At the American Magazine Conference (AMC) the American Society of Magazine Editor’s unveiled its selection of the top magazine covers from the prior four decades 1965-2005. Out of the thousands of covers reviewed in 2005, forty were selected and ranked from 1-40 respectively.
Awarded number one cover was Rolling Stone’s, January 21,1981 issue exposing a vulnerable, naked John Lennon being reborn from the side of Yoko Ono. Ironically this photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz just hours before Lennon was shot and killed on December 8th, 1980 as he left his New York apartment.
Go back in time December 8th, 1980; in my time travels I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing and even wearing when the news of Lennon’s death hit the airways. Like all moments of passionate significance the memory was etched in my brain for later total recall. Really, does anyone care where I was or what I was wearing when the news came, I doubt it seriously. But to the generation that grew up with John Lennon the impact of his tragic death made him an iconic god. A god now immortalized by the Leibovitz photo on the Rolling Stone cover.
Magazine art has become a powerful medium expressing the heart and pulse of modern culture. Though it may be a relatively new form of art, it carries the same significance as its predecessors from Gothic to Renaissance and Realism. Art is a recorder of history, culture and the moments we as a society find important enough to be passed on to our children.
Let us travel back in time even further, to a place and a young artist as passionate about his work and subject as Annie Liebovitz . 1498, Rome, Italy a 22-year-old Michelangelo commissioned to sculpt a life size figure of the crucified Christ in the arms of his mother. Placed before him a large block of marble uncut, untouched by time for millions of years waiting for the right moment and hands to reveal the secrets of the god hidden in the stone. With clear vision Michelangelo methodically brought to life what was hidden from the rest of the world. Being heralded throughout Italy within weeks of its unveiling as a masterpiece; the Pieta has been viewed by many as his greatest work. It records for those not present at the crucifixion of Christ the emotion of the ultimate sacrifice – that of God in human form.
Art, be it marble or a magazine cover tells the world what humanity values, it truths at that moment in time. And when those truths are challenged or cut down by a bullet, a cross, or act terrorism it is the artist who baptizes them into immortality. Each generation has or will have its own significant moments of “I remember” etched within the vortexes of their brain, from Pearl Harbor to September 11th, 2001 and beyond. Some have already been recorded in the listing top 40 magazine covers. One symbolizing the loss of someone the world held dear, another an iconic symbol of freedom, both having been placed in the pretext of god or goddess, (i.e. Princess Diana, People, September 15, 1997 and the blacked out shadow of the World Trade Centers , The New Yorker, September 24th, 2001.) The one cover that went so far as to ask, Is God Dead?, Time’s April 8th 1966 cover, this was the only cover out of the 40 where the probability of God was questioned.
Whatever your beliefs or non-beliefs may be or not be there will be a page recording them somewhere in history. If one is a true iconoclast or self proclaimed atheist this iconic history may have little or no place of value, because belief is commitment. And with that belief in someone or something there is always that underlying fear that someone will kill that which we believe in. Maybe that is where faith steps in.