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Ray Lowry, 1944-2008
posted October 15, 2008


Ray Lowry, the cartoonist and illustrator best known for a long-run of rock music cartoons in the music magazine NME and his relationship to The Clash, was found dead in his Rossendale, Lancashire home on Tuesday. He was 64 years old.

Lowry was born in 1944. An early fan of 1950s-style rock and roll as embodied in performers like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, Lowry would eventually find common ground with England's incipient punk movement in the late-'70s. After graduating school, Lowry moved to London where he split his time between painting and cartoons, which appeared in the publications International Times, Private Eye, Mayfair and Punch.

imageLowry began contributing to NME in the 1970s under the title Only Rock'n'Roll. In the course of collecting material for his feature, seeing the Sex Pistols on tour, he met the members of the band The Clash. Befriending them, Lowry would eventually be invited by the band on their legendary 1978 tour of the United States in support of Give 'Em Enough Rope. He recorded much of what went on in his sketchbooks. In 1979, Lowry created the London Calling album sleeve, one of the most distinctive designs in rock album history covering one of that music's great creative efforts.

imageSlowly withdrawing from the London arts scene in the 1980s, Lowry worked for style magazine The Face, and cultivated a number of celebrity clients for his art, which now included oil painted. He painted urban landscapes in addition to his music-related cartoons and art. Many Lowry Clash drawings -- originals rather than the classics from his archives -- were published in Johnny Green's 1999 memoir (written with Garry Barker) of his days as the band's road manager, A Riot Of Our Own. September 12 saw the opening of his first solo art show. An obituary at music magazine MOJO says that Lowry contacted them in 2005 about doing another series of sketches in support of the band The Kills, but that the assignment never came off. According to the cursory information given on his passing by the British press, Lowry had in recent years been suffering from various illnesses.

Your friends and mine at FPI's excellent blog remember Lowry.

Chris Breach wrote in to point out that the Lowry cartoons in the Green book were originals, but also wants to warn you against the second edition of the Green book in terms of its image quality.