"The most important thing that I have learned from my world travels is that no matter our differences there is more that bonds us to our common humanity than separates us."
Linda Wolf: A Humanistic Photographer
Linda Wolf is an American-born photographer and writer, and founder of several nonprofit organizations to benefit youth. During her 50-year career as a photographer and photojournalist, Linda has photographed people from all walks of life -- from the Prince of Wales to members of the Hamar tribte in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia. She is one of the first women in rock and roll photography as well as one of the first women in humanistic photography. She is the daughter of poet, Barbara Wolf, and cinematographer businessman, Joe Wolf. Wolf attended Hollywood High School, graduating in 1968. She became a professional photographer as a teenager for the first all-girl rock band to be signed by a major label, Fanny (1969), and later an official photographer for the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour (1970). She was one of the “100 top photographers in the world” for the book, Twenty-four Hours in the Life of L.A. From 1970-1975, she lived and studied in Provence, France, attending the Institute of American Universities, and L'Ecole Experimental Photographic, taught by Jean-Pierre Sudre and Claudine Sudre.
Wolf taught photography through the UCLA Extension, was staff photographer for the Los Angeles Citywide Mural Project, and the Social and Public Art Resource Center. In 1981, she was a representative of the United States in Arles, France at the Rencontres International de la Photographie, and was the focus of "Talk About Pictures," with Leigh Wiener on NBC/TV. Since 1976, Wolf has received numerous recognitions, awards, and grants for her photojournalism and humanitarian projects, including support from the Puffin Foundation, California Arts Council, RSF Social Finance, Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, the Oakland Center for the Arts, Sony, Widelux, Ilford, Epson, Electrovoice, Marrantz, Kodak, and other corporations and institutions. She won a place in the International Art of Photography Show, in San Diego, California. Her prints were part of the Women Who Rock Exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, and in films honoring rocker, Leon Russell, and singer, Claudia Lennear. In 2011, Linda created and produced a biographical film about her mother, Barbara Wolf. In 2012, she completed a seven-year project photographing women world-wide, for a montage entitled, "I Am A Full Woman" - Full Woman has been shown at TEDxElliottBayWomen. In 2012, Linda was added to the TED roster. On September 11, 2015 a "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tribute concert to Joe Cocker was performed at the Lockn' Festival in commemoration, a Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Memory Book was created by Linda Wolf to celebrate the event. In 1970, Linda was one of two official photographers to travel with the band. It’s grown to 62 pages, replete with anecdotes from interviews Linda has done with alumni including: Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Chris Stainton and the rest of the alumni. In 2020 is the 50th year celebration of JCMD&E - A documentary film of the tribute/reunion weekend and concert is coming out in 2020 titled, Tedeschi Trucks Band Presents Mad Dogs & Englishmen Revisited, with archival photos by Linda Wolf and Andee Nathanson included. Linda's new book "Tribute: Cocker Power", celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the legendary 1970 Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishman tour through the iconic archives of tour photographer, Linda Wolf. Plus additional documentary photos & stories from the 2015 tribute concert with Tedeschi Trucks Band and original tour alumni at the Lockn’ Festival.
Tribute: Cocker Power is a book in two -parts. Part I are photos and stories from the legendary 1970 Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour. Part II are photos and stories from the epic Tedeschi Trucks Band tribute concert to the late Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which took place at the 2015 Lockn’ Festival. The book is filled with behind the scenes and on-stage photographs by photographer, Linda Wolf, who was a member of the Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour and invited back with alumni to reprieve her role at Lockn’. Both JCMD&E and the TTB Tribute concert have been called the best concerts of all time. A documentary film of the 2015 concert will be coming out in 2020, along with this book, to celebrate the 50th year anniversary of Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Interview by Michael Limnios All Photos by © Linda Wolf
When was your first desire to become involved in the photography and how does music inspire your work?
When I was about 10 years old or younger, but it wasn’t until my early teen years and music was the saving grace of my life that I figured it was my way to be part of the music when I couldn’t play an instrument well enough. It was my father’s interest in photography that I shared with him.
My father got his degree in cinematography at USC (the University of Southern California), and throughout my childhood he was always taking pictures and filming me. My parents each had a deep connection to art, philosophy, literature, languages, and culture and instilled them in me. Every Sunday morning, my dad would blast Opera throughout the house. My mother was a painter and a great appreciator of art. She’s a poet, painter, and writer. They both encouraged me as an artist from the get-go and my father let me use his camera as a child, and gave me his camera, my first Nikon, when I a teenager.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. I remember in 1962, when I was in middle school going to a high school gym and hearing The Drifters, Up on the Roof. That and the song, The Mountain’s High and the Valley’s so Deep, and Peter Paul and Mary were the first records I purchased. A friend of mine had a 45rpm player and would play the song, “Fever” over and over again. Not too long later, I fell in love Bob Dylan and the early folk music scene as well as blues. After that, it was the Rolling Stones and the first of the wave of English rock and rollers, and then, of course, the Beatles. By that time, I was wired into music in all ways, my whole world revolved around musicians and the life-style of my generation.
