New book 'Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen' offers an incredible look at rock history

The collection of rare photos spans decades, from the blues to the White Stripes.

Image: The Everett Collection

People have been saying that rock is dead for, oh, about 60 years now. They have all been wrong. Exhibit A in the case for rock's eternal importance is a new book from the Smithsonian. Yes, that Smithsonian. Sure, that means rock and roll is the stuff of museums, but this lovely coffee-table tome reminds us that performers like Elvis or Debbie Harry will always stir us, even without the sound. Even in still images alone.

Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen kicks off, like the genre itself, with the blues, as electric acts like Muddy Waters influenced hip-shakers such like Elvis and Chuck Berry. We see mesmerizing shots of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis onstage. Some 200 pages and 60 years later, popular modern acts like Adele and the Alabama Shakes carry the torch.

In between, the book serves up many of our favorites, from the Everly Brothers and Carole King to the Boss and Prince. As the title suggests, many of these images were new to our eyes. Veteran photographer Chester Simpson is responsible for many highlights. He got his start in San Francisco, back when the Dead were playing with Starship. Simpson saw his first pic published by Rolling Stone in 1977. He nabbed Iggy Pop with a broken chair over his head. He snapped Elvis Costello on his first American tour. 

You can buy Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen online at Amazon.

Check out more of Chester Simpson's work at He rubbed shoulders with all the big names, and has a wealth of cool pictures on his website, for purchase if you desire. We are particularly fond of this Lindsey Buckingham set.

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