Andy Warhol is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. But beyond creating some of America’s most iconic works of art, it is undeniable that his work has influenced pop culture at large, especially music.
From creating iconic album art for artists like The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, to seeing artists like David Bowie and Lou Reed writing music directly inspired by him, Warhol and his work have pervaded the world of music.
Tonight on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the queens will be serving up looks inspired by the prince of pop art. In anticipation for the episode, Billboard Pride has gathered ten of Warhol’s most memorable music moments.
1. He designed the famous cover for The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers
It’s hard to find another example of an album cover quite like that of Sticky Fingers. The artwork for The Rolling Stones’ 11th studio album, designed by Warhol, features a provocative image of a man’s crotch in a pair of jeans. What’s even crazier? The original LP release featured a working zipper on the photographed jeans, which revealed the cover model’s underwear. The cover art is so iconic that to this day, people who worked with Warhol still debate over whose crotch is in the photo.
2. He also designed covers for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and John Lennon
Before Warhol became an international phenomenon, he was an artist looking for work. Warhol was commissioned before and after his rise to fame to create album cover art. Some of his finest works include Diana Ross’ Silk Electric, Aretha Franklin’s Aretha, John Lennon’s posthumous Menlove Ave., and even Liza Minelli’s Live at Carnegie Hall.
3. He modeled one of his iconic works after Elvis Presley
Warhol was famous for depicting celebrities in his work, and one of his more famous pieces, Double Elvis, was a dual image of Presley himself. Warhol was always fascinated by sex symbols, and since Presley is considered to be one of the most prominent sex symbols of all time, it makes perfect sense why Warhol would be inclined to make art out of the King of Rock & Roll.
4. He managed The Velvet Underground for their first album
Many people know that Andy Warhol designed the now-famous banana artwork for The Velvet Underground’s first record, The Velvet Underground & Nico. What some may not know is that Andy Warhol was actually the band’s manager during that time as well. Born out of Warhol’s desire to make art in as many different mediums as possible, he worked with the band to create a strange, cacophonous, distorted record that took on topics that other bands at the time wouldn’t. While the record didn’t sell many copies, it is still considered to be one of the most influential albums in modern rock music.
5. Lou Reed later wrote a song about an attempt on Warhol’s life.
While their partnership didn’t last long, The Velvet Underground’s frontman Lou Reed has said to this day that Andy Warhol remained an inspiring figure and friend throughout his life. So when Valerie Solanas shot Warhol in the chest in 1968, nearly killing him, Reed wrote a song for Warhol, entitled “Andy’s Chest.” While it was initially recorded by The Velvet Underground for an album of theirs, Reed later released it on his solo album Transformer, which was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.
6. Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is rumored to be based around the relationship between Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick
“Like a Rolling Stone” is easily one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs. But since its release, fans have speculated whether or not the song refers to an apparent love triangle between Dylan, Warhol and actress Edie Sedgwick. Sedgwick was Warhol’s muse in the early ‘60s, and it has been rumored that Dylan was in love with Sedgwick and didn’t like the way Warhol treated her. The song’s characters of Miss Lonely and the Diplomat on a Chrome Horse are what fans point to most often as representations of Sedgwick and Warhol, respectively.
7. He reportedly hated the David Bowie song named after him.
David Bowie had not met Warhol before he wrote the song “Andy Warhol” for his 1971 album Hunky Dory. When the two met for the first time, Bowie said when he played the song for Warhol, Andy really didn’t enjoy it. In an interview with Performing Songwriter, Bowie said “I took the song to The Factory when I first came to America and played it to him, and he hated it. Loathed it. He went ‘Oh, uh-huh, okay…’ then just walked away.”
8. He was played by Bowie in the movie Basquiat
Bowie has said in multiple interviews that Andy Warhol was a major influence on his music and his career. So when the time came to cast an actor to play Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat (based on the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat), the rock-star-turned-actor was the perfect fit.
9. He directed The Cars’ “Hello Again” music video
An artist of many mediums, Warhol took on a lighter project when he directed the music video for The Cars’ song “Hello Again” in 1984. An ode to the sex and violence being depicted in the MTV hits of the day, the clip even features a cameo from the artist, sporting his signature silver hair as a bartender.
10. Lou Reed and John Cale released Songs for Drella as a tribute to Warhol
When Warhol died after a surgery in 1987, two of his proteges, Lou Reed and John Cale, decided to make an entire album dedicated to his memory, called Songs for Drella. Drella was an affectionate nickname Warhol’s friends used for him, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella. The album examines Warhol’s life and the way he changed the lives of the people he met.