Today, I’m still a music junkie. I love pretty much any kind of music, but end up listening to more world music now. If I could have been a musician instead of a photographer I would have, but it wasn’t the trajectory! I play the piano and just bought a dulcimer. When I hear music I love, it feeds me emotionally, it gets under my skin, as I’m sure it does to most people. Filmmaking interests me; it merges story, image and sound – all that I love. My video project, Full Woman, came about because I kept hearing Rachel Bagby’s chant, I Am a Full Woman, as I travelled photographing through Guatemala. That was what inspired me to put the chant with the images. The resulting video been seen over 45,000 times on Vimeo.
"I love the music fusion that’s happening between various cultures, and I love the hip hop/spoken word that comes straight from the gut of the people. I love everything about music; expect that music which denigrates people." (Leon Russell and Joe Cocker / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for images most frequently?
The photographs from the book and exhibit, the Family of Man, from the 1960s, blew my mind. It convinced me, much the same as music did back then, that I just might be able to express all the pain and longing I felt as a teenager. That book was filled with documentary photography and portraiture, which is what I believe I am still the most drawn to create. Photojournalism is about natural light and a sense of something real that matters and is universal. That is what interests me most. I also love poetic images that are not easily understood or grasped and are more mysterious, but I tend to be drawn more to reportage ultimately.
I went through my teen years from 1963 – 1970. Those were pivotal years, and I was deeply influenced by what was happening in the world, especially my world then; the whole flowering of a grand cultural shift, carried in the music and fed by contact high. I, like so many of my generation, totally understood why Holden Caulfield called people phonies, Salinger’s book in Catcher in the Rye. Everything seemed like a lie. The Vietnam War machine was in full throttle, and I was in full protest, along with so many of my artist and musician friends. At that point in my life, I only wanted to hang out with them. Some of them were clearly going to become well known, and I wanted to be along for the ride. My ticket was to be the documentary photographer. For years, I documented and went on tour with many of the people that today we know as icons, in the music business.
When I was twenty, after being on the road with Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, as a photographer, I left the US for London. After a year there, my father offered to pay for me to go to college in France. It’s at this point that I was introduced to many of the great French photographers. In France, I was introduced through the Rencontres Internationale de the Photography (festival in Arles) to photographers from all over the world. I got into many of the Eastern European and European photographers, met photographers from Taiwan, Japan, and other countries and was very inspired by their work. In school, I delved into the work Stieglitz, Bresson, Brassi, Doineaux, and the French photographers. Five years later, I moved back in the US, where I was introduced to the work of Salgado, Mary Ellen Mark, the Polaroid Kid, Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, and so many other contemporary photographers. In the 1980s, I help found Women in Photography International with a handful of young photographers, one of whom was Carrie Mae Weems, who just won the MacArthur Genius award. I actually just came back from Oaxaca Mexico where I did documentary photos for the MacArthur Foundation, something I am very proud of.
"I have always called myself a humanistic photographer. I suppose what I mean by that is that I love humanity in general and have great faith in all that is good in human beings." (Huichol Shaman / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What have you learned about yourself from your travels and people around the world?
What I expected to find, was confirmed; while our experiences as people vary widely-- especially around racism, sexism, and privilege --human beings are more alike than different in the feelings that we share our the existential realities that we face. No one gets here save through the body of a woman. The sad reality is that women and those who identify other than male or female, and this is worldwide, are still struggling for basic human rights, safety, and respect. I can see there is a concerted effort in many countries to shift out of the old-fashioned, male-dominated, human-centric paradigm that has resulted in possibly bringing us to the bring of extinction as a species, let alone all life, I have to come accept that we may have gone over the tipping point. My optimistic nature and the fact that I can’t get my mind around the drastic possibilities we might face force me to hopefully believe that we will pull this thing out of the hat. Also, I am heartened and inspired to continue to do everything I can do personally by numbers of people also doing everything they can to be ingenious solutionists, as Caroline Casey calls us. I met many people and saw numerous efforts to live by and foster a new paradigm, of power-with, cooperation, interconnection, sharing, caring, and compassion. I believe this is our only way forward. Things have gotten both worse and better since I co-authored In 2001, with Neva Welton, Global Uprising: Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century.
