Jim McCrary, who was behind the camera for hundreds of album covers including Carole King’s iconic “Tapestry,” but who soured on rock photography following an encounter with a young Michael Jackson, died last month at age 72.
His niece Colleen Pollard told the LA Times that McCrary passed away April 29 of complications from a chronic nervous system disorder at a hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.
As a self-taught staff photographer for A&M Records, McCrary shot more than 300 album covers and countless promotional images for artists ranging from Cat Stevens, The Carpenters, Phil Ochs, Joe Cocker, Captain & Tenille and B.B. King. Perhaps his most famous cover was for King’s landmark 1971 album, “Tapestry,” which features the singer lounging on a window sill with her cat.
On his website , McCrary showcased dozens of other images of King through the years, including the cover for her “Tapestry” followup, “Music.”
Country rock fans have McCrary to thank for his part in documenting Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, including several early photo shoots with the band in Nudie Western gear as well as candid images during their brief history.
By the late 1970s, McCrary was photographing a wider range of younger artists, including ones he was not overly familiar with. One of those was Michael Jackson, whom he was tasked with shooting for the cover of his “Off the Wall” album. As the session was about to start, McCrary changed the channel on a nearby radio, even though the song playing was Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”
“Jim did not know Michael’s music and changed the radio station,” his niece Colleen Pollard, who was tasked with dancing with Jackson to loosen him up, told the LA Times. “I yelled, ‘No, that’s his song.’ The looks on Michael’s face and his manager’s were priceless.”
Jackson did not use any of the images and Pollard noted that this was one of the reasons McCrary left rock photography. “He said he just didn’t feel connected with the bands anymore,” she said.
He later transitioned to shooting portraits and still lifes and in 1990 opened up a camera equipment store in Hollywood, called Pix Camera.
McCrary is survived by a son and two brothers.