David Dalton, Rolling Stone writer and rock biographer, dies at 80

David Dalton, one of the first rolling stone writer who profiled Janis Joplin, Charles Manson and Little Richard before penning biographies of some of pop culture’s most important figures, died Monday in New York City at the age of 80. According to his son, Toby Dalton, the cause of death was cancer, The New York Times reported.

Born John David Dalton on January 15, 1942, Dalton grew up in London and British Columbia before eventually following his parents to the United States in the sixties. He soon found himself immersed in New York’s burgeoning underground art scene where, along with his sister, Dalton began working as an assistant to Andy Warhol. (Dalton would later immortalize the legendary artist in his book Pop: the genius of Andy Warhol, co-written with Tony Scherman, some 50 years later.) His closeness to Warhol and the glitzy cast of the Factory led the young Dalton to begin photographing British Invasion bands and other artists. After learning about the creation of rolling stone in 1967 Dalton began sending his photographs to co-founder Jann Wenner.

“He was taking pictures of bands like the Shangri-Las, and Jann wanted captions,” Dalton’s wife Coco Pekelis said. Time. “So David started writing. And writes and writes and writes. I asked him the other day when he knew he was a writer, and he said, when his captions got longer and longer.

Among Dalton’s most notable works during his time at rolling stone was a multi-part feature film portraying counterculture cult leader and criminal mastermind Charles Manson, written in conjunction with former Los Angeles Times journalist David Felton. The tell-all article, which included a prison interview with Manson, won the two a National Magazine Award in 1971.

Dalton’s August 6, 1970 cover story featuring Janis Joplin on tour with her new Full Tilt Boogie Band would mark one of the last major interviews with the groundbreaking singer before her death in October of that year. Dalton’s time with Joplin would lead him to write the 1972 biography Janisincluding an excerpt featuring Joplin ruminating on the life of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, was published in rolling stone. Dalton would also cover Elvis Presley’s Las Vegas Shows series in 1970 and pen a tell-all cover on R&B legend Little Richard the same year.

After his time with rolling stone, Dalton continued to write biographies – driven mostly in part by his growing sense of mortality. “When I was writing rock journalism, I was younger,” he wrote in an unpublished autobiography quoted by the Time. “I was involved in the scene as it unfolded, evolved. I went anywhere at the drop of a hat. When I hit my thirties, I started writing about the past and have lived there since. In addition to his biography of Joplin, later renamed Piece of My Heart: A Portrait of Janis Joplinhis published works included The Rolling Stones: An Unauthorized Biography, The Beatles: Come Back, James Dean: The Mutant Kingand Who is that man? In search of the real Bob Dylan. Dalton has also helped musicians write their own autobiographies, including that of Marianne Faithfull Faithfull: An Autobiography, Meatloaf: To Hell and Backby Steven Tyler Does the noise in my head bother you?and Paul Anka My path.

Dalton is survived by his wife, son and sister.

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