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Mick Rock, photographer who captured David Bowie and Queen, dies

Mick Rock stands by an image of David Bowie.
Mick Rock attends the TASCHEN Gallery opening reception for “Mick Rock: Shooting for Stardust — The Rise of David Bowie & Co.” in Los Angeles in 2015.
(Angela Weiss / Getty Images)

Photographer Mick Rock, whose iconic portraits of rock stars such as David Bowie, Lou Reed and Debbie Harry saw him dubbed “the man who shot the ’70s,” has died at 72.

A statement posted Friday on Rock’s official social media accounts said: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share our beloved psychedelic renegade Mick Rock has made the Jungian journey to the other side.” No cause of death was given.

Born in London in 1948, Rock studied at Cambridge University, where he met and befriended Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd, who became one of his first subjects.

He was Bowie’s official photographer in the early 1970s, helping to make the singer’s alter ego, androgynous alien superstar Ziggy Stardust, a sensation.

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When photographer Mick Rock met David Bowie in 1971, the world was not paying attention.

Rock went on to take some of the most famous music photos of the era: a topless Iggy Pop on the cover of the “Raw Power” album; a spectral Lou Reed on “Transformer”; the members of Queen, their faces part-shadowed, for the cover of “Queen II.”

“People say, ‘Man, how did you get all these pictures? Well, because no one else was interested,” Rock told the Associated Press in 2002. “It wasn’t like I was battling other photographers to get the pictures.”

Rock had heart bypass surgery and a kidney transplant in the 1990s after years of rock ’n’ roll excess.

“I lived the life,” he said later. “As well as taking the pictures, I lived the life.”

He gave up cigarettes and drugs and carried on working, taking images of musicians such as Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.

Mick Rock photo of David Bowie in London in 1972
A Mick Rock photograph shows David Bowie in London in 1972.
(Mick Rock)

“Those who had the pleasure of existing in his orbit, know that Mick was always so much more than ‘The Man Who Shot the ’70s,’” the statement announcing his death said. “He was a photographic poet — a true force of nature who spent his days doing exactly what he loved, always in his own delightfully outrageous way.”

Sharon Osbourne tweeted: “We lost a legend, a true artist Mick Rock.”

Queen guitarist Brian May said he was “sad and shocked to hear of the passing of our friend, photographer Mick Rock.”

He said the “Queen II” cover picture “gave us an enduring image, inspired part of the ‘look’ of our Bohemian Rhapsody video a couple of years later, and has been widely imitated by others over the years since then.”


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