In Memory Of

A Tribute to David Mann

Written by  September 30, 2004

On September 11, 2004, motorcycling lost another legendary figure. Less than a month after Indian Larry’s tragic accident, David Mann passed away at the age of 64 following a long illness. Dave achieved worldwide fame through his portrayal of the biker lifestyle in his artwork and through the way he lived. His achievements earned him induction into Anamosa Iowa’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Sturgis, South Dakota, Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. He was universally recognized as the Norman Rockwell of the motorcycle world. Although he has passed from this life, he will live forever in the hearts of those who knew him and those touched by his artwork.

David was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 10, 1940, the son of Paul and Ester Mann. His father was a calligrapher for the Kansas City Star. Dave began sketching cars during his high school years. After graduation he spent some time in California and was captivated by the motorcycles, especially the choppers, he saw there. When he returned to Kansas City he bought a 1948 Harley-Davidson, his first bike. In 1963, he painted “Hollywood Run,” an artwork that would launch his career. A snapshot of the painting was sent to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, a California customizer of autos and motorcycles, who later purchased it. Posters of “Hollywood Run” and Dave’s second work “The Tecate Run” were published by Roth. Dave returned to California, became part of the 60’s biker community, and created a number of additional paintings that were printed and sold as posters. During subsequent stays in Kansas City and Clearwater, Florida, David studied art and continued to develop; branching out into diverse subjects.

In 1971, a new motorcycle magazine was launched. Easyriders was not just about the bikes, but also the lifestyle of the riders. The magazine advertised in its first issue for a motorcycle artist. Dave answered the ad and got the job, beginning a long relationship through which the magazine and the man became legendary. For years, bikers looked forward to each issue in anticipation of the latest David Mann centerfold. The motorcycles in every painting are depicted with meticulous technical accuracy, but even more impressive is the way the artist captured the wide variety of emotions exhibited by the riders, from the frustration and urgency of dealing with a flat tire in the face of an approaching storm, to the joy of leaving cold regions behind and arriving in balmy Daytona. In several works, Dave explored the timelessness of the biker spirit, depicting bikers’ kinship to historical figures such as an armored knight or a Pony Express rider. Many of the topics were drawn from personal experience, eliciting a response of “Been there-done that” from bikers who viewed them. Some of his paintings made us laugh, and others made us cry. There is no way to adequately describe the way David’s work touched those of us who ride, nor the enormous void created by his departure from us.

David is survived by his wife Jacquie; son Jamie Mann; stepdaughter Tracy Scott; stepson Timothy Scott; four grandchildren, Brittney, Briana, Taylor, and Lance; brother George Mann and wife Mary; nieces Laura, Mindy, and Cristy; and stepmother Hazel Mann. Those wishing to make memorial contributions to The David Mann Benefit Fund may send them to: PO Box 8733, Kansas City, Missouri, 64114.

On Saturday, September 18, family, friends, and admirers gathered at Lake Jacomo near Blue Springs, Missouri to celebrate David Mann’s life. The service was conducted by Reverend Guy Girratono, a long time friend of the Mann’s. A display at the front included several photos of Dave, his jacket and cane, and his hall of fame plaques. Near the end of the service a recording of the Hollies song, “The Air That I Breathe” was played as Dave had requested. At the end, Jacquie shared some memories of her life with the artist and thanked everyone for attending.

Story by Stripe

Photos by Stripe and Mike Schweder