It was a tough week for New Orleans legends as we lost two in a span of 1 week.
Drummer Earl Palmer died in L.A. last week – Palmer was one of rocks legends and architects of the sound. King of the back beat, and creator of some of the earliest rythmn you were shakin too like: Fat’s Domino’s “Fat Man”, LIttle Richards “Tutti Frutti”, and Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. Palmer grew up in the historic black neighborhood of the Treme, a neighborhood well documented and brought to the world by our next fallen legend.
Photographer Michael P. Smith defined what New Orleans was through his lens for almost 50 years. A man many times over i have been asked about “oh, that’s your dad! i get it!” – the most important New Orleans photographer next to EJ Belloq, “Pop” White and Eric Waters, to capture the underground essence of what makes this city unique…and what makes me never want to leave.
He was an inspiration to me as a photographer and “cultural archaelogist” – as he invented it.
Please read his obit –
Here’s a cover story from the 10/23/2001 Gambit Weekly. The article contains images of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Fess, among others.
His daughter, Leslie, and i are friends and have talked about him and new orleans for nights on end. Recently she gave me bags of his unused film after his nerve disease took over too much of his body to shoot. I have been shooting this film alot over the years – and only on street documentary, music, and images i care about so much – as to use his inspiration in their execution.
He will be missed.
I hope New Orleanians especially will realize the cultural significance that these two men have combined to create, and relate to the rest of the world. What life one man led spreading the unique vibe, beat, and influence of his upbringings to another led documenting that world shows us the amazing ballet of our existence here in city. Where we would be with out the Treme, the music, Congo Square i dont want to know. And where would we be without having these images to teach the world about the impact that these cultures had on them – Know your Past. Know where you are from.
Every artform has roots, and we are but branches fueled by the trees power.