Not every book opens with a page featuring a scrawled handwritten blurb from Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “Plug into this jukebox and see the faces and figures behind the greatest American music,” writes the poet, of photographer Christopher Felver’s American Jukebox: A Photographic Journey (Indiana University Press). A collection of 240 photographs taken by Felver over the past 25 years, the black and white images catch musicians and composers both on the stage and posed in their musical element, revealing the faces behind the rhythms, beats, and melodies of American musical history.
His subjects represent musical genres from rock to country and bluegrass, from experimental to folk and jazz. Among them are Joan Baez, John Cage, Cab Calloway, Roseanne Cash, Dizzy Gillespie, Phillip Glass, Arlo Guthrie, BB King, Cyndi Lauper, Bobby Short, Patti Smith, and Townes Van Zandt. Scattered throughout the book are playlists, autographed lyrics, and record sleeves contributed by the artists. Among the articles written by Felver’s subjects are “The Founding of the Fugs” by Ed Sanders, an original member of the ’60s satirical rock band, and a touching tribute to Woody Guthrie, “Woody’s Last Ramble,” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. “[Felver’s] diverse photographs,” says music, film, and humanities editor, Raina Polivka, “reveal the talent and compassion behind the major faces of our sonic landscape. The handwritten music, lyrics, drawings, and notes from his subjects illustrate the intimate relationships Felver shares with many of these musicians.”
Felver has published seven previous books of photography, most recently Beat (Last Gasp). His photographs have been featured in exhibitions at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Whitney Museum in New York, the National Theatre in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Torino Biennale Internazionale.
You can meet Felver and pick up a copy of American Jukebox today, between 3 and 3:30 p.m., at Table 20 in the Autographing Area.