Photography has not been my only way to communicate what I feel and want to express. In 1993, I co-founded what became a nonprofit organization that has been running for 20 years, Teen Talking Circles. TTC trains adults to lead weekly talking circles for teens which give them a safe space to tell the truth and experience not only having the support of a circle of youth and adults, but be that for others through learning skills such as Compassionate Listening and Non-Violent Communication, and how to love and forgive oneself and others, and wake up to face the needs of our times. As executive director of TTC, I’ve had the privilege to interview and photograph many people, including Noam Chomsky, June Millington, Chris Jordan, Maya Angelou, and so many of the greatest artists and thinkers in the world. I believe in what Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning that we are in as a species; the turning towards the realization that everything is interconnected and we must become an Earth Community.
In my travels, I’ve also learned that stress and fear will only kill my spirit and if my spirit dies, I can be no good for anyone or anything. The world, we all, need and want love. As one friend says, “love is all there is. There is only love that is real.” Fear and grief are important feelings to feel, especially if by fully feeling them and groking them we can find a way to let them go – that is the way we can truly feel the joy and experience the beauty of life. This is all we have, no one knows what will happen, no matter what we do, so letting go of fear and stress is something very important to me. If I can make someone laugh or feel light hearted, or spread some endearing feelings, that is good. Since I’m not religious, but am very spiritual, I continually fall back on basic human kindness and humility as my guides; and nature – nature guides and consoles me. Thank goodness for the natural flow and order of life. I feel I can count on this and build my life and behaviors around it.
Traveling around the world, I also saw how deeply painful it is to so many people not to be able to match up to the stereotypes depicted in magazines, replicated on TV, in newspapers and advertising --images that dominate the market from a Western advertising perspective. One young man, in India, told me he hated himself because his skin was dark, so used skin whiteners daily. At the same time, many tribal people in Ethiopia used the stereotypes we lay on them to make money off tourists, by posing for photographs depicting them looking like stereotypic tribal people we imagine them to be! I watched children in China cover their tennis shoes and jeans in tribal costume to fit our image of them. Yet, on the other hand, I heard brown and black skinned women in cities angry because they are sick and tired of being considered or depicted as exotic or tribal. If we are truly going to be able to live from the new paradigm, there are going to be so many changes we must make. In fact, I believe, pretty much most everything!
"I believe my best work merges art and activism in some way, even if the action is just to find oneself beautiful and important and valuable because I have made someone or something meaningful in my images." (Hamer Women / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What characterizes your work and how do you describe your philosophy about the image and life?
I’m a humanistic photographer. I suppose what I mean by that is that I love being a witness and participant in what it is to be human in every way. Photographing people teaches me about myself. Philosophically, I’m a nature loving, spiritual existentialist; a lover of freedom with responsibility, and spontaneity within context. I delve into mystery, metaphor, dreams, myth and personal stories to find what I am longing to express or explore in my work. I want to gain something from every experience, positive or challenging – I do my best to find the gift in everything that happens, no matter what. My longing is to express depths of meaning and mirror ourselves to ourselves, plural! I believe that what characterizes my work is a desire to connect in all ways and in all directions, in the hope that I can say something in my work that touches something human in us all and at the same time gives me a thrill, the thrill of having succeeded in feeling free and enjoying self-expression. I’m doing my best to continually accept myself and have the faith in myself that I matter, and what I say matters.
For years, as a child, I felt that my voice was not wanted. I was an enthusiastic child, rebellious, social, talkative, yet insecure, and felt I never fit in, in school. I was considered a difficult child and wouldn’t comply easily with the control most of my teachers wanted to have over me. I was very smart but I was uncooperative. I was a budding anarchist from the get-go! These were the dark ages of the 1950s, when everything looked “phony” to me; every adult and so many of my peers just seemed to me to be phonies. I was rushing towards the 1960s, not knowing they were coming, and I was in the perfect place, Los Angeles, to join a growing tribe of other “outcasts” from the dominant culture who were quickly becoming the majority!
What has been the relationship between music, art and activism in your life and progress?
I believe my best work merges art and activism in some way. I don’t always have to create work that has a message, though. Lately, I’ve been enjoying photographing sacred geometry in nature. Since I garden actively, it’s been a joy to photograph plants and flowers with a macro lens --very deeply beautiful to me, and of course, all life is rhythm and wave forms, energy. I’m a swimmer, I love water, and so doing photography of patterns is a joy.
What was your experience from the late great Dr. Maya Angelou interview?
Well that was really an interesting story. Dr. Angelou is a very hard person to get an interview with. I had to go through six schedulers and months of waiting to confirm an interview. Over that time, I made a friend of her schedulers. She took an interest in me, and the work I was doing, which at that time, writing Daughters of the Moon. She privately advised me how to write my request so that it would be successful. I’m very appreciative to her because she helped to make the interview possible. She didn’t tell me, though, that Dr. Angelou would recoil if I called her Maya! I found that out the first time I met her. But, that’s not the worst of the experience!
