Today would have been Herb Ritts’ 66th birthday. Ritts was a fashion photographer turned music video director known for his black-and-white photography and shots of models frolicking on landscapes. Unfortunately, Herb Ritts died the day after Christmas 2002. Ritts passed away from pneumonia complications, his immune system weakened by HIV. To honor the famed director on his 66th birthday, we’ve compiled five of his all-time best videos.
1. Chris Isaak — “Wicked Game”
Not many people know that there were two “Wicked Game” videos. The first was directed by David Lynch as a tie-in with his film Wild at Heart. But it was the Herb Ritts video that became the canonical version of the video.
Shot in Hawaii on a beach that no longer exists — soon after the video was shot, it was covered in lava — the video shows model Helena Christensen and Chris Isaak, both shirtless. Though Christensen’s breasts were never revealed, the near-nudity made the video somewhat controversial and landed it on several “sexiest music videos ever” lists.
2. Shakira — “Underneath Your Clothes”
Though Herb Ritts was mainly known for shooting in black-and-white, “Underneath Your Clothes” is one of his few works primarily shot in color. “Underneath Your Clothes” was also, sadly, Ritts’ last music video before his death.
Like “Wicked Game,” this video also depicts the singer frolicking with a beauty — in this case, her then-boyfriend Antonio de la Rúa.
3. Janet Jackson — “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”
Herb Ritts’ second-ever music video, “Love Will Never Do” was choreographed by Ritts, Janet Jackson and Tina Landon.
The video features Jackson dancing in the desert with men including model-actors Antonio Sabàto, Jr. and Djimon Hounsou. Though the black-and-white version of the video is the famous one, a colorized version was also created.
4. Britney Spears — “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know”
Britney Spears chose Herb Ritts to direct this video because she was inspired by “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” Like much of his other work, this video is set on a beach, shot at Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida, and features a romantic interlude with Spears and model Brice Durand. (Apparently, her real boyfriend at the time, Justin Timberlake, was upset about the kissing scenes.)
5. Madonna — “Cherish”
If it weren’t for Madonna, we might not have any Herb Ritts music videos. Ritts was one of Madonna’s favorite photographers, and she asked if he’d direct her “Cherish” video.
He tried to talk her out of it, saying “I’m a still photographer. I don’t know anything about film.” But she talked him into it. The video was shot in Malibu, California and features Madge frolicking in the surf with four mermen.