Bob Neuwirth, musical artist, painter and popular member of the 1960s New York City folk scene known for his collaborations with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and more, died in Santa Monica, California, due to heart failure on Wednesday night (May 18). He was 82 years old.
“On Wednesday evening in Santa Monica, Bob Neuwirth’s big heart gave out,” his longtime partner Paula Batson confirmed the news in a statement to Variety. “He was 82 years old and would have been 83 in June. Bob was an artist throughout every cell of his body and he loved to encourage others to make art themselves. He was a painter, songwriter, producer and recording artist whose body of work is loved and respected. For over 60 years, Bob was at the epicenter of cultural moments from Woodstock, to Paris, Don’t Look Back to Monterey Pop, Rolling Thunder to Nashville and Havana . He was a generous instigator who often produced and made things happen anonymously. The art is what mattered to him, not the credit. He was an artist, a mentor and a supporter to many. He will be missed by all who love him.”
Neuwirth co-wrote his friend Janis Joplin’s hit “Mercedes Benz” along with poet Michael McClure. He also introduced the Kris Kristofferson-penned “Me and Bobby McGee” to Joplin, who recorded the song before her death in October 1970, according to Neuwirth’s biography. Both songs appeared on Joplin’s posthumous 1971 album Pearl. The album topped the Billboard 200 albums chart dated February 27, 1971, and spent 42 total weeks on the chart. According to Neuwirth’s biography,
In 1994, Neuwirth and John Cale collaborated on the experimental album Last Day on Earth, on MCA. His series of solo albums began with a self-titled 1974 effort.
Most notably, Neuwirth is seen throughout D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, and also co-starred in Dylan’s 1978 film Renaldo and Clara.