R.I.P. Robert Matheu, Photographer, Music Historian, Author and Friend

Yesterday was a terribly sad day, the memorial service for my friend Robert Matheu, rock photographer, raconteur, author, music historian and above all loving family man.  With his wife Sheryl he had three beautiful young daughters, Ruby, Rose and Veronica.  Bob died of an accidental drowning on September 21, at the age of 63.

Bob was from Detroit and his first love was the music from that city, most of all The Stooges and the MC5.  We met a decade or so ago, I think through his project to re-launch the legendary Detroit rock magazine Creem, and his book Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine.  Bob was also the author The Stooges: The Authorized and Illustrated Story.

Bob’s Stooges book was a pictorial and written appreciation of the band that invented Punk, with essays on the group’s history by a collection of respected critics and writers.  Some years later, I decided to do my own book on the Stooges, but from a different perspective, based primarily on long interviews I’d done with Iggy Pop, and a collection of rare Stooges memorabilia.

When I told Bob about my project, he couldn’t have been more supportive, helpful, and available.  He was an expert on the band and had been around for  much of their history, so I convinced my publisher to hire him to help me forensically research and clear photographs.  We spent many hours analyzing who had taken uncredited photos, searching for photographers, turning up previously unpublished pictures, and analyzing where images had been shot.  I remember Bob pointing out a snake armband that Iggy had apparently worn only once, at the Ford Auditorium show in Detroit in 1973, which nailed down where a group of photos had been taken.  I though it extraordinary that here was a guy who had written his own book on a subject near and dear to his heart, graciously and generously helping me get it right on my project, which in some minimal way would compete with his.

Iggy with his snake armband, at the Stooges March 27, 1973 show at Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. This was their first show after the release of Raw Power. Photo by Robert Matheu.

Here’s a great example of a classic Bob story.  While putting my book together, Bob sent me this 1981 photo he took backstage at the Second Chance Saloon in Ann Arbor, at one of Iggy’s Solo shows.

Iggy is posing with his former Stooges bandmates, a barely recognizable Scott Asheton and his brother Ron.  When I asked Bob about the photo, he deadpanned  “When the Stooges reformed, Ronnie said over and over in interviews that he hadn’t spoken to Iggy since 1974.  When I showed him this photo, he said ‘sure, I was there, doesn’t mean I spoke to him’”.  Naturally, that quote became the caption in the book.

Iggy’s authorized action figure based on a photograph by Robert Matheu.

I feel very lucky to have known Bob, and am still somewhat in shock that this vital, funny, talented, helpful and loving guy is gone.  You can see some of Bob’s photographs at Camerapress, RockPaperPhoto, and on his website, which also has poignant remembrances  by his daughter Ruby and friend Brian J. Bowe.  Also well worth your time are pieces on Bob by our longtime mutual friend Heather Harris in  DetroitRockNRoll Magazine and her FastFilm blog.

Bob, you are already missed.  You made a lot of people happy, and lucky for us, we have the indelible memories, stories, photographs, and most important your family who carry on your legacy.  Rest in peace.

Comments

A very beautiful tribute Jeff! I have the Creem and The Stooges books and he was, indeed, a very creative person. Thank you for the post. Rest in Peace Bob.

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