There is a crucial moment in every young person’s life when they realize their parent is just a human and not a superhero. But what if your dad is the insanely influential Danny Clinch, who has shot just about every major artist and several landmark album covers? When does that happen?
“Both of my kids are great kids, and they know I’ve been a part of some really important musical moments,” says Clinch, laughing at the question. “Especially when Max sees things like Big L and knows my history with him, or if he’s with me and we’ll see the Flatbush Zombies and the guys will be like, ‘Holy shit, Danny Clinch!”’
So maybe it’s a bit tougher to separate the man from the legend for some, but then again maybe it’s just because Danny Clinch IS a goddamn legend! I mean, after touring with and shooting names like the Foo Fighters, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Nas, Big F, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and just about any other band that has had a hit song in the past three decades, it’s hard to argue that Clinch is anything less than a lynchpin in documenting music for an entire generation.
Photography started in Toms River, New Jersey, via his mother’s influence, and after a few different cameras going back as early as the age of 7, Clinch borrowed a neighbor’s Pentax K1000, which he credits as the true catalyst for it all. After some photography schooling, Clinch became an intern and then an assistant for Annie Feibovitz, and then through the spider’s web came a Spin shoot with hip-hop crew 3rd Bass and eventually working directly for Def Jam. All this led to a cover for Ford Finesse’s Return of the Funky Man and a bunch of other work, including Nas’ classic Illmatic. At the time, many photographers weren’t interested in shooting this new wave of music, so Clinch was able to shoot all the hip-hop luminaries of the era, which, when it came time to shoot new rock bands, impressed the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and others who had all grown up on rap. From there his career took on a life of its own, with Clinch’s reputation and skill set clearly cemented in the minds of artists and fans across the globe.
Now, after 30 years of shooting every musician under the sun, Clinch truly has earned his reputation and that cape. Unfortunately, there are glimmers that Clinch has used some of his superpowers for evil.
“Bruce Springsteen does this thing called Stand Up for Heroes every year, which is stand-up comedy for veterans. We were doing this photo shoot on the day before the show, and I turned to my assistants and said, ‘Who’s got a good joke?’ One assistant stepped forward and told the ‘interrupting cow’ joke, which made us all groan,” Clinch recalls. “So during the shoot, Springsteen turns to the team and asks if anyone has a joke. My assistant responds with the interrupting cow joke. In my head I’m thinking, ‘No! You’re not telling that joke to Bruce! That is the lamest joke.’ But then Bruce hears it and thinks it’s the funniest joke ever and is dying with laughter.
“The next day, Bruce goes on Stand Up for Heroes and tells his joke:
The interrupting cow
Thanks for the immortal images, Danny Clinch. No thanks for corrupting a national treasure.