Arguably the most prolific and important rock photographer of the 1960s and 70s, Henry Diltz didn’t originally intend to be behind the camera at all. A gifted banjoist and harmony singer, he had gravitated towards Greenwich Village and then Los Angeles with his band The Modern Folk Quartet in the early ‘60s – and fell into photography almost by accident, after snapping shots of the Monkees while playing on a recording session.
What followed was a career that would capture nearly everything important that happened over the most extraordinarily fertile period in American music. As the official photographer of the Monterey Pop Festival in ’67, the Miami Pop Festival in ’68, and, most famously, of Woodstock in 1969, his pictures came to define the era – but his work can also be seen on countless LP covers, including the Doors’ Morrison Hotel and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James.
But despite this stellar career, one band remains closer to Diltz’s heart and soul than any other he photographed. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, formed in 1968 from the fallout of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies, came to symbolize the blissed-out and turned-on ‘60s Laurel Canyon scene that also gave us Joni Mitchell, the Mamas and the Papas, the Eagles and Carole King – and as far as Diltz is concerned, were also the essential sound of the age.
Now a new book, CSN&Y: Love the One You’re With, pulls together over 1,000 of Diltz’s photographs of the band he says he shot “most of my entire life as a photographer,” along with commentary from friends and musicians including Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Gene Clark and Glenn Frey. The result is not only a fascinating glimpse into the creation, implosion, redemption and resurrection of the world’s first genuine supergroup, but also a beautiful and evocative slab of coffee-table art, and a record of a period in music that remains unlikely ever to be matched again.
Speaking exclusively to Q, Henry Diltz talks us through 10 of the photographs inside Love the One You’re With – and reveals the stories behind some of the most iconic rock photographs of the century.
“Henry was a part of whatever was going on at any moment. And we certainly never thought this was history when he was shooting us. We thought, ‘There’s our friend Henry with his camera.’ And we trusted him.” - Graham Nash
Love The One You’re With, the new limited edition book by Henry Diltz, is now available to order from CSNYBook.com.
Graham Nash and Mama Cass Elliot, New York, 1966
I met Graham in ‘66 when I was in New York City photographing the Lovin’ Spoonful. And one day, when I was at their apartment, a phone rang and it was Mama Cass Elliott, and she said: "I'd like to bring some friends by"… and half an hour later she shows up with the Hollies. And so they came and hung out all afternoon. You know, we were making margaritas and telling road stories and stuff, we really had fun.
And at one point Graham said: “Oh, Henry, you're a photographer, we need some new photos. Could we come around tomorrow afternoon and get some photos taken?” And they did, and that was just great. My first album cover was the Lovin' Spoonful and my second album cover was the Hollies. And so that right there was the beginning of everything.
Mama Cass was an Earth Mother, she always would take young singers under her wing. We called her the Gertrude Stein of Laurel Canyon because she was a catalyst, the social catalyst, you know? She was funny, intelligent and very hip. She was an amazing force of nature and Graham really always loved her. She was a very lovable character and they were just the best of friends.
David Crosby and Eric Clapton, Laurel Canyon, 1968
So this was another famous moment with Mama Cass, once again the Earth Mother. She was always doing television shows where young English groups would be on with the Mamas and the Papas, and very often their first time in America, and so they needed a little friendship and she would always gravitate towards them. And that's what happened with Eric Clapton. She said, "why don't you come up to my house tomorrow and I'll invite some friends over, we'll have a little barbecue in the backyard?" So she invited him over and she invited David Crosby, and Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees was there, and a couple other friends. And David brought his young protege, Joni Mitchell. He had discovered Joni singing in a club and he was recording her first album. They were right in the middle of recording and it hadn't come out yet and they all sat across the lawn under some trees and David and Eric Clapton played music.
I guess they played a song or two, but then Joni walked up and sat down and picked up the guitar and started singing her entire album… and Eric's sitting there just staring at her. Joni didn't play regular guitar chords, and Eric is just staring at her fingers. He'd never seen that before.
David and Eric, when they initially sat down under the trees they were just jamming a little bit. It was nothing prolonged, they were just noodling around a little and then very quickly it became that Joni Mitchell story.
Joni Mitchell, California 1969
I took a picture of Crosby, Stills and Nash sitting on a couch that became the cover of their first album. And then, for the inside, we wanted another picture of the three of them so Gary Burden, the art director, hired a limo to drive us three hours up into the mountains, to Big Bear. And Graham brought Joni along and in the backseat, from left to right, was David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash, and Stephen was in the front seat next to the driver because he wanted to look out the windshield. And then Gary and I were each in the little what they call jump seats that pull down and face backwards.
So my knees are sort of touching Graham's knees and Gary was touching David's knees and Joni was in the middle and we were there for three hours and I just sat there, kind of casually taking pictures. I was sitting there and they're, like, a foot away from me.
There was no tension between David and Graham over Joni. David was more of a producer than a boyfriend, I don't think they had a love affair. I mean, he loved her music, he loved her. But they certainly weren't a couple. But with Graham they fell right in love, the two of them.
CSN&Y onstage at Campus Stadium, Santa Barbara, 1969
This was a football stadium, a sports arena, and they played and it was funny. It was a big stage set up at the end of the field and there were no dressing rooms or anything. So they spent the first hour or two up on stage changing their strings and tuning and talking as the crowd filled in, and then they did the concert. We spent the whole afternoon standing up on a stage and then, as it started to get dark, the lighting got very dramatic and I was there just shooting.