When I knew I’d gotten permission to do the interview and photo session with Dr. Angelou, I remembered an Fritjof Capra, author of the Tao of Physics, once suggested to me. He said, “Take a picture of an adult with large hands handing the globe into the hands of children.” Good idea, I thought. So, I asked a friend of mine to bring four young children, a diverse cross section of children, to the hotel where I would be interviewing and photographing her. The day arrived for the interview and I met my friend in the lobby with the four children. Seeing them, I went into shock. She had brought four children, but there skin tones were all basically white. The last thing I wanted or knew Dr. Angelou would ever do would be to hand the world to a group of white children! Since I was going to interview her almost immediately, I went into high gear and went running off to find any children of color I could possibly find in the hotel. Suddenly, I saw a dark skinned girl of about ten and ran up to her asking where her mother was, intending to explain my situation. The girl ran me through the hotel to the restaurant, where her grandmother was eating lunch. Her grandmother was eating lunch with, guess who!? Yup, Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou, who assumed I was coming to get her, got up and promptly said we should go up to the room and do the interview. I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth or even explain what I needed, I was so embarrassed and everything was happening so fast. Dr. A was way ahead of me walking through the lobby, where my friends, the children and their parents got up to greet her. She knew nothing of my plans and my friends had no idea I had not explained them yet. So everyone was greeting everyone but clearly there was something amiss. It was at that point that I blurted out what I had planned to do with the 5 minutes her management gave me to photograph her. In a split second she saw what I saw and I tried to explain that I had asked my friend to bring diverse children but she had not gotten the point. As she scolded me up one side and down the next and I pleaded with her to understand it was not intentional and she threatened not to go ahead with the interview, and I was freaking out inside, she called her friend’s child over and told her to come with us.
I won’t tell you the rest of the saga because it goes on and on with my nearly having her deny the interview again, after my assistant turned the tape recorder on before telling her it was going. However, the interview I did with her over the next 45 minutes was great. It began with me gently weeping out my first question to her, which was, “How do you forgive yourself when you make a mistake?” Her answer could be heard amidst my sniffles on the tape and you can read that answer and see the photos I took online on our website. The Interview was so good and so powerful after all that, that in fact, her office phoned me later and asked if they could use that interview in other materials because they’ve never heard her answer questions like that before.
"I think the best advice that I have ever been given has been advice I’ve been given all along and that is two things: to be present in the now, because that’s all we ever really have; to be my own beloved, because I cannot truly love anyone else, if I don’t love myself." ( Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen Live / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What has been the most interesting period of your life?
Wow, hard question. I don’t think I can pick just one. I go by the motto, “I live the life I love and I love the life I live.” I loved living in the South of France for so many years, and having my photography life blossom there; I loved being in the music scene, being on to her with Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and meeting so many of the musicians that I loved; I’ve had two beautiful husbands and two beloved daughters (Heather and Genevieve); I live in the forest of Pacific Northwest and grow my own food. I’m part of a tribe of creative and loving friends. I feel deeply blessed by all the stages of my life. I feel I am only now just coming into the best period of my life thus far! And that is saying a lot. I’ve had my share of pain and suffering, as we all have, and I know that’s not over! But, one cannot be alive an not have challenges, losses, near losses, and coming losses. There are plenty of people who I’ve hurt and who have forgiven me and some who have not forgiven me. But, I am so deeply grateful for being alive now and deeply grateful for my life.
I just got back from a great trip to Oaxaca, Mexico where I did a photography workshop for 10 days, with Mary Ellen Mark. While there, I also did documentary photography for the MacArthur Foundation, and addressed 400 people in the Oaxaca Justice Department. I’m writing this on a plane to Yelapa Mexico where I’m about to lead an 8 day women’s retreat with my daughter, Heather, who will be leading Chakra Energy sessions and my husband, who supervises the meals.
But if I had to choose one thing about my life that has been the most interesting, I’d say traveling around the world would be it.
How has the Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Rock counterculture has validated and reflected and communicated the values I hold dear in the social, cultural, holistic, organic, political, spiritual, consciousness raising realms. Rock counterculture has been like finding my tribe. This is in contrast to the music "industry," which is the darker side of the equation, where deeper toxic social and male dominant attitudes towards women and diversity are concerned. There, we have the opposite of the counterculture -- we have the imbalanced power dynamics of a corporate and sometimes corrupt music "industry" that manufactures commercial acts instead of true artists of music. Rock counterculture, since the 60s, has been a megaphone that unified us and pushes culture forward.
"His heart. Joe was touched by the angel of voice, allowing him to express his heart through his voice and that touched all our hearts who heard it with the same power with which he propelled it. If I could ask him anything it would be about personal to our relationship." ("Tribute: Cocker Power" / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What was the hardest part of making the book: TRIBUTE: COCKER POWER? How do you want it to affect people?
