Before the mid-sixties music explosion hit, album covers existed, with some notable exceptions, just to hold the records. That was of course before Gary Burden began creating the covers.
Burden’s artistic bent started early. By age six he was drawing continuously in between tap-dancing with his sister’s act and haunting movie sets with his father, a Laguna Beach citrus rancher who invested in films and did movie lighting and production.
At age sixteen Burden coerced his mother into signing the papers making him a year older so he could join the Marine Corps. Having been completely propagandized growing up during WW II he had a very romantic idea of serving in uniform. Especially in the United States Marine Corps. Plus, and perhaps more important, it was a way to get away from home.
Somehow Burden always found himself at the right place at the right time. In the late 1950s, as a self-described beatnik he hung out in San Francisco’s North Beach. He was already a veteran with a sorted past when in the early sixties he witnessed Mario Savio’s Free Speech Movement and the rise of Rock ‘n Roll while studying Architectural Design at U.C. Berkeley.
After a disillusioning stint with an architectural firm, Burden designed a house for Mama Cass who took note of his visual orientation and suggested he put his talents into album covers. Shortly thereafter Burden had designed Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” cover, albums for Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night and The Mamas and the Papas all of which went gold and platinum. Burden created Crosby, Stills and Nash’s first album cover artwork, The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” and four album covers for the Eagles’ including “Desperado”, several for Jackson Browne, Judee Sill, Laura Nyro, and many others even making a cover for Zydeco artist Clifton Chenier.
Neil Young and Gary have been collaborating on album cover art for more than forty years and have become lifelong friends. They still enjoy working together, witness the 2009 Volume I archival box set. They’re currently at work on Volume II and a myriad of other packages for the super prolific artist.
Gary Burden has earned four Grammy nominations for “Best Package of the Year."
Moving into stage design for touring bands and TV specials plus directing music videos for Dan Fogelberg and Lee Greenwood, Burden earned two nominations for directing “Best Video of the Year” and a TV’s People’s Choice Awards.
Burden conceptualized and co-produced “The Atlantic Records’ 40th Anniversary Special,” a 13-hour Madison Square Garden Rock and Roll extravaganza that aired on HBO and ABC-TV. Burden also directed the behind the scenes documentary of the event for MTV and VH-1, with interviews of artists ranging from Ruth Brown to Led Zeppelin with his “sound man” Bill Murray.
Recently Burden produced an international tour of his artwork. He also created the poster art for The Rainforest Alliance annual gala in New York City. 2009 finally saw the releases of the long awaited Neil Young Archives housed in Burden's packaging system.
Currently Burden is enjoying the great pleasure of working with young, next generation singer songwriters like Conor Oberst and Jim James and My morning Jacket, this year collaborating on Monsters of Folk with Conor, Jim, Matt Ward and Mike Mogis. He is stoked to be finding new allies and carrying forward the belief that the album artwork matters.
A crowning achievement was creating the album art for rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis' "Last Man Standing" And now making the cover for Jerry Lee's new record "Mean Old Man".
Currently Burden, with partner Ed Pressman is producing Edward Abbey’s famous novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang” as a feature film.
He continues creating packaging for music because; “I live and breathe the music and I am an old dog continuously searching for new tricks to do.”