Astrid Kirchherr, the legendary rock photographer who documented the earliest days of The Beatles, has died at 81. Via The Guardian, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn announced the news of her passing on Friday. No cause of death is known at this time.
Born in 1938 in Hamburg, Germany, Kirchhherr became one of The Beatles’ earliest fans during their 1960 residency at Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller club. At the time the band consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best. Kirchherr convinced them to sit for their first photo session, and later became engaged to Sutcliffe until his death in 1962.
In addition to capturing the band’s time in Germany, Kirchherr famously advised them to cut their hair into mop tops. Those hairstyles became one the band’s earliest calling cards, and went on to become a defining feature of early rock and roll fashion. She accompanied The Beatles on vacation in 1963, and took behind-the-scenes pictures of the Fab Four during the filming of 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night. In 1968 she photographed George Harrison for his solo album Wonderwall Music.
Later in life, Kirchherr was a barmaid, stylist, interior decorator, and owner of a photography shop. Her photographs were collected in a number of Beatles books, and have been displayed in museums all around the world.
In announcing her death, Lewisohn said that Kirchherr’s “gift to the Beatles was immeasurable.” He wrote,
“Danke schön, Astrid Kirchherr. Intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting friend to many. Her gift to the Beatles was immeasurable. She died in Hamburg on Wednesday, a few days before turning 82. RIP.”
In the aftermath of her passing, fans have been posting Kirchherr’s pictures to social media. See a selection of them out below.
Danke schön, Astrid Kirchherr. Intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting friend to many. Her gift to the Beatles was immeasurable. She died in Hamburg on Wednesday, a few days before turning 82. RIP. pic.twitter.com/c8UHNK1tj4
— Mark Lewisohn (@marklewisohn) May 15, 2020
Unbelievably sad news pic.twitter.com/IWSzGvoVH2
— EggPod 🍏 (@IAmTheEggPod) May 15, 2020
Happy birthday to life long friend Astrid Kirrcher. A great girl who took my favourite photo ever of a Rock n Roll band. Just happened the band were The Beatles. The original five members. #happybirthday #alongroadtravelled #memoriesshared #thebeatles pic.twitter.com/A2V0Fx7JSo
— Pete Best (@BeatlesPeteBest) May 14, 2020
So sad to hear about Astrid Kirchherr. Such an incredible artist and talent. Us Beatles fans owe a lot to her. RIP pic.twitter.com/Tsb6bZi4hM
— kirsten (@paulsighmon) May 15, 2020
RIP Astrid Kirchherr. Rock & Roll photographer extraordinaire. Sixth Beatle. pic.twitter.com/QIT5WPUGPi
— trevor beattie (@trevorbmbagency) May 15, 2020
iconic photoshoot of the beatles in hamburg, 1960 – photos by astrid kirchherr pic.twitter.com/29jukGB92s
— andrey (@drivemycartney) May 15, 2020