The hardest part is deciding what to leave on the cutting room floor, so to speak. 300 pages is not enough to tell the whole story of Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen and the Tedeschi Trucks Band and friends, but it will for sure keep the legacy of these rock counterculture icons and events alive. For the past 3 years, I have sifted through over 8,000 negatives and digital files, and listen to and read over again and again 150 plus interviews, in order to synthesize and hone down into a book soundbite my story, the story from my perspective, and other's stories. This has been a passionate labor of love and at the end of the day, whatever has been hard is over and now that it is basically completed and will come out in 2020, I feel great.
Are there any memories from the famous 1970 JCMD&E Tour which you’d like to share with us?
So many. I don't know which to pick. Ask me this in about a month and I'll get back to you. I'm so full of stories I don't know which to pick and most of them will be in the book anyway. Here's one Marc Benno told me. He co-produced, co-wrote the Asylum Choir albums with Leon (Russell) ... Leon had a couch in the living room that Marc called the "talking couch." There were always people staying at Leon's or hanging out and one day Leon got bored with the conversations and told Marc to come with him. They got in his convertible car and went junk store shopping and bought every 1950s style wooden transistor radio they could find and came back and Leon hung every one of them on the walls of his living room. Apparently every single one was tuned to a different channel. He then installed a switch by this couch that would turn them all on at the same time, creating a cacophony of sound. He could end conversations like this!
"Rock counterculture has validated and reflected and communicated the values I hold dear in the social, cultural, holistic, organic, political, spiritual, consciousness raising realms. Rock counterculture has been like finding my tribe. This is in contrast to the music "industry," which is the darker side of the equation, where deeper toxic social and male dominant attitudes towards women and diversity are concerned." ("Tribute: Cocker Power" / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What touched (emotionally) you from Joe Cocker and his music? What would you like to ask him...?
His heart. Joe was touched by the angel of voice, allowing him to express his heart through his voice and that touched all our hearts who heard it with the same power with which he propelled it. If I could ask him anything it would be about personal to our relationship. I was 19 when I met Joe and I fell in love with his heart and soul. I felt his natural warmth. He was always a gentleman with me, and never took advantage of the opportunities he could have. Joe's singing expressed the pain I was felt as a teenager. I was touched that 40 years later, he remembered me with a gift when I brought my family to meet him at a concert. That night, I whispered to him, "I had a crush on you." And he said, "I know!" And we smiled and hugged.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
The whole music "industry." Get corruption out of it, get male chauvinism out of it. Make it more open to diversity and give more artists a chance. The music business is too much of a business -- with the focus on the money, clicks, marketing artists as rock stars or sex objects in order to rack up numbers and sales. Racism, sexism, it exists and people turn a blind eye when money is to be made -- Get rid of all the bombastic lighting, and flashy histrionics -- True talent doesn't need to be coated in all the BS to "make" them popular. I love the movie "American Epic." It is a documentary that spans the history of music in America from the days when the businessmen (yes, motivated by money and selling more records) went around the US and recorded all kinds of folk music (yes, in order to capture a new market)... but the good part of it was the discovery of so many musicians whose work would never have been heard. We need more of that in the music "industry."
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?
What is the best advice you ever received?
To find the gift in every experience, what-so-ever, because there is always a gift in it.
What do you miss most nowadays from the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?
I miss my youthful body!
I don’t want to die, and if the plane I’m on right now starts having turbulence I start to really not want to die!
I want that my children outlive me; my body stays healthy and active; my brain gets smarter; my heart gets more full and loving; and my soul connects deeply with the divine and the soul of nature, itself.
I fear pain… for me and for those I love. I fear that I or my loved ones will do something stupid and have our lives ruined by it.
I fear bullies, and I fear people who do not wake up to the realities that we face as a species, that we all face, all species and stop adding to the problems.
Are there any memories from Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which you’d like to share with us?
I think about Jim Gordon a lot. I didn’t know Jim because he was a year older than me, but I found out he lived in the same community as I did growing up and had gone to the same middle and high school. It was Jim who lent me his Nikon the first night I was at a rehearsal when I told Denny Cordell I wanted to go on the tour and he asked me what I could do. I told him I could photograph it. He said, show me what you can do. That night, some guy I don’t know and wish I could find again, took me to his darkroom where I developed the film I’d taken with Jim’s camera. By 3am, I had returned and shown Denny and he gave me the thumbs up to go on the Tour.
Jim was always a gentleman with me. In fact, he always gave me a smile when I entered a room, and the feeling I was wanted and included in the band. I only saw him as a nice person, so it was a shock when during the Tour he became violent to Rita and hit her. I remember the night it happened. If I could go back in time, I would have gone to Rita and tried to mediate – because clearly it was out of control. Rita was in a lot of emotional pain. But, I was only 20 then, and I had not learned much about domestic violence, as it was never in my home or my experience.