The reason I was shooting all these pictures of these guys, it wasn't that every time I'd get hired to do it, nothing like that. It was just that we were all friends. I just always hung out with them. I wasn't so much “the photographer.” If I was a photographer then I'd sort of be in their way, but I was a friend with a camera and I always just came along for the ride. I mean, all the pictures got used in songbooks and albums and magazines and everything. But they weren't jobs. They didn't say: we want to hire you to go out and photograph this concert. No, I rode out there with them and just hung out with them all day. That's what we did. They were just the hangout days, right?
Jamming backstage, 1970
Yeah so here they're in the dressing room at the University of Minnesota, where maybe they went to do their first out of town concert, their first little road trip, and just before they went out on stage, they got together to sing a part of a song just to kind of get on the same wavelength, like a warm-up. They didn't play a bunch of songs, they just played a part of one song so that they're all tuned up and then they walked out on stage. So that's what they were doing. Just going through one song, sort of to get their voices in harmony.
Again, my style is not to invade privacy, not to get in their faces. I like to just wait and watch. I take 100 pictures a day. Whether it’s of musicians or not, just everything I see. I want to remember. It's like making a list.
Rehearsals, Burbank, California, 1970
This is a rehearsal and the guy in the back there playing the bass is Fuzzy Samuels and he was an English guy, I guess he played on the album and he got to be a real good friend and he came to America with Stephen and was a member of the band there for a while. Great guy. So they were rehearsing at the Warner Brothers soundstage. They had shot a movie there called They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and so this was the set that they filmed that movie on. It was a big dance hall with a stage. There was no audience. They were just there all afternoon playing.
They wouldn’t stand there and run through the song and then be like, "Wait, wait, wait, stop, you got that wrong." They knew these songs. It was just to refresh their memories. I guess they'd recorded them but they hadn't necessarily performed them. So this was a chance to stand on a simulated stage with microphones and it be like it's going to be when they're in a venue.
Stephen Stills, Surrey, 1970
That's Stephen’s studio in his house in Elstead, Surrey. They'd made a little music studio and I think Graham was there that day too. It was a famous house. Peter Sellers had owned it and then he sold the house to Ringo [Starr] and I guess Stephen leased it from him and lived there for a year or two.
Peter Sellers came out one day, actually. We were at Tramps nightclub in London one night and there was Peter Sellers over at a table so Stephen went over and introduced himself and said “I'm living in your house” and invited him out and the next day he drove out and we hung out, you know?
What was funny was the house came with a gardener, John, and he would wear a tweed coat and smoke a pipe and be digging up the crocuses or planting daffodils or whatever, and he would say, “Ah yes, when Mr. Sellers lived here, you know Spencer Tracy would come out and they'd have tea in the garden…” Every story was “When Mr. Sellers lived here.”
It was very funny. He was a really great English gentleman, so Stephen wrote a song called “In Johnny's Garden” about him.
Neil Young, Broken Arrow, California, 1971
That was up at Neil's Broken Arrow ranch in Northern California. It had a great house and a lake and barns. One of the barns he made into a film editing place. Another one was a studio. He had one barn that was filled with old fifties automobiles that he collected and I would go up there with Gary Burden. Gary was the art director for almost every single album cover Neil did.
We'd spend a weekend up at Neil's ranch. In the morning we'd smoke a big joint and then we'd walk around the grounds and I would take photos. We’d go visit the cows and the geese and the llamas, and we went to one little barn, and Neil had a guitar in the back of it and he came out and sat on that hay bale.
Now, a funny thing is this was just before Neil’s album Harvest came out, and I think Gary, in the back of his mind, was trying to get us something for the cover of Harvest, because that would have been a great cover. But somehow Gary left town. I think he might have gone to Colorado on vacation, or he had an argument with Neil and so Neil just put out Harvest with the word “Harvest” on it. I mean, every album had a photo on it, but that one didn't. And I don't really know. I've never talked to Neil or Gary about it, but I believe in my mind that's what happened and Neil just said, "yeah, screw it". I always say this could have been the cover of Harvest. I wish it had been.
'Looking Forward' photoshoot, California, 1999
Oh my God. Yeah, I remember that. All right, that's a funny story, which you probably can't print the entirety of it, because this is what happened. The management company said, we need a publicity shot for those guys, they're recording this new album.
And at this point I wasn't just hanging out, this was a job: Go over there and get a shot of the four of them. And so they're standing there and I'm ready to take the picture. Stephen and David are next to each other and they both have these round bellies. And I said, get a little closer, you know. And David snapped at me, "We can't, we can't get closer!" So I'm looking through the viewfinder and they're glaring at me. And what kind of a picture is that going to be, right? So I told my little rock and roll joke. I got my camera pointed and I say, “Hey, how do you keep a dog from humping your legs?”
They're going, “I don't know,” still real grumpy. I said: “Pick him up and suck his d**k,” and they exploded in laughter. And that's the picture you see here. David and Stephen are bent over laughing. And there was a series of about six or eight photos of them. We had to do a compilation of each guy to make up a shot. But that's what happened. I had to tell them a dirty joke to get them to laugh.
Onstage, Anaheim, California, 2000
This is lovely. I think they look like they're at home there, having a good time.
Their music was so beautiful, their harmonies were so beautiful. I mean, such great songs. It’s just the soundtrack of our lives. You know, that incredible music that we've heard for so many years, and there they are now, seasoned guys, and that's a great shot, it just shows them doing what they do, which is so beautiful.
I mean, all groups have their little built-in animosities, it’s like marriage. Some of them work really well for 50 years and some of them are rocky. But they could always harmonize and that’s what kept them together. You can't do it alone, you need the other guys and so there they are doing that. They might not be getting along, but it's a great feeling to sing that song and to have the harmonies there next to you and know you can only do it with the guys you’re doing it with.
Love The One You’re With, the new limited edition book by Henry Diltz, is now available to order from CSNYBook.com.