Revolver Cover Artist and Bassist Klaus Voormann, The Artist vs. the Art

Jim and Greg sit down with artist and musician Klaus Voormann. Klaus shares his unique vantage point to rock and roll history: he designed the cover artwork for The Beatles' album, Revolver, lived with George and Ringo and was a session bassist on many iconic albums in the 1970s including Imagine, All Things Must Pass and Plastic Ono Band. Also in the light of the recent R. Kelly docu-series, the hosts revisit their discussion about the artist vs. the art: whether art can be evaluated separately from the artist's ethics.

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The Artist vs. the Art


Oscar Wilde once wrote, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.”That is, should we judge an artist's output by their personal morals? Can you enjoy a song, when you know the person performing it has done some despicable things? This question is not new to music criticism. It applies to artists like Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Miles Davis and more contemporary artists like Pwr Bttm and R. Kelly. The recent Lifetime documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, has brought a lot of attention to this subject. Jim and Greg revisit their conversation with journalist Britt Julious (who has written for the Chicago Tribune, Esquire, Elle, and others) and Mark Anthony Neal (cultural critic and professor of African and African American Studies at Duke) about whether we can, and should, hold a musician's artistic output to a moral standard.


Klaus Voorman


Klaus Voormann was an artist living in Hamburg when he followed the sound of live music down into a cellar one night and happened upon his first live rock and roll show. He saw two acts from Liverpool that night: Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (with Ringo Starr on drums) and an irreverent dance band called The Beatles.

The friendship he struck up with The Beatles would alter the course of his life and prove to be lifelong. When they leapt forward into psychedelia with Revolver, they turned to Voormann to create a fitting cover image. That work won a Grammy and a place of honor (in tattoo form) on Jim's arm. When John Lennon started pulling away from The Beatles, he enlisted Voormann to play bass in the Plastic Ono Band. George Harrison and Starr followed suit, trusting their "A Hard Day's Night" era roommate, Voormann, to provide the bassline on many of their solo albums as well.

His stature as a session bass player grew throughout the 1970's- he can be heard on albums by Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson and Lou Reed among many others. In the early 1980s Voormann added“producer”to his resume through his work with the German band, Trio.

Featured Songs

  1. Trio, Da Da Da, (single), Mercury, 1982
  2. Carly Simon, We Have No Secrets, No Secrets, Elektra, 1972
  3. John Lennon, Imagine, Imagine, Apple, 1971
  4. Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, Lend Me Your Comb, Unearthed Merseybeat: The Golden Age 1961-1966, Viper, 2004
  5. The Beatles, I Saw Her Standing There, Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962, Lingasong, 1977
  6. The Beatles, Twist and Shout, Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962, Lingasong, 1977
  7. Paddy, Klaus and Gibson, Quick Before They Catch Us, (single), Pye, 1966
  8. John Lennon, How Do You Sleep, Imagine, Apple, 1971
  9. Harry Nilsson, Gotta Get Up, Nilsson Schmilsson, RCA, 1971
  10. John Lennon, I Found Out, Plastic Ono Band, Apple, 1970
  11. The Beatles, Love You To, Revolver, Parlophone, 1966
  12. The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever, (single), Capitol, 1967
  13. The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, A Hard Day's Night, Parlophone, 1964
  14. George Harrison, Wah-Wah, All Things Must Pass, Apple, 1970
  15. George Harrison, My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, Apple, 1970
  16. John Lennon, Oh Yoko!, Imagine, Apple, 1971
  17. Lou Reed, Perfect Day, Transformer, RCA, 1972
  18. Harry Nilsson, Take 54, Son of Schmilsson, RCA, 1972
  19. Harry Nilsson, Without You, Nilsson Schmilsson, RCA, 1971
  20. Trio, Sunday You Need Love, Monday Be Alone, Trio, Mercury, 1981
  21. John Lennon, Jealous Guy, Imagine, Apple, 1971
  22. Blondie, Call Me, American Gigolo, Polydor, 1980
  23. Patti Smith, Gloria, Horses, Arista, 1975
  24. Au Pairs, Inconvenience (12" Version), Playing with a Different Sex, Human, 1981
  25. Outkast, B.O.B., Stankonia, La Face, 2000
  26. The Emotions, Best of My Love, Rejoice, Columbia, 1977