Also, I remember the night we arrived late to one of the hotels upstate in New York. We were starving and the kitchen was closed. But someone said, “Hey, the kitchen door is unlocked.” So, the whole bunch of us plowed through the kitchen, opening fridges and cupboards, and started making elaborate sandwiches and things. I know we made a super mess before left, found our hotel rooms and conked out.
"I’d like to be on stage at Woodstock playing the most righteous and brilliant, off the charts lead guitar with each and every band that played, every day of the concert, as a guest star --and playing my heart and soul out, solo after solo in a state of absolute bliss consciousness, and complete connection with the other musicians and the audience, the likes of which would fulfill me for the rest of my life!" (Joe Cocker / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
How has the rock n’roll culture changed over the years? Do you believe in the existence of real rock nowadays?
Yes, rock and roll is here to stay… but the days of the kind of freedom we had in the 60s/70s are over. The music business got too big. Now, everything is about money. However, that said, the Creative Commons and the new paradigm of sharing over hording, of collaborations over individual gain is gaining speed. If you have not seen RiP, the video, this is a must watch if you want to know more about the battle for freedom in the music and creative worlds. Google RiP + Girl Talk, and you’ll find the movie.
How did you think of Teen Talking Circles, which was originally Daughters-Sisters Project?
After my experience as a child, and teenager as well, I was committed to doing things differently when I had children. I knew what hurt me and what I’d learned in the 60s that helped me heal and was committed to doing everything I could to help my daughters from the get-go not have to go through what I went through. I considered myself an Earth Mother. I’d been a “freak,” a hippy, a flower-child, a protester, and for sure I was alternative. I gave birth to my daughters at home; we had a family bed; I nursed my daughters a very long time; we had, and still have, an organic garden; I didn’t allow TV in the house; and we left LA and moved to an island in the Puget Sound, and South Salish Sea where I felt my daughters could roam free in the woods instead of on the streets.
The DS Project was born because when my girls were about to become teens, I wanted them to have the sort of sisterhood that I’d had throughout the 60s and 70s through the women’s movement. I wanted them to see that they were not alone, and that the issues they faced could be faced together with others. That was my motivation, but in reality, starting the Project was also a way for me to heal more from my own teen years.
The first group of teens we brought together in circle were told that we would meet for 10 weeks, 1 day per week after school, and that it would be a safe space where we would talk about our lives. We told them that we would be tape recording all the circles for a book we wanted to write to show other girls that they were not alone, that other girls were going through the same or similar issues. We called the Project, Daughters-Sisters. We ended up meeting for two years before we wrote our book, Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun: Young Women and Mentors on the Transition to Womanhood. The book became a hot seller, 45,000 copies to date, and we never stopped running weekly circles. Now, we train adults world-wide to lead them in their own communities.
What has made you laugh lately and what touched you form the world nowadays?
I laugh a lot, actually, but recently, I could barely breath due to something one of my daughters said off handedly while we were sitting together. My family is very close and very tight. We laugh a lot together. Laughter is the balm of my soul!
I’m always touched by people who are willing to be vulnerable, be open about their feelings, and who tell the truth.
"My parents each had a deep connection to art, philosophy, literature, languages, and culture and instilled them in me." (Joe Wolf, Linda's father / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
How started the thought of Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen Memory Book? What's your favorite photo?
A couple years ago, Leon (Russell) was inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame and staff of the R&R H of F who knew I had old photos came to me asking for some to use in the induction ceremony. At that time, I started scanning the B&W negatives from the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour for this purpose. The scanning process takes a long time and I began to think I should scan all 4000 negatives in preparation for Joe to be inducted eventually. So over the past two years my assistants and I have painstakingly gone through every negative from the tour and from the summer after the tour and scanned them all. We had just finished in March this year, 2015, when Rita Coolidge’s manager, Nelly Neben, called me and asked me if I had some pictures of Rita for her new autobiography. At the same time, during that conversation, Nelly told me that Dave Frey, one of the producers for the Lockn’ Festival, was looking for all the alumni from the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour. Dave told Nelly that a friend of his, the filmmaker Jesse Lauter, had purchased a photograph of Leon from me and that according to Jesse I knew how to contact many of the alumni. This fact was true. At the same time I started scanning, I also started interviewing many of the women from the Tour, thinking that I would write a book someday and include quotes from them and stories from them. When I heard that Dave was looking for the alumni to invite us all to participate in the tribute concert for Joe Cocker with the Tedeschi Trucks Band I said, “Oh my God, finally we’re going to have a reunion.” A couple days later, Dave called me asking for contact information for anyone I knew from the Tour. He invited me as well to come and participate in the tribute as the official photographer. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled. What came to mind for me was that I wanted to make prints for all of the alumni who had never seen these pictures that have been in my file cabinets for the last 45 years. In fact most people have not seen any of them except for what I had put online once in a while.
