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Klaus Voormann
Born 29 April 1938 (1938-04-29) (age 71)
Berlin, Germany
Origin London, England
Genres Rock 'n Roll, rhythm and blues
Occupations Musician
Record Producer
Graphic Artist
Instruments Bass, guitar, flute, saxophone
Years active 1964 - Present
Labels Apple Records, EMI, Fontana, Zapple Records, Epic, Sony, RCA Victor
Associated acts The Beatles
Manfred Mann
Plastic Ono Band
Paddy, Klaus & Gibson

Klaus Voormann (born 29 April 1938) is a German artist, musician, and record producer known for his long association with The Beatles, for whom he designed the cover of their album Revolver. He also is known for being the bassist with the British group Manfred Mann and later as a respected session player and record producer.


Early years

Klaus Voormann was born and raised in the suburbs of North Berlin. His father was a physician and he was one of six brothers.[1] The Voormann family were interested in art, classical music, and books, with a feeling for history and tradition.[1] His parents decided that instead of studying music it would be best for Klaus to study commercial art in Berlin at the "Meisterschule für Grafik und Buchgewerbe".[1] He later moved to Hamburg to study at the "Meisterschule für Gestaltung", but before finishing his education in the graphic arts, Voormann started work as a commercial artist, graphic designer and illustrator, spending eight months in Düsseldorf working for magazines.[2]

Hamburg poster for Rory Storm and the Beatles

It was in Hamburg that Voormann first met Astrid Kirchherr. After an argument with her and Jürgen Vollmer one day, Voormann wandered down the Reeperbahn, which is in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, and heard music coming from the Kaiserkeller club. He walked in on a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The next group to play were The Beatles. Voormann was left "speechless" by the performances.[1] Voormann had never heard rock 'n roll before, having previously only listened to traditional Jazz, with some Nat King Cole and The Platters mixed in.[3] Voormann invited Kirchherr and Vollmer to watch the performances the next day. After joining Voorman at a performance, the trio decided upon spending as much time close to The Beatles and immersing themselves in the music as possible.[4]

The St. Pauli district was a dangerous section of town with typical illicit behaviour commonplace; an area where prostitutes were to be found, and anyone that looked different from the usual clientele hanging about took a risk. As a trio, Voormann, Kirchherr and Vollmer stood out in the Kaiserkeller, dressed in suede coats, wool sweaters, jeans and round-toed shoes, when most of the customers had greased-back Teddy boy hairstyles and wore black leather jackets and pointed boots.[5] During a break, Voormann tried to talk (in faltering English) to Lennon, and pressed a crumpled record sleeve he had designed into Lennon's hands. Lennon took little interest, and brushed Voormann off, suggesting that he talk to Stuart Sutcliffe, who, Lennon said, "is the artist 'round here".[5]

Sutcliffe didn't share Lennon's attitude, and was fascinated by the trio, who he thought looked like "real bohemians". He later wrote that he could hardly take his eyes off them, and had tried to talk to them during the next break, but they had already left the club. Strict German law at the time prohibited young people from frequenting bars after 10 o'clock at night.[5] Sutcliffe managed to meet them eventually, and learned that all three had attended the "Meisterschule für Mode", which was the Hamburg equivalent of the Liverpool art college that both Sutcliffe and Lennon had attended. Lennon dubbed the trio the Exies, as a joke about their affectation for existentialism.[3]

Voormann was in a relationship with Kirchherr at the time, and lived just around the corner from her parents' upper-class home in the Altona district of Hamburg. Kirchherr's bedroom, which was all in black, including the walls and furniture, was decorated especially for Voormann. After the visits to the Kaiserkeller their relationship became purely platonic, as Astrid started dating Sutcliffe, who was fascinated by her, although she always remained close friends with Voormann.[6]


In the early 1960s, Voormann decided to leave Germany and move to London. George Harrison invited him to live in the Green Street flat formerly shared by all four Beatles; John Lennon and Paul McCartney having moved out, Lennon to live with his wife Cynthia Lennon, and McCartney to live in the attic of the home of Jane Asher's parents. Voormann lived with Harrison and Ringo Starr for a time before finding work as a commercial artist and renting an apartment of his own.[1] Voormann returned to Hamburg in 1963, founded the beat band with Paddy Chambers (guitar/vocals), Voormann (bass/vocals) and Gibson Kemp (drums) called Paddy, Klaus & Gibson.[1][7]

In 1966, Voormann returned to London and was asked by Lennon to design the sleeve for The Beatles´ album Revolver. Klaus had a style of "scrapbook collage" art in mind. When showing his efforts to the band and their manager, Brian Epstein, the band loved it, although Voormann's payment for the album cover was £40.[citation needed] For this work, Klaus won the Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.[1] Voormann later designed the cover art for Harrison's 1988 single, "When We Was Fab," which included the image of Harrison from the cover of Revolver along with an updated drawing in the same style.

Around the same time another group was about to release their international debut album. The Bee Gees had recorded their first album, Bee Gees 1st and Klaus was hired to design the cover for that album. The album cover featured all five group members standing above a colorful, psychedelic collage painted by Voormann. In 1973, Voormann created the album sleeve and booklet artwork for Ringo Starr's album Ringo, on which he also played bass.


In 1966, at the same time he was designing the cover of Revolver, Voormann became a member of the 1960s band Manfred Mann[8], having turned down offers by The Hollies[9] and The Moody Blues[10]. Voormann played bass for Manfred Mann from 1966 to 1969, appearing on all their UK hits from "Just Like a Woman" (July 1966) through to their final single "Ragamuffin Man" (April 1969). As well, he played bass and flute on Manfred Mann's 1968 international hit "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" (#1 UK, #10 US).[8]

After that, he became a session musician, playing on solo projects by Lou Reed, Carly Simon, James Taylor, and Harry Nilsson amongst others. Voormann was a member of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, with Ono, Alan White (future Yes drummer) and Eric Clapton, which played at the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album, recorded prior to the break-up of The Beatles in Toronto on 13 September 1969.[11]

In 1971 he moved to Los Angeles. In an interview with EMI about his album Walls and Bridges, John Lennon was asked who was playing bass on the album. John answered with a hard German accent: "Klaus Voormann. We all know Klaus, ja (German: "yes")". He also played in Harrison's assembled band in the 1971 The Concert for Bangladesh; Harrison fittingly introduced him to the audience by saying, "There's somebody on bass who many people have heard about, but they've never actually seen him, Klaus Voormann."[12] After Harrison died, Voorman played bass as part of the supporting band on the song "All Things Must Pass", in the Concert for George on 29 November 2002.

After The Beatles disbanded, there were rumours of The Beatles reforming as The Ladders, with Voormann on bass as a replacement for Paul McCartney. An announcement to this effect filtered out of the Apple offices in 1971, but was ultimately withdrawn before it got very far.[citation needed] This line-up (Voormann, Lennon, Harrison and Starr) did perform in various combinations on Lennon's albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) (Voormann, Lennon, and Starr) and Imagine (1971) (Voormann, Lennon & Harrison) as well as on Ringo Starr's eponymous album Ringo, in 1973, and Yoko Ono's Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (1970) (Voormann, Lennon, Starr, and Ono). Starr's album features the Lennon-penned hit single "I'm The Greatest" which is the only song in which all four musicians appear together, joined by Billy Preston.

In 1979 Voormann moved back to Germany. He produced three studio albums and a live album by the German band Trio. He also produced their worldwide hit "Da Da Da". After Trio broke up in 1986 he produced the first solo album by their singer Stephan Remmler and played bass on some songs of the album. The following year he produced a single by former Trio drummer Peter Behrens.

Later years

In the 1980s, Voorman worked as a session musician, and occasional producer. One band he managed was the German new wave band, Trio, who had a one time hit song, "Da Da Da", but otherwise their popularity did not extend beyond their native country. Voormann retired from the music business in 1989, spending time with his family. He lives near Munich with his second wife Christine and their two children, born in 1989 and 1991. From time to time he appears on TV shows, mainly when the shows are about the 1960s in general or The Beatles in particular, or when he is asked to talk about his famous album sleeve for Revolver.

