, Annie Leibovitz has found a way to communicate sound and imagery perfectly.

Annie Leibovitz's book American Music succeeds in what can be rather difficult and illusive combination. Disregard your ideas of what you may think "American" music is. Annie not only reveals what American music is the soulful deep roots of the blues, the twangs of the banjo, the storytelling of the folk artists she also reveals introspective moments that the musician has with the music, the relationships that are intertwined with the band members, the soul vibrating and ear pleasing subtleness that comes with each song, each singer, each band, and each instrument. She finds each musician's personality and draws it to the surface.

She is searching for that moment in which emotion and sound connect. Portraits are not her only avenues to explore and reach her desired connections. Leibovitz uses words from real musicians. Some are stories that are living on the lines of song and narrative.
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