Some of you younger folks may have never even heard of the late, great and legendary funnyman Phil Hartman, but he was one of the most talented and beloved comedic actors during the ’80s and ’90s — of all time, really.
Before he co-wrote Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, became an integral cast member of Saturday Night Live, voiced Troy McClure (and others) on The Simpsons or played the sometimes amoral and oftentimes oblivious radio anchor Bill McNeal on the criminally overlooked sitcom NewsRadio, Hartman was actually a gifted graphic artist.
I have always been a big fan of Hartman’s work ever since I was a little kid and watched his now-classic characters on SNL and The Simpsons. Thanks to Hulu — when they were actually a great streaming site — I got into the genius of NewsRadio years after it had already ended and Hartman had been tragically shot dead by his wife.
The Bill McNeal character he plays in NewsRadio is by far his best work in my opinion, so if you have never watched the show, do yourself a favor and give it a go — you will not be disappointed.
In any event, a few months ago I listened to an episode of The Nerdist podcast with one of his best friends and fellow comedic actor, Jon Lovitz. In the interview — which is great, by the way — Lovitz recalls a few facets of his relationship with Hartman, and at one point mentions that at his brother’s suggestion, Hartman decided to put his artistic talents to work creating album covers.
This was news to me, so I decided to do a little research and was blown away.
All in all, after starting his own graphic design business, Hartman produced more than 40 record covers, created the logo for Crosby, Stills & Nash and did some advertising work as well.
These seven covers are probably his most well known, and coincidentally — something I was psyched to learn — Hartman created the minimalist art of Poco’s Legend, which has always been one of my favorite album covers — even if I’m not a huge fan of their music.
If you’re viewing this on the homepage, be sure to take the plunge to view all seven covers and watch a best of Bill McNeal video.
Poco – Seven (1974)
America – History: America’s Greatest Hits (1975)
America – Harbor (1977)
Steely Dan – Aja (1977)
Poco – Legend (1978)
America – Silent Letter (1979)
The Firesign Theatre – Fighting Clowns (1980)
Some of Bill McNeal’s greatest moments
Video via: Denise Chandler