In 1995 Klaus was asked by Apple Records to design the covers for The Beatles Anthology albums. He painted the covers along with his friend, fellow artist Alfons Kiefer.

In April 2003, Voormann designed the cover of Scandinavian Leather for the Norwegian band Turbonegro.

In October 2003, Voormann published his autobiography, Warum spielst du Imagine nicht auf dem weißen Klavier, John? Erinnerungen an die Beatles und viele andere Freunde (Why Don't You Play "Imagine" on the White Piano, John?: Memories of the Beatles and Many Other Friends). The book gives special focus to the 1960s and 1970s, and covers Voormann's close friendship with The Beatles and other musicians and artists, as well as his private life.

A 2005 BBC documentary, Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle features interviews with Voormann and shows drawings he made of The Beatles in Hamburg.

In 2007, Voormann designed the sleeve for the album Timeless by Wet Wet Wet.[13]

In 2008 he recorded the song "For What It's Worth" with Eric Burdon and Max Buskohl.[citation needed]

In the 1994 movie Backbeat, about the Hamburg days of The Beatles, Voormann was portrayed by the German actor Kai Wiesinger.

Voormann will be designing and producing the artwork for the latest release by New York psychedelic blues band Super 400, called "Sweet Fist", released in 2009.[citation needed]

On July 17 2009 Klaus released his first solo album called A Sideman's Journey. It was credited to "Voorman & Friends" and featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), Don Preston, Dr. John, The Manfreds, Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Parks, Joe Walsh and many others. The album has been available in a limited number of audio CDs, vinyl LPs, and deluxe box sets with original (and signed) graphics by Voorman. It included new versions of old songs such as "My Sweet Lord", "All Things Must Pass", "Blue Suede Shoes", "You're Sixteen" and Bob Dylan's "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)". A bonus DVD of Making of a Sideman’s Journey was released with the album.


  • As Voormann & Friends
  • A Sideman's Journey

With Manfred Mann

UK Albums:

  • As Is
  • Soul of Mann[citation needed]
  • Up The Junction (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  • What A Mann
  • Mighty Garvey!

US Albums:

  • Pretty Flamingo[citation needed]
  • Up The Junction (Original Soundtrack Recording)
  • Mighty Garvey!

With Plastic Ono Band:

With John Lennon:

With George Harrison:

With Ringo Starr:

Other artists:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Klaus Voormann". Rockstore. 2001. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  2. ^ "Biography". Vormann. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  3. ^ a b Spitz (2005) p222
  4. ^ Spitz (2005) p223
  5. ^ a b c Spitz 2005. p221
  6. ^ Spitz (2005) p224
  7. ^ "Paddy, Klaus & Gibson". Heart Klaus. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  8. ^ a b "The Manfred Mann Band 1966-1969". Heart Klaus. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  9. ^ Voormann did substitute for Eric Haydock on a couple of TV shows, see List of The Hollies band members. He mentions his negotiations with the group in his biography: Warum spielst Du Imagine nicht auf dem weißen Klavier, John?
  10. ^ reported by [The Factotums] and other sources, e. g. [Guardian]
  11. ^ "Plastic Ono Band". Heart Klaus. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  12. ^ "The Concert for Bangladesh". Heart Klaus. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  13. ^ "Klaus Voormann Designs Wet Wet Wet Record Sleeves". Retrieved 14 November 2007. 


External links

Simple English

Klaus Voormann (born April 29, 1942) is a German-born artist and musician, who was a friend of The Beatles. He met them when they played in Hamburg, Germany, where he was going to Art school.

Voormann designed the cover of their Revolver album, and later did cover art for The Beatles Anthology and some of George Harrison's solo records. He also played bass guitar with Manfred Mann, and on records by John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and their friend Harry Nilsson.

He also became a record producer, and produced the band Trio, whose biggest hit was "Da Da Da", which was used later in a Volkswagen television commercial.

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