Bob Neuwirth—the musician, songwriter, and visual artist arguably best known for his collaborations with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and John Cale—died of heart failure on Wednesday, The New York Times reports. He was 82 years old.
Neuwirth was a singer-songwriter who entered Bob Dylan’s orbit in the early 1960s He became a fixture of Dylan’s inner circle, working as his road manager during the infamous 1965 tour of England documented in D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back. He was later a member of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue band and crew in the mid-’70s. In addition to co-writing Janis Joplin’s Pearl song “Mercedes Benz,” Neuwirth is credited as the person who introduced her to Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Following his self-titled 1974 album on Asylum Records, Neuwirth released 1988’s Back to Front and a series of albums in the ’90s. Most notably, he and John Cale collaborated on the 1994 album Last Day on Earth. That was followed by Neuwirth’s 1999 collaboration with José Maria Vitier, Havana Midnight. Neuwirth also collaborated with Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Charles, Kinky Friedman, T Bone Burnett, Alejandro Escovedo, and more. Patti Smith said Neuwirth was one of the first people to encourage her to write songs.
“On Wednesday evening in Santa Monica, Bob Neuwirth’s big heart gave out,” Neuwirth’s family said