Art Rock

RIP Alex Steinweiss: The Album-Art Inventor's Greatest Covers

Rocks Off likes to think of ourselves as the cultured sort; in other words, it's not all booze and boobs around here. We also enjoy literature, the cinema, sometimes even the theat-ah, but our favorite non-musical stimulus has always been the visual arts. Did you know that some museums have as many pictures of naked people as your finer mini-mart magazine racks?

Anyways, Wednesday evening we read in The New York Times (see?) that graphic artist Alex Steinweiss passed away this week at age 94. In case you're wondering exactly what this has to do with music, in 1939 Columbia Records hired Steinweiss to do some newspaper advertisements and such, and he hit on the brilliant idea that the albums might sell better if the covers were more interesting than the plain brown wrappers they more or less were at the time. Turns out they did.

Steinweiss went on to illustrate dozens of classical and jazz covers for Columbia, and left the label around the time rock and roll was on the rise. Still, "When you look at your music collection today on your iPod, you are looking at Alex Steinweiss's big idea," Paula Scher of the design firm Pentagram told the Times. Enjoy.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray