Photographer Henry Diltz Picks Up 2023 Grammy Trustees Award

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Longtime Friends of Henry Diltz, gathered at entertainment reporter Rona Elliot’s home in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 3, 2023, the night before he received his Grammy Trustees Award, at the Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception. From left: Elliot, Verdine White, Robby Krieger (and just behind him, the Rev. Shawn Amos), Diltz (and just behind him, Christopher Stills), Micky Dolenz, Timothy B. Schmit, and Stephen Stills. (Photo © Stephen K. Peeples)

An aura of peace, love and happiness surrounded Henry Diltz, the world-renowned music photographer, as he picked up a prestigious Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences on February 4, 2023.

The Grammy Trustees recognized Diltz’s significant contributions to music and music-related photography in a colorful career stretching back to the early 1960s.

One night earlier, Rona Elliot, renowned entertainment reporter (NBC’s Today, VH1) and a longtime Friend of Henry, hosted an intimate private party in his honor at her beautiful hilltop home in Bel-Air on Feb. 3, the night before the Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception.

The 40-50 invited guests included music biz contemporaries and civilians alike, nearly all of whom have had years-long friendships with Henry and gathered to help him celebrate his Trustees Award.

Perfect strangers connected by their friendships and projects with Henry were introducing themselves to each other, swapping Henry stories, and making new friends – as Henry Diltz Photography archivist Gary Strobl roamed the rooms with his GoPro camcorder and Henry shot candid stills on his Canon 6D DSLR to document the whole remarkable scene.

“It’s what I do!!” Henry grinned. Watch a portion of the gathering…

Recording Academy Board of Trustees Chair Tammy Hurt and Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. presented the award to Diltz during this year’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. The ceremony unfolded on Feb. 4, the night before the 65th annual Grammy Awards live telecast and was one of the special events the Academy hosts during “Grammy Week.”

Diltz, 84, also a founding partner of the renowned Morrison Hotel Gallery two decades ago, was one of three 2023 Trustees Award honorees, but the only one able to receive his award in person.

The two posthumous recipients were Ellis Marsalis, the New Orleans jazz legend and patriarch of the musical Marsalis family (he died April 1, 2020) and Jim Stewart, the Stax Records co-founder-producer and pioneer of the “Memphis Sound” (who died Dec. 5, 2022).

Diltz is in good company. Grammy Trustees Award honorees going back to 1967 include Count Basie, The Beatles, Dick Clark, Walt Disney, Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Alan Freed, Bill Graham, W.C. Handy, Steve Jobs, Quincy Jones, Carole King, Sir George Martin, Les Paul, Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, and other iconic figures who have made major contributions to the music industry. (Here’s the complete list of Grammy Trustees honorees.)

Watch the Henry Diltz presentation and acceptance video

Here’s the (very slightly edited) transcript…

Announcer: Please welcome the Chair of the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, Tammy Hurt, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.

Tammy Hurt: Hello! The Trustees Award [is] conferred by the Academy’s National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions other than performance in the field of recording, though, as you’ll see, a recipient may also be a performer.

Today, we’re honoring these individuals in this category tonight. Henry Diltz photographed more than 250 album covers and…countless publicity shots during the 1960s and ’70s. You all know. One of those album covers is the iconic Morrison Hotel cover for The Doors. Famed portraits, including images of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Crosby, Stills & Nash and so many more.

Cover photo shot at a downtown Los Angeles flophouse for The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” album, released February 1970. (Photo © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission)

Video Narrator: His artistic eye, his keen sense of timing and his skill with a camera have allowed him to capture some of the most iconic images of music history. Henry Diltz was there to shoot Crosby, Stills & Nash on a tattered red sofa for the cover of their debut album, and he was there to snap The Doors behind the glass of the Morrison Hotel for the cover of that album. Just two of the over 200 album cover images Diltz has photographed. He was on hand to document both intimate and spectacular moments at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and was the official photographer of 1969’s Woodstock Festival.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, when the Laurel Canyon scene was the center of the pop music universe, Diltz’s images beautifully presented the scenes talent at work and play, including such subjects as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, The Mamas & The Papas and Frank Zappa. His warm, naturalistic approach to imagery only served to underscore the magic and appeal of such performers as Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney.

Diltz began his work as a photographer as a sidelight to his own musical career, picking up a secondhand camera to shoot his road adventures as a member of the Modern Folk Quartet. Since then, his camera has stayed busy, and his body of work has become a treasure trove of rock music history. For his unique talent and achievement, the Recording Academy presents Henry Diltz with a Trustees Award.

Henry Diltz receives a 2023 Trustees Award from Tammy Hurt, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Board of Trustees Chair in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2023 (Photo courtesy Henry Diltz Photography)

Hurt: It is my pleasure to present the Recording Academy Trustees Award to Henry Diltz.

[Diltz trips on stairs to stage en route to the podium.]

Diltz: I did that on purpose! [laughter]

Well, thank you to the Recording Academy. I’m very proud and happy to get this award. And I want to thank the universe, too, because it’s the universe that put the camera in my hand.

