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April 9: Abdul Mati Klarwein -- and Miles Davis

April 8, 2015

bitches-brewSurrealist artist Abdul Mati Klarwein was born in Hamburg on this date in 1932, to a Jewish architect father of Polish origin and a German opera singer mother. The three of them fled to Palestine when he was two years old. Klarwein was best known as a record album artist: His works included covers for Miles Davis; Earth, Wind & Fire; Eric Dolphy; Greg Allman; and Buddy Miles. One magazine hyperbolically described him as “literally responsible for every great, legendary record cover you’ve ever seen — if he didn’t do it, he inspired it.” Klarwein added “Abdul” (“servant” in Arabic) to his name in the late 1950s to express his opposition to the hostility between Jews and Muslims, and he urged every Mideastern Jew to adopt a Muslim name and vice versa. Klarwein also painted many commissioned portraits — Brigitte Bardot, Noël Coward, Juliette Binoche, Robert Graves, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas, and other celebrities — before his death at age 70 on the island of Majorca.

“I am only half German and only half Jewish with an Arab soul and a African heart.” —Mati Klarwein

Listen to Mati Klarwein describe his meeting with Miles Davis in an interview with Chris Gertges: