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Beatles, Rolling Stones And Elton John Photographer Terry O’Neill Dies Aged 81

“As one of the most iconic photographers of the last 60 years, his legendary pictures will forever remain imprinted in our memories as well as in our hearts and minds.”

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The Who Who Are You Album Cover Terry O’Neill

Esteemed photographer Terry O’Neill, who’s behind iconic photos of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Elton John, David Bowie and other 60s stars died on 16 November aged 81, The Associated Press reports.

O’Neill died at his home in London following a battle with cancer, his agency Iconic Images confirmed, after sharing an official statement.

“It is with a heavy heart that Iconic Images announces the passing of Terry O’Neill, CBE,” the agency wrote. “Terry was a class act, quick witted and filled with charm. Anyone who was lucky enough to know or work with him can attest to his generosity and modesty. As one of the most iconic photographers of the last 60 years, his legendary pictures will forever remain imprinted in our memories as well as in our hearts and minds.”

Born in West London in 1938, O’Neill was an aspiring jazz drummer before he got into photography. One of his early gigs as a staff photographer for the tabloid, the Daily Sketch led him to snapping photos of The Beatles during their infancy.

“I was asked to go down to Abbey Road Studios and take a few portraits of this new band,” he was quoted via Iconic Images bio. “I didn’t know how to work with a group – but because I was a musician myself and the youngest on staff by a decade – I was always the one they’d ask. I took the four young lads outside for better light. That portrait ran in the papers the next day and the paper sold out.”

Soon enough, O’Neill became the official chronicler of the “swinging Sixties’ and all of the musicians, celebrities and politicians who defined the era. He photographed the Stones in the early 60s before they signed their first record contract and all of the young bands and artists who played the Tin Pan Alley Club, from The Kinks, the Stones and most famously, Elton John.

 

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John would become his muse, and O’Neill spent several decades photographing John, including his legendary two-night Dodger Stadium series in October 1975 and more recently, the portrait used on the cover of John’s new memoir, ME.

On Twitter, John paid tribute to O’Neill, writing, “Terry O’Neill took the most iconic photographs of me throughout the years, completely capturing my moods. He was brilliant, funny and I absolutely loved his company. A real character who has now passed on. RIP you wonderful man.”

Another one of O’Neill’s favourite subjects was David Bowie. O’Neill captured one of the most famous photos in rock’n’roll history, the “David Bowie/The Jumping Dog” photo.

“I treated David like a Shakespearean actor as you never knew who was going to show up,” O’Neill said in an interview with The Guardian.

“He could look alien-like or female-like; it was always so exciting as everything he did was so unpredictable.”

 

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O’Neill is also responsible for some of the most recognisable album covers of that era, from Elton John’s A Single Man to The Who’s Who Are You, Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé’s How Can I Go On, The Police’s Wrapped Around Your Finger and countless others.

Outside of the music world, O’Neill shot portraits of Hollywood icons like Audrey Hepburn, Bridget Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra and even Queen Elizabeth II.

One of his most famous portraits remains the shot of his then-girlfriend Faye Dunaway hanging poolside, surrounded by newspapers after winning the Oscar for Network.

 

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Following the news of his passing, more tributes have started to come in from some of his most famous subjects.

“It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of our dear friend, photographer Terry O’Neill,” wrote The Who. “Terry worked with The Who for many years. Rest in peace, dear Terry.”

“Very sad to learn of the loss of a great photographer, Terry O’Neill, some of whose images helped define the 60s and whom I was lucky enough to work with,” writes Peter Gabriel. “He knew how to get the best out of his subjects and leaves behind some extraordinary work.”

Read the full obit and view some of his best work on Iconic Images here.

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