Two men with connections to South Jersey had their artistic peaks during the 1970s and ’80s in the music business and lived to write books about it.
D.L. Byron, who grew up in Vineland and lived in Cape May and Ocean City, composed the hit “Shadows of the Night” for 1980s rock singer Pat Benatar and wrote a book of the same name.
Robert L. Heimall, a resident of the Villas section of Lower Township, was a former art director for Elektra Records and art director and creative director for Arista Records during the 1970s. He created more than 200 album covers for four different record labels. He recently wrote the book “Cover Stories: Tales of rock legends and the albums that made them famous.”
As an art director, Heimall, now 76, would immerse himself in listening to an artist’s voice and music, and what they were really saying in their lyrics. His job was to visually communicate what their music was about.
“It was not just the lyrics, but what was behind the lyrics, the emotions and everything,” said Heimall, who added he used to drive into work playing the music of whatever project he was working on as loud as he could.
In the case of Carly Simon, a 1970s singer-songwriter, Heimall met her when she was still singing jingles.
“When she came in, she was a little bit shy. ... What I wanted to do was make her sexy,” said Heimall, who added his goal was to project a sexy, but sophisticated look for her.
Heimall did her first three album covers, “Carly Simon” and “Anticipation,” both from 1971, and “No Secrets” from 1972, which contains her only No. 1 pop hit, “You’re So Vain,” and sold more than 500,000 copies.
For Patti Smith’s debut album, “Horses” from 1975, she came in with a bunch of photos that were taken by her friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, so Heimall had many options.
“After listening to her music and staring at the picture, I said, ‘This is the image,’” Heimall said.
Heimall chose the photograph that was a waist-high shot of Smith in a white shirt and dark jeans with a black ribbon draped over her shoulders and a jacket slung over her left shoulder as she leans against a white wall.
The straightforward image on the cover matches the minimalist rock and roll on the record.
“Horses” was the first major label punk-rock album. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked “Horses” as No. 10 on its list of the 100 best debut albums of all time.
Similar to Heimall, Byron did not become famous in his own right, but he used his talents to give a major assist to the career of Benatar and was able to make a living as a full-time songwriter.
Byron, 68, solely wrote “Shadows of the Night,” a song that reached No. 13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. The tune also earned Benatar her third Grammy Award for best female rock vocal performance.
Byron has lived in Cape May, where he met his wife, and had a house until three years ago in Ocean City. He grew up in Vineland and left at age 18 to pursue a music career.
Byron signed to Arista Records in 1979 and released his debut solo album, “This Day and Age,” in 1980. Byron and his band played at now defunct Bottom Line and the former Ritz in New York City and the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. He also opened for Bob Seger.
Byron has released 10 albums, but “Shadows of the Night” is the most commercially successful tune he ever wrote.
The song appears in the 2012 film adaptation of “Rock of Ages,” where R&B singer Mary J. Blige sings part of it.
“I’m really grateful. There was a 10th-anniversary performance of ‘Rock of Ages’ and a 16-week run (this summer on the New York Stage),” Byron said. “I’m really happy that it’s had a long shelf life.”