“This book is dedicated to the person who told me getting married and having children was not for every girl.” This loving dedication and bit of sage advice (from the author's mother) begins the odyssey that is Rock and Roll Stories, photographer Lynn Goldsmith’s gorgeous photo book and memoir of a life well-lived.
Chronicling 40-odd years behind the lens — her first “official” rock photo being a snap of The Beatles’ iconic boots in 1964 — Goldsmith weaves candid remembrances throughout Rock and Roll Stories. From her hero Bob Dylan gifting her with a birthday sheepskin hat to dancing along to James Brown in order to soothe a shy Michael Jackson, the book triggers the same warm, sepia-toned fuzzies as the “Tiny Dancer” scene from Almost Famous.
“There were two clear reasons for picking up a camera,” explains an animated Goldsmith, her voice bordering on smoky with a slight Michigan accent. “My father was a very serious amateur photographer, and any little girl who wants to spend time with her dad is gonna want to do what he does. If I was a boy, we would have played catch.”
A baby boomer from Detroit, Goldsmith immersed herself in late-'60s counterculture, looking for answers in the I Ching and the Detroit proto-punk scene. “Iggy [Pop] and I were both standing in line to register for classes at the University of Michigan,” she recalls. “Our first connections weren’t in the classroom but with our fellow musical friends like The MC5. We were all connected through our musical tastes.”
Goldsmith remembers one early Stooges show in particular, at a Detroit concert hall called the Grande Ballroom. “Iggy came out wearing a silver tin-foil wig and jumped into the audience, which nobody had ever done. Iggy was already way beyond anybody as a performance artist.”
After burning her bra and graduating with honors from the University of Michigan, Goldsmith took a circuitous route to celeb portraitist. Following an existential crisis during which she sold Nixon and Agnew caricature puppets on church steps, she did promo for Elektra Records, co-managed Grand Funk Railroad and began shooting album covers, honing her innate ability to disarm rock stars and capture something pure in the process.
Goldsmith eventually made her way onto The Rolling Stones’ private jet to document their legendary '70s stadium tours. Her tough Detroit backbone helped her stand up to the era's drug-and-testosterone-fueled rock scene. When asked about sexual harassment in the music industry — a recent hot topic of conversation — Goldsmith has no reservations confirming it’s always existed.
“There are individuals who want to test the individuals around them. The closest thing I ever had to that was when I was on tour with The Rolling Stones on their private plane. I was not someone who dressed seductively as I was working. Bill Wyman said to me on the plane, ‘Lynn, I want you to take your top off.’ I said, ‘Are you joking?’ He said, ‘No, I want you to, or we’re not gonna let you off the fucking plane.’ I said, ‘What are you, a fucking child?’ After that other people told him to shut up. He was testing and he was talking to the wrong girl.”
One of Goldsmith’s most iconic images was recently featured on the cover of Billboard’s tribute to David Bowie issue, a 1973 Ziggy Stardust walking into blackness.
“I’m using the camera to tell a story,” says Goldsmith. “Out of my edit, I wouldn’t have selected that picture way back when if I didn’t think that picture told a story. I felt that he was truly androgynous. It was not an act. There are some men, even though they are heterosexual, that are more in touch with the feminine side of themselves. It was different when I saw Bowie being Ziggy Stardust. He was really the first person in my life that I looked at and said, 'That is androgyny.' With Bowie, he was more in touch with the female part of himself than a lot of sensitive men.”