I mentioned this to my photography assistant and he said you should make a book. I thought to myself, “Right!” It was the middle of March /early April when I got the confirmation from Dave that yes indeed this concert was happening. It was scheduled for September 11. That did not give me much time to choose photos, rescan them for publication, edit them, do a layout, transcribe the interviews I’d done and do more with the guys who I could get in touch with as well, make a cover, and go to press. But I was determined and amazingly enough there were many invisible hands helping me through the process, as well as human beings who showed up to take on various tasks to make it happen.
I really can’t say I have one favorite photo because there are so many that I love for various reasons but the picture of Joe in the spotlight is a classic. Ray Neapolitan, Joe’s manager for decades, told me recently that of all the pictures of Joe that is his absolute favorite. There is also a picture of Joe on the first page that is one of my favorites of all time and Leon at the Lockn’ concert rehearsal asked my daughter why I didn’t make that the cover shot. He said, “That picture reveals Joe’s soul.” It was an intuitive choice for me to put the more playful picture of Joe on the cover of the book. Later, I realized why I had done it. At the concert, Many of the audience members were more Grateful Dead fans then Joe Cocker fans. Many saw the book for sale there but just passed it by. Some stopped and loved it and bought it and those people many bought prints as well. What I realized was that having Joe’s soul on the cover would have been painful for me and it protected him by having it on the first page. If people were interested in Joe then they could get the deeper Image of him as they went more deeply into the book.
"Leon Russell. What can I say? He is a magnificent human being. Leon is brilliant. He is a different person, a more evolved person, a more emotional person, a more loving person, and a wiser person." (Leon Russell & Linda Wolf / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
Are there any memories from Lockn Festival's Tribute to JCMD&E which you’d like to share with us?
First of all the Tribute/Reunion was a love fest. I feel confident in saying that every member of the alumni and the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and all the management, Roadies, sound people, friends, and the audience will never forget it. There is a big difference between a performance and a tribute. One is a gift to the audience as well as the musicians, and the other is a greater gift to someone or something on a whole different level which takes it out of the realm of a performance. To this day, a month later, many of us who never knew each other before and those of us who were friends before are still texting each other about how much we loved the experience and how much we want to see each other again. I believe we made lifelong friendships with everyone and I know for myself that I feel a kinship with all those people.
Leon Russell. What can I say? He is a magnificent human being. Leon is brilliant. He is a different person, a more evolved person, a more emotional person, a more loving person, and a wiser person. I heard that he has written songs for Susan Tedeschi and has been singing them since the concert in his performances. He was very kind to me during the whole time we were all together at Lockn’. But he teased me something fierce. Just before he left on the last day I had a chance to be alone with him and I told him that it hurt me when he teased me. He looked up at me from his scooter and said, “Linda I’m just pulling your leg, because you have one leg longer than the other.” He said it with warmth in his voice and I told him that he had inspired me since I was a teenager when we were on the original tour together. He asked me and what way I was inspired. I told him that well I was on the tour he gave me permission to dance, to be my full self, to have more confidence, and be courageous to just let go and be me. He said, “That’s a lot.” It felt so good to be able to thank him for everything that he did for me back when I was a teenager. I hugged him and then he left.
Two things that I have to say about Lockn’ and the Tribute Concert. I sang! I sang in the Space Choir and my daughter, Heather, sang with me, while my other daughter, Genevieve and my “adopted” daughter, Talina were also on stage as well. To have my daughters there with me was a highlight of my life. And to sing two songs with the Choir was beyond all I could ever describe. It was a high like none other. I was too shy to do it the first time around. Too shy and too intimidated and afraid to come out from behind the camera and stand up and say “I want to sing.” I could barely imagine that I could dance, but I danced in 1970. Well, I sang in 2015! I sang my heart out for Joe and for me and for my daughters!
The other thing was witnessing Chuck Blackwell. It was not certain he would be able to come to Lockn’ and participate. He had been really sick, so sick in the hospital not more than 6 months before that people thought he would die. At Lockn’ he was still unable to eat solid food. He had a feeding tube. He sat with us at meals but couldn’t eat and when we first arrived I really couldn’t understand him very well. His diction was off. From the first day of rehearsals, Derek, Susan and the band and all the alumni were deeply honoring Chuck. He was invited to play drums on a couple songs and from the first snap of his sticks he was on fire. He played like I haven’t heard anyone play. He played with such force and strength and his timing was immaculate. Everyone was so blown away. He received a lot of praise and congratulations and honoring. Derek was vocal in his honoring of Chuck. He knew Chuck’s history as a musician. By the 3rd day, Chuck was so much more vital. His language had improved and he was articulate and full of life and emotions. I felt like between the music and the way he was honored and his joy playing drums he transformed. That was a great and awesome thing to witness.
