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July 17: Album Cover Art

July 16, 2015

STEINWEISS3-obit-popupAlex Steinweiss, an artist and designer who was the first to suggest and execute original artwork for a record album cover (for a 1939 collection of Rodgers and Hart songs, shown at left), died at 94 on this date in 2011. “‘The way records were sold was ridiculous,’ Mr. Steinweiss said in a 1990 interview,” according to the New York Times. “ ‘The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal.’ ” Steinweiss’ innovation dovetailed with the development of the LP, or long-playing record, and the launching of Columbia Records, where he was the first art director. Over the course of a thirty-four-year career, he designed more than 2,500 album covers. To see a musical tribute to his design work, look below.

“Back when record stores dotted the urban and suburban landscape, you could spend hours flipping through the cardboard squares admiring the cover artwork before flipping them over to read the liner notes. The cover was always the big thrill, the juicer that led to the purchase.” —Mark Myers, Jazzwax