Famed photographer Douglas Kirkland has shot famous photos of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson, and worked on many movie sets. In his late 70’s, he’s still going strong and has a lust for life that is apparent in his song picks, from an ode to Italy to a couple heart-tugging ballads. His newest book of photos -- Douglas Kirkland A Life in Pictures -- will be out September 1.
Benny Goodman - “Let's Dance”
Ray Charles - “Guess I'll Hang my Tears Out to Dry”
Moulin Rouge Ewan McGregor and Alessandro Safina - “Your Song”
Nino Rota - “La Dolce Vita Finale"
The Beatles – “The Long and Winding Road”
Banner Photo by Timothy Norris
MS: Hi I'm Mathieu Schreyer from KCRW and I'm here with famed photographer Douglas Kirkland, who shot famous photos of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson and Andy Warhol among others. Today we will be playing excerpts of songs he selected that inspired him over the years as a part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Douglas, what did you bring for us?
DK: Well, Mathieu, the first thing I want to talk about is that I grew up in a small town in Canada, right on the U.S. border, only 7,000 people. It was small enough that I used to come home from school for lunch, and often my father would bring Life magazine and we would be looking at those magazines and that was an inspiration to becoming a photographer. But something else happened. There was a daily show called the Luncheon Club and they always started it with one song, which has stayed strong in my mind, called "Let's Dance" it was a Benny Goodman, and that's how the show began.
MS: Were you dancing along with it?
DK: I was dancing, you know, I learned to play the clarinet as a result of this. But photography is my true love. That's ultimately where I ended up.
MS: Let's get into Benny Goodman's "Let's Dance."
Song: Benny Goodman – Let’s Dance
MS: That was Benny Goodman doing "Let's Dance". What else do you have for us, Douglas?
DK: You know, I've been a very lucky guy. This world of photography has taken me to a lot of interesting places, and I've worked on a lot of movies around the world. From The Sound of Music, I did the big billboard on that with Julie Andrews, to today, just recently, working on The Great Gatsby. In any case, one assignment that I got which was a great prize back in 1963 was that I was sent to Mexico to work with Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot. Jeanne was given, by French radio, a tape and I loved one song specifically on it. It was a song I had never heard before and it stayed with me ever since. It's Ray Charles singing "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry."
Song: Ray Charles - "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry"
MS: What is it that you love about it?
DK: It just brings the heart forward, and it's also the time for me because I was very close with both Jeanne and Brigitte. And Jeanne particularly, this was a prize of hers, and for her to give me that when I was going back to my home in New York was very special and I remember it in that way and that's what this song brings back to mind when I hear it.
MS: Ray Charles singing "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry". What else do you have for us, Douglas?
DK: Another movie. I worked in Australia a great deal; one of the reasons is because of Baz Luhrmann, the director. And starting in 2000 I worked on his film Moulin Rouge and Ewan McGregor sings a wonderful song, it's call "Your Song" and it's very special, and that's a song that I would like you to hear.
Song: Ewan McGregor and Alessandro Safina – Your Song
MS: Do you use music on set when you take photos?
DK: I do, I absolutely do. And the interesting thing is that people say 'what kind of music do you like?' I feel the key is to have music there that will comfort your subject and make them feel right. Music is very important and that frequently MAKES pictures. If people let themselves go and ride with it, just enjoy it, that's what the power of music is.
MS: We just heard from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack Ewan Mcgregor and Alessandro Safina doing "Your Song". And now we're gonna get into Nino Rota from "A Dolce Vita".
DK: This song is the joy of Italy for me. You know it's the warmth of the Italian people. Until I lived and spent time there I didn't fully understand it. But when you're in a city like Rome, especially in the summer time or go to the sea side, it's a glorious place where we have an enormous number of friends.
MS: Have you been to Ischia?
DK: Oh yes, in fact I worked with Peter Sellers, he was making a film there and he loved photography himself. I made a set of pictures of him, which I sketched out first and he agreed to doing them. We ran all over Rome after we came back from Ischia and made pictures of him acting like a paparazzo or a paparazzi, chasing his wife at the time, Britt Ekland and using his cameras. We had a lot of fun. You see, again, you connect with people with the camera and it's a wonderful world.
Song: Nino Rota – “A Dolce Vita”
MS: Nino Rota from "A Dolce Vita". Okay, what else do you have for us?
DK: Well, you know, when I was very young, I tried to get started as a photographer in Toronto and had great difficulty. It's like I couldn't get arrested, so to speak. And interestingly, I was invited back to Toronto a few years ago and they asked me to bring a song that you'd like to have playing when you're pictures are shown. And the song I thought of was "The Long and Winding Road" because, frankly, I had been down a long and winding rode since I left Toronto in what I'll call defeat, found my way to a couple of newspapers and then eventually into New York. I worked with a wonderful photographer named Irving Penn, and then eventually went on my own and the people at Look magazine called me and asked me to try out. To make a long story short, I got that job. I traveled all over the world with writers and, frankly, that is where I grew up and got a true education, at Look.
Song: The Beatles – “The Long and Winding Road”
DK: I love Toronto still and Canada, certainly, but my home is really here in the states and has been in New York and as well as Los Angeles where I live now with my wife of 47 years Francois, whom I met in Paris. I met her when I was working with Audrey Hepburn and her mother was working in the publicity department of the film "How to Steal a Million Dollars". She came out to visit her mother one afternoon and we had a date that night and we've been together ever since, so there's a story Mathieu, there's a French story.
MS: The long and winding road!
DK: It has been a long and winding road and a very wonderful one.
MS: We just heard from The Beatles with the song "The Long and Winding Road." Douglas, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
DK: Thank you, Mathew. I've enjoyed being here. This is my favorite station.
MS: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.