And the last thing I forgot to mention was the ending of the show. To honor Joe, we left the stage (before the encore) and the stage went black. Then a single spotlight lit an empty mic stand, while there was a moment of silence. Then, like the phoenix rising from the flames my photograph of Joe in the Spotlight was projected on all the large screens above the stage. We were bringing him back to life with our tribute.
What were the reasons that you start the social, spiritual and cultural researches and experiments?
I have always been an activist. Long before I ever picked up the camera I was protesting the Vietnam War, and working for women’s liberation. My generation was the generation that made protest and activism a very powerful form of rebellion. My generation was exposed too many different cultures and spiritual paths and I was drawn to them because they filled me with a sense of the divine. I read and was moved by poets like Rimbaud as many in my generation were. I think that the poetry of my times and the art of my times influenced me to be the person that I am today but I was also very fortunate to have a mother who was also an artist, a poet, and then intellectual and you influenced me to read great books and feel deeply.
What do you learned about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll culture and what does the blues mean to you?
That’s a huge question would’ve I learned from the rock’n roll culture. I’ve learned that my body and my soul thrive when I am around music, or when I’m playing music, or when I’m listening to music, or when I’m dancing to music. Sound goes directly into our souls more than any other medium. Sound touches us even more than light touches us. And as a photographer I am a light worker. But it is the music that motivates me most of all. So many pieces of music moves me to tears, express my feelings with me for me. I can sing at the top of my lungs a blues song and just cry and dance and move my emotions through my body. I can share this with other people. We can fall in love and dance and cry and work and play and rest all while listening to music. I love music. I love being involved with rock’n roll. I love the blues. I love ethnic music. I love world music. I actually beg and plead with the muse of music to touch me so that I can play the piano or drums freely and with soul. I wish that I had practiced piano every day as my mother had wanted me to. My father was a cinematographer and my mother a fashion model and the literature teacher. It seems to me that well I also am a musician, I was touched by the muse of light and thus became a visual artist first and foremost us.
"My generation was the generation that made protest and activism a very powerful form of rebellion. My generation was exposed too many different cultures and spiritual paths and I was drawn to them because they filled me with a sense of the divine. I read and was moved by poets like Rimbaud as many in my generation were." (Leon Russell, Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks / Photo by © Linda Wolf)
What do you miss nowadays from the music of 60s-70s? If you could change one thing in the musical world what would that be?
I would get big business out of the music industry. I believe that big business, large corporations have plundered the music industry. I remember when A&M records was first starting and how exciting it was. The Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour would have a hard time happening today. But actually after working with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, I have a lot more hope that the kind of aliveness is that I experienced back in 1970 can happen again. Susan and Derek and their band and their managers are people who are extraordinarily talented and extremely humble and very willing to allow the kind of freedom and generosity that art requires in order to thrive. More than anything I would like to work with them again.
What is the impact of Rock n’ Roll culture and music to the racial and socio-cultural implications?
R&R has transformed our world, world-wide. It has been one of the most important art forms, if not the most important art form, to break down racism.
R&R has its roots in “black culture.” It comes from rhythm and blues. It was “race music” that first turned white teenage audiences on and scandalized their parents. R&R has had a tremendous influence on every aspect of our lives in ways no other social development has. It has diversified society. R&R appeared on the scene just as the civil rights movement and desegregation was happening in the US. The coming together of white audiences and “black music” caused a lot of racist reactions. It was my generation that thumbed our noses at those reactions. R&R gave us a way to express not only a new and much more enlightened form of social organization but it allowed us to deepen our understanding of the suffering and injustices of racism. We are still coming to terms with white privilege and racism. R&R heralded the way for desegregation, in creating a new form of music that encouraged racial cooperation and shared experience.
I highly recommend reading Wikipedia’s description of the influence of R&R music on society. I just read it and I think it sums a lot of what I could say up. All I can end with is Rock and Roll is here to stay! Thank our lucky stars!
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, where and why would you want to go for a day?
This probably is the most superficial of answers and for sure there could be so many better ones, but hey it’s just one answer to a question that I could answer a hundred thousand ways! But, here’s my answer for today!
I’d like to have been on stage at Woodstock, as a guest musician, playing the most righteous and brilliant, off the charts, lead guitar with each and every band that played, every day of the concert --and playing my heart and soul out in a state of absolute bliss consciousness, and complete connection with the other musicians and the audience, the likes of which would fulfill me for the rest of my life! Wow, that would be something! Oh, right, the Beatles and Stones and Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen, and Mozart, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Bob, and Janis, and Jimi, and oh all of the greats would have to be there playing with me as well. I want the ultimate musical high!
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