Shepard Fairey is the official artist for the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards. He is likely the best known “street” artist in the United States. His most high-profile work emerged in 2008 when he created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster that was officially adopted as part of the candidate’s presidential campaign strategy. He has always had a close relationship with music, and has designed album covers for artists including the Black Eyed Peas (Monkey Business), Led Zeppelin (Mothership) and the Smashing Pumpkins (Zeitgeist). Learn more about Fairey's GRAMMY art here.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
What can I say? It's an amazing concept album with an equally amazing concept cover, created by Peter Blake, a talented British pop artist. Sgt. Pepper's…was created at the height of the psychedelic era and the Beatles originally planned to use a psychedelic painting for the cover, but were warned that it might become dated over time. I think they made the right choice with the Blake cover — it's a nod to the style of the movement, but it's as timeless as the music itself.
This debut album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame 35 years after its release. Like Led Zeppelin's other album covers, it's very strong graphically, but the simple graphic treatment of the Hindenburg exploding is an unforgettable opening statement for the band. Legend has it that after Jimmy Page asked Keith Moon and John Entwistle of the Who to join a supergroup with him and Jeff Beck, they told him that it would sink like a lead (as in the metal) zeppelin. The eventual members of Led Zeppelin decided if they were going to fail, they'd fail spectacularly, and they did just that — minus the failure part. This cover also has a particular personal significance to me: When I was 18, I spent hours and hours meticulously hand-cutting a stencil of this image so I could have it on a T-shirt.
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico
Even though it took years before the Velvet Underground reached any considerable level of success, their impact on rock music is undeniable. They took their music into uncharted territory, but it helped that they were embraced by Andy Warhol, who became their manager/"producer" and got them a record contract that gave them complete creative control. This cover is not only one of my favorites but also one of Warhol's most memorable works of art, at least in my mind. When I think of a banana, I think of this image, not an actual piece of fruit. Warhol was definitely the master of transforming the mundane into memorable iconography.
Kraftwerk had a strong sense for art and design that came through in all their albums, but The Man-Machine is my favorite, both musically and graphically. This cover, designed by Karl Klefisch, borrows elements from Soviet Constructivism, an art movement that has been a major influence on the propaganda style I've developed over the years. Everything on this cover is very angular, which complements Kraftwerk's very structured, modernistic electronic music.
Read Fairey's other installments: