Reprinted from Cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Peter Max makes Will Rogers, who famously said he never met a man he didn’t like, look like Old Man Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Max, who created the program cover and poster for Saturday’s 30th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, is as bright and witty as the colors on his iconic art.
“I’ve done so much rock ‘n’ roll — it’s in my blood,” said Max, calling from his studio near Central Park in New York City.
It’s true that especially in the case of the 77-year-old Max, he’s creating rock ‘n’ roll with a paintbrush instead of an electric guitar.
“Yes,” he said, agreeing with the analogy. “Creativity of music and color are so connected. Color is color and music is notes, and the two of them, when they enter a human body’s eyes and ears, it just goes together.”
The poster for this year’s ceremony centers around a guitar — with information in Max’s trademark stylized font so many of us remember from that famous 1966 “love” poster and framed by the Class of 2015 inductees. It will be available for sale at the event and online at rockhallstore.com.
“The inspiration is that I just love music so much, so much you can’t even believe it,” Max said. “I can’t draw and paint if there wasn’t music around me. I just got so excited, and it just flowed out.”
Any conversation with Max is an exercise in effervescence, which is why, three years shy of 80, he’s as enthusiastic about his art as he ever was. This piece is a great example.
“It kind of felt good, and it looked nice the way I put it together,” he said. “There are just so many amazing musicians on this page.”
One of them is a guy he’s known for more than 40 years — Ringo Starr, who’s being inducted as a solo artist for lifetime achievement.
“Ringo is a good friend,” Max said. “I remember maybe a year ago, Ringo came to New York and called me. He was staying somewhere not far from the studio, so we went to Central Park West, the street right outside Central Park.
“We sat on a bench for three or four hours, leaning over to each other, just talking, and nobody recognized us!” Max said.
He’s got a tendency to do things like that. Once, when he was in his late teens or early 20s, he found himself in a cafe in upstate New York, in a little town called Woodstock. He noticed another young man and just had to talk to him.
“I walked over to him because there was just something about him that I liked,” Max said. “I said hello, and the next thing I know, I was sitting at a table with him and we were talking.”
The young man, who told Max he was a musician who lived nearby, saw the drawing the artist was doing and told him he liked his work.
“Before I know it, about two hours later, I’m at his place and he starts singing to me,” Max said. “I go out of my mind because that was the first time I heard Jimi Hendrix in person.
“What a sweet boy,” Max said. “I cried when he died.”
It’s kind of fitting that those two should connect, even at that young age. Both have become iconic figures in their respective realms.
“People love to look at beautiful art, and I’m blessed that I’m able to do it,” he said. “The eyes are for seeing, and the heart is for feeling.”