Beyond Words: Photos of Great Songwriters

Dion, New York City, 2007. The legendary rocker on the deck of his building on Wall Street in NYC, across the street from The Stock Exchange. He’d recently moved into his spacious apartment which he said he got for very little, because of its proximity to Ground Zero, which was a few blocks away. For a beloved living legend (he and Dylan were the only two living rockers included among the icons on the cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper), he was especially humble. When telling him of my reverence for his music, he said, “Aw man, you’re starting to make me feel good!”
Rickie Lee Jones, doubled, Malibu, 2004. I’ve interviewed Rickie Lee many times over the years. There was only once that she entirely lost me. I couldn’t keep up with her. Literally. She was living in Malibu, up in the hills high over the ocean, where we met. She suggested we do the interview at a little cafe down on the Pacific Coast Highway, and told me to follow her down the hill in my car.

Before I had my key in, she went flying by, lightning fast, in her truck. Truly crazy fast, kicking up a little dust storm as she descended. I sped down the hill and did my best to catch her, zooming too fast through the downhill twists and turns, When I reached PCH at the bottom, I had no idea which way to turn, and never did find her that day. Fortunately it was the only time I couldn’t keep up with her. We met again the next day and did the interview, and took a few photos, including this one of Rickie Lee doubled.

The Late Great Lemmy Kilmister, 2010, at The Roxy. We were at the famous Sunset Strip nightclub during the daytime to interview Lemmy, the founder of Motorhead, for the documentary “Jimi Hendrix: Guitar Hero.” We had a little crew – camera, sound, lights – set up, ready to go. But Lemmy wanted time first for a few Jack & Cokes, and video poker. Then a few more. I worried he would be too inebriated to talk, I was told by those in the know not to worry. “Being sober is the only thing that would keep him from talking,” I was informed. They were right. He was pure Lemmy on camera – smart, imperial and funny.

Perry Botkin, Jr. The songwriter of “Bless The Beasts and The Children” and “Nadia’s Theme,” both co-written with Barry DeVorzon. He also helped launch the career of the great Harry Nilsson, and was arranger on ‘Pandemonium Shadow Show,’ and also ‘Stoney End’ by Barbara Streisand and`Feliz Navidad’ by Jose Feliciano.

Jon Bon Jovi at the Beverly Wilshire, 2007. I was there on this winter night to cover an event about some new music software which didn’t really deserve much coverage. I drifted out quietly, hoping not to be noticed, and in the hall saw Bon Jovi & entourage heading towards the exit. With camera slung around my neck, I followed them outside and asked him if he would mind if I take a photo. This seemed to throw him, as no paparazzo would ask permission. “Who are you with?” he asked. I told him American Songwriter, and was here to cover this software event going on, but “it was so boring I had to duck out.” He smiled slightly as if he was maybe 70% sure I wasn’t a lunatic, and said, “Sure, go ahead.” I took one shot only, this one.

All Photos by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

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