An update on Irving Schild, the man behind the lens of the first Stax Records album cover photo: Green Onions!
Irving Schild doesn’t remember much about the photograph he took for the cover of the LP Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It was 1962, it was the first album released by Stax Records, and it changed music forever, helping to establish Stax as a funky, bluesy, chewing-the-fat record label housed haphazardly in an abandoned movie theater.
He went on to become a Mad Magazine photographer from 1965-2017, well into his 80s. Now that Green Onions turned 60 last year and with the new Concord reissue being released today, we recently tracked him down at his home in Providence, Rhode Island to remind him how he helped change the world.
Schild was just nine years old when he and his family fled their home in Belgium to escape the Nazis during World War II. It was 1940, and they eventually made their way to Italy, first the countryside and then Rome. When the United States had stopped accepting Jewish immigrants, Schild was among 900+ Jewish refugees to be liberated by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for an experimental journey to America to spend 18 months in an encampment called Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. The year was 1944, and Irving was 13 years old. He would later receive formal training as an artist and photographer and build quite a career for himself in the brave new world.
Schild, whose grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz, is now 91 years old and married now to the love of his life, Regina, and with one son Ari, who resides in New York City.
While studying art in America, Schild was drafted, joined the Marines, and was sent to a military photography school. Afterward, he settled in New York City and freelanced for such publications as Life, Glamour and Esquire. He also set up his own photography studio. A Mad Magazine cartoonist noticed his photos while passing by, and suggested that Schild approach the magazine for work. His first assignment was a 1965 spoof of a Kellogg’s cereal ad, featuring a man dressed as a marching band musician, eating Corn Flakes out of his tuba.
He went on to cement his time at Mad by doing outrageous things before there was photoshop, but it was those bunches of green onions held together with green onions that made history.
Today, he speaks regularly on Holocaust Remembrance Day and he and his wife use the occasion to share their story and influence neighbors around New York to be kind and always thankful.
When told that Booker T. & the M.G.’s were first name up of three Black men and one white man and later became two Black men and two white men, Schild said, “I wish I could have met them.”