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.
Photo credit: Kevin Cann
“He simply came off stage, sat down and cried for about half a minute. Then he was fine.” Seattle, 1990.
Photo credit: Ian Tilton
The moment Gaga found out that she’d won a Grammy, 2010
Photo credit: “Dada” Williams
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
He played professional soccer briefly, don’t you know. Again, we’re guessing 1970s.
New York City, 1979
Photo credit: Michael McDonnell
Backstage at Iceland Airwaves, 2007
Photo credit: Leó Stefánsson
The Stooges, near the end of their run, 1973
Photo credit: Michael Ochs
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
Part of a series from Rihanna’s Facebook page, 2011
Backstage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2011
Photo credit: Jono Ryan
Providing stern competition for Imelda Marcos, 1970s
Photo credit: Terry O’Neill
Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon
A meeting of minds, 1991
Photo credit: Charles Peterson
Part of a “Day in the Life” type series, 2011
Photo credit: Diana Levine
Photo credit: Keystone Features
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan
New York, 1964
Circa Combat Rock, early 1980s
Not especially keen on the camera, then. 2009.
Photo credit: Katherine Rose
That’s Annie Leibovitz dressing Smith up as a Disney pirate, 2011
Backstage at Winterland in San Francisco, 1968
Photo credit: Jim Marshall
Paramount Theater, New York, 1946
Photo credit: William P Gottlieb