Wilkes, who was diagnosed with a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1999, died of a heart attack June 28 at his home in Pioneertown, Calif., said his daughter, Katherine Wilkes Fotch.
Tom Wilkes obituary: The obituary of album cover designer Tom Wilkes in Saturday's Section A said Wilkes shot the cover photo for Janis Joplin's 1971 "Pearl" album. The photo was taken by Wilkes' then-business partner, Barry Feinstein. —
Wilkes was partner in a Long Beach advertising firm when he became art director for the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival for which he created all of the graphics and print materials, including the festival's psychedelic posterthat was printed on foil stock.
"In fact, he won an award from Reynolds aluminum for the most creative use of aluminum foil," Fotch said. "He was always very proud of that."
Music producer Lou Adler, who produced the landmark music festival with singer John Phillips, said Wilkes "caught the spirit of the time" with his festival graphics.
"Most of the artwork in that particular culture was coming out of San Francisco, and what Tom did was he took a San Francisco look, or niche, and made it international," Adler said. "You can see a lot of the posters from that period and say, 'Oh, that's the '60s.' With Tom, it isn't dated. There's a very special look to it."
The Monterey pop festival "catapulted" Wilkes' career into the music industry, his daughter said, beginning as art director at A&M Records.
During his heyday, Wilkes designed or provided the art direction or graphic design for scores of album covers, including designing the covers for the Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet," Neil Young's "Harvest," Eric Clapton's "Eric Clapton," Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" and George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh" and "All things Must Pass."
As he did with many of the albums, Wilkes also shot the cover photo of Joplin for her 1971 "Pearl" album, which shows the flamboyant singer lounging on a settee.
"Their photo session was the night she overdosed," Fotch said.
In 1973, Wilkes won a Grammy Award for best recording package for the Who's rock opera "Tommy," as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir.
David Fricke, a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine and an admirer of Wilkes' work, said that "the magic and the sort of importance of album design was to be able to catch the eye, to try and get a sense of what the music and the personalities were inside and also make you want to buy it."
Wilkes, Fricke said, "was able to capture a certain essence of what was on the record and the person who made it.
"You look at something like Neil Young's 'Harvest,' the texture of the cover and that very simple, almost antique lettering, and you get a feel of what Neil was trying to do in that record, the honesty and the grit and the deep Americana of what that record represents now."
And the cover for "Mad Dogs & Englishmen," Fricke said, "with that pose of [a muscle-flexing] Cocker almost like a circus strongman captures the carnival atmosphere of what those shows were like."
Adler, for whom Wilkes designed the "Tommy" album as well as a number of Cheech and Chong albums for his Ode Records label, described him as "very creative" and "very volatile."
"He was very, very independent and sometimes difficult to deal with because of his strong convictions on what he was doing," he said.