Legendary Beatles photographer Robert Freeman died on November 7th at age 82. Freeman, who had been shooting for London's Sunday Times, first photographed the "Fab Four" in the summer of 1963 and went on to shoot five of the band's album covers — 1963's With The Beatles — for which he was paid 75 British pounds, three times the usual fee, 1964's A Hard Day's Night and Beatles For Sale, and 1965's Help! and Rubber Soul. His shots of the band were used exclusively in the collage on the front cover of their 1966's Revolver collection.
In the U.S. his photography was featured on such albums as Meet The Beatles, Beatles '65, Beatles VI (6), and The Early Beatles. In 1968, he directed the British big feature film, The Touchables.
Freeman and John Lennon's personal lives intertwined, with Freeman and his then-wife; model Sonny Drane, living in the same London apartment building with Lennon, first wife Cynthia, and their son Julian. According to sources, Lennon carried on an affair with Sonny for several years — all while Freeman was acting as the Beatles' unofficial photographer.
Cynthia Lennon wrote in her 2005 memoir, John, that after the Lennon's moved to their English estate in Weybridge, the Freeman's — with a sobbing Sonny — showed up at the Lennon's door: "Bob ignored me and said he wanted to talk to John. They all disappeared into the living room. When John came back into the kitchen I asked him what had been going on, but he shrugged and disappeared upstairs. It was never mentioned between us again, but not long afterwards I heard that Bob and Stacy were divorcing. I couldn't escape the conclusion that she'd had an affair with John."
Although neither John Lennon, nor Paul McCartney ever admitted it, it has been rumored over the years that the 1965 Rubber Soul classic, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" was written about Lennon's affair with Sonny.
Paul McCartney posted a tribute to the man responsible for so many iconic Beatles images over the years and wrote in part on his PaulMcCartney.com website:
Dear Robert Freeman has passed away. He was one of our favourite photographers during the Beatles years who came up with some of our most iconic album covers. Besides being a great professional he was imaginative and a true original thinker. People often think that the cover shot for Meet The Beatles of our foreheads in half shadow was a carefully arranged studio shot. In fact it was taken quite quickly by Robert in the corridor of a hotel we were staying in where natural light came from the windows at the end of the corridor. I think it took no more than half an hour to accomplish.
I will miss this wonderful man but will always cherish the fond memories I have of him.
In 1995's The Beatles Anthology Paul McCartney recalled how Robert Freeman came up with the groundbreaking cover for Rubber Soul: ["He had a little carousel of slides and he had a little piece of cardboard stuck up on a little chair that was album cover size, and he was projecting the photographs onto it. 'Cause you could imagine exactly how it'd look then, as an album cover. We'd just chosen the photo, we said, 'That one looks good,' we all liked ourselves in one particular shot. And he was just winding up when the card it was on just fell backwards a little bit, and it elongated the photo and it stretched. And we went, 'Oh! Can we have that?! Can you do it like that?!' He said, 'Well yeah, I can print it like that. . .' We said, 'Yeah, that's it — Rubber Soul — heh-hey!"] SOUNDCUE (:33 OC: . . . soul heh hey)