Folk Singer-Songwriter Bob Neuwirth Dead At 82

Folk Singer-Songwriter Bob Neuwirth Dead At 82

The folk singer-songwriter Bob Neuwirth, a key supporting figure in the folk-rock universe of the ’60s and ’70s, has died. The New York Times reports that Neuwirth died of heart failure in Santa Monica. He was 82.

Bob Neuwirth was born in Akron, Ohio, the son of two engineers. He studied at Boston’s School Of The Museum Of Fine Arts before taking up banjo and guitar and becoming a fixture on Boston’s folk scene. Neuwirth met Bob Dylan at a folk festival in 1961, and he was a big part of Dylan’s inner circle for many years. Plenty of observers have speculated that Dylan got his impish, acidic sense of humor from Dylan. In his own memoir, Dylan writes a bit about Neuwirth: ” He could talk to anybody until they felt like all their intelligence was gone. With his tongue, he ripped and slashed and could make anybody uneasy, also could talk his way out of anything. Nobody knew what to make of him.”

Neuwirth appears alongside Bob Dylan in DA Pennebaker’s famous 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back, and he’s also one of the people standing behind Dylan on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. When Dylan launched his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975, Neuwirth played in the backing band, and he also helped put that band together. Neuwirth also played a crucial role in Janis Joplin’s career. He co-wrote her song “Mercedes Benz,” and he also taught her “Me And Bobby McGee,” the song that became a #1 hit for Joplin after her death, and introduced her to “Me And Bobby McGee” writer Kris Kristofferson. And Neuwirth also listened to the poetry of a young Patti Smith and told her that she should write songs.

Neuwirth never achieved much commercial success on his own, but he released a series of solo albums, starting with a self-titled LP in 1974. Neuwirth also teamed up with John Cale for the 1994 collaborative album Last Day On Earth, and he was one of the producers of 2000’s Down From The Mountain, a live-concert film starring the artists who played on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Below, check out some of Neuwirth’s work.

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