I was happy being a hippie folk singer, singing with the Modern Folk Quartet. And then one day we played the University of Michigan, and the next morning, when we left town, we saw a little secondhand store. And we all walked in there to buy something we didn’t need.

And the guy in front of me, [MFQ band mate] Cyrus Faryar, he walked in and there was a table full of little used cameras. And he said, “Oh, I think I’m going to…I want one.” And I was right behind him, and I said, “Yeah, why not? Me, too!” Never thinking of even taking pictures. But we put some film in, and we spent a couple of weeks on the road photographing each other. And then we had a slideshow, and it amazed me when you saw these huge pictures on the wall, glowing. And I said, “Man, I’m going to take more of these pictures!”

Well, I lived in Laurel Canyon, and all of my friends were musicians. And I would spend the day photographing them. And eventually, they all became famous. It was a lucky break for me.

And then the phone started ringing and I started doing jobs. One day, the phone rang in my kitchen up in Laurel Canyon, and it was a renowned lighting director that was an old friend of mine, his name was Edward Herbert Beresford Monck, and his friends called him “Chip.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash at Woodstock (Photo © Henry Diltz; used with permission)

So, Chip Monck called me, and he said, “Henry, we’re going to have a great big music festival out here in upstate New York in a few weeks, and you ought to be out here.” And I said, “Well, Chip, I don’t know those people, how am I going to get a photo pass?” And he said, “I’ll have the producer…I’ll speak to the producer,” he said. And the next day, the phone rings, and it’s Michael Lang, and he says, “Chip says we need you. I’m sending you an airline ticket and $500.” Click. And that was it.

And that’s how I became the Woodstock photographer.

You know, I’ve always been curious about people. When I was in college, I studied psychology, because I just want to know what makes us tick, why are we the way we are, what’s all this about. And so, I’m kind of curious. And I like to watch people. And it was only a couple of years ago that I learned that my Chinese animal is a tiger. And tigers like to hide in the bushes and watch the other people. So that’s kind of what I do.

I had a list of names that, I mean, I was going to… There’s a lot of people that helped me, of course, do this. I mean, all the people in the pictures, that was the main part of it, the people in the pictures. I just pushed a button. So, I wanted to thank Graham, and Stephen, and David, and Neil, and Cass, and Joni, and Jimi, and James, and Jackson, and, let’s see, Dewey, and Gerry, Garth and Trisha. I have to thank Micky, and Peter, and Mike, and Davy.

I have to thank Paul…Paul, and George, and Ringo.

I never…took a picture of John. So, I like to read the Indian gurus, Yogananda and Swami Satyananda, and I read their books, and I read one day the Swami Satyananda’s book, “The Golden Present.” He said, “Of course, we’re here to learn, we all know that. And therefore, we’re all students. But you should think of yourself as the only student, and everybody else is your teacher.” And boy, I thought that was great. I try to think of that…I try to live that way. I try to think about that. And the people that give you the most hassle are your biggest teachers.

But it changes your life when you can really view life that way.

So, another day, the phone rang in my kitchen in Laurel Canyon, and a guy said, “Henry, I’m down here at a rehearsal hall with a group and they need a bunch of pictures for a tour book. Would you…do you have time to come down?” I said, “Sure.”

I went down and spoke to the leader of the group, and said, “Now, while you’re rehearsing, do you mind if I get up on stage? Because I got to get a good shot of everybody.” And Ringo said [Henry attempts Liverpool accent], “Look, I am the drummer, you’re the photographer, it’s as simple as that.” And so that was quite a lesson.

He was my teacher, for sure.

So once again, I want to thank the Grammy people, and my friends, and my family, and my helpers. I want to thank the angels, and the universe. So, thank you. And two words of advice: Behave properly and be happy.


Morrison Hotel Gallery partner Timothy White and the Gallery staff at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood hosted a celebration on Grammy night, Feb. 5, honoring Henry on receiving the Trustees Award.

Like Rona Elliot’s party, MHG’s was by invitation only, but the joint was tightly packed-to-overflowing with scores of well-wishing, selfie-seeking Friends of Henry for most of the three-hour bash. And it was L-O-U-D.

At one point in the middle of the mayhem, the guest of honor, who’s more comfortable behind a lens than being the focal point, was nearly overwhelmed by all the attention.

“This is crazy! Get me outta here!” Henry said, in a quick huddle-and-hug with a few longtime friends who provided a moment of calm in the eye of the hurricane. Then he grinned and sailed back into the schmoozefest.

A few minutes later, across the lobby from the Gallery, in the likewise packed Sunset Marquis bar, Micky Dolenz led the crowd in a heartfelt toast to his close friend of almost 60 years.

Trustees Award presentation video © Gary Strobl. Used here with permission. Transcript: Pamela Holloway/Transcription Panda. Party and MHG videos by Stephen K. Peeples. Special thanks to Rona Elliot and the MHG staff.

Related: Diltz tours his photo exhibit at L.A.’s Morrison Hotel Gallery

Stephen K Peeples

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