Cover Artist: Harvey

The artist known by his signature Harvey on about 200 gospel record sleeves in the 1960s still remains a mystery today. His unique and distinctive paintings were featured on more than 130 album covers for Savoy Records, most of them religious gospel recordings with a handful of jazz albums, released between 1961 and 1970. He also designed covers for the Gospel, Sharp and Regent labels.

Harvey's coverart is very unique and easily recognizable. The sleeves all feature original paintings with bright, vibrant colours and an always positive message of peace, hope and salvation. There is no place for fear, pain and suffering, hell and damnation, the apocalypse and most of the Old Testament in Harvey's imagery. It is always a pleasure to look at Harvey's covers and that's probably the main reason why they survived time so well and are in increasingly high demand on the collector's market today.

Most of the cover designs look like a direct conversion of the album title, as if all the artist was told when he was commissioned with the art was that one line. That theory is supported by a quote from Savoy Records producer Lawrence Roberts, as published on John Glassburner's most excellent website
"Roberts said that they never knew the identity of Harvey. Harvey lived in New York, and was very secretive. They would send him a title or concept and he would produce the painting. The paintings were not expensive, and they paid him in cash."

So what exactly do we know about the identity of Harvey? Glassburner presents us with a number of theories on his site, ranging from Elekra Records' art director Bill Harvey, to a certain Harvey Ragsdale, and to Savoy Records' boss Herman Lubinsky himself. I believe we can dismiss all of those names.

My best guess is that Harvey is Harvey Williams, born in the late 1930s or early 1940s in (the vicinity of) New York City. He studied at the Yale School of Fine Art, then, in 1968 he moved to New York City to study at The Art Students League where he graduated. He became a long time teacher at the Art Students League and elsewhere. A 1982 Harvey Williams painting named "The Sun" was offered on art marketplace Trocadero a while ago, but has since been removed from the site and also its archives.

Unfortunately this is just another theory which I can't support by verifiable facts (yet). It almost looks like all traces of Harvey had been removed from public records; several sources point to "Harvey Williams" teaching at the NY Art Students League, but there is no person with that name listed on the school's extensive list of past instructors. He deserves so much better than to be forgotten as a person and just remembered for his art, please contact me if you can help with that.


Rames El Desouki

The Traveller Publishing

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