25 Intimate and Revealing Backstage Photos of Famous Musicians

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We all know what our favorite musicians are like on stage — whether they’re shy or flamboyant, whether they’re chatty or businesslike, whether they’re funny or taciturn. But we also know that what we’re seeing on stage is ultimately a performance. Off stage, however, it’s a completely different matter, and thus backstage photography has always provided an interesting insight into the music world, particularly when the photos in question aren’t posed or contrived. After the jump, we’ve pulled together a collection of such photos, images that seem to capture sides to performers that we rarely get to see, giving a glimpse of the person behind the persona — whether it’s a tearful Kurt Cobain slumped in a corner, Bob Marley playing soccer, or Lemmy reading a book (with nary a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in sight!), these are like all great photos in that they capture a moment in time and in doing so also capture some part of the subject’s personality. We hope you enjoy them.

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David Bowie

Photo credit: Kevin Cann

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Kurt Cobain

“He simply came off stage, sat down and cried for about half a minute. Then he was fine.” Seattle, 1990.

Photo credit: Ian Tilton

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Lady Gaga

The moment Gaga found out that she’d won a Grammy, 2010

Photo credit: “Dada” Williams

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Bob Marley (and a guy who looks an awful lot like Jimi Hendrix)

It’s not Jimi, though, because this photo was taken in 1979

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Rod Stewart

He played professional soccer briefly, don’t you know. Again, we’re guessing 1970s.

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Madonna

New York City, 1979

Photo credit: Michael McDonnell

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Of Montreal

Backstage at Iceland Airwaves, 2007

Photo credit: Leó Stefánsson

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Iggy Pop

The Stooges, near the end of their run, 1973

Photo credit: Michael Ochs

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Nick Cave

Not his dressing room, but his office — still, we thought this was way too good not to include. West Berlin, 1985.

Photo credit: Bleddyn Butcher

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Keith Richards

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Rihanna

Part of a series from Rihanna’s Facebook page, 2011

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Bebe Buell

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Panda Bear

Backstage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2011

Photo credit: Jono Ryan

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Elton John

Providing stern competition for Imelda Marcos, 1970s

Photo credit: Terry O’Neill

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Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon

A meeting of minds, 1991

Photo credit: Charles Peterson

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Lemmy

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Jason Derulo

Part of a “Day in the Life” type series, 2011

Photo credit: Diana Levine

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Suzi Quatro

Circa 1974

Photo credit: Keystone Features

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Joan Baez and Bob Dylan

New York, 1964

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Joe Strummer

Circa Combat Rock, early 1980s

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The xx

Not especially keen on the camera, then. 2009.

Photo credit: Katherine Rose

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Patti Smith

That’s Annie Leibovitz dressing Smith up as a Disney pirate, 2011

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Janis Joplin

Backstage at Winterland in San Francisco, 1968

Photo credit: Jim Marshall

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Duke Ellington

Paramount Theater, New York, 1946

Photo credit: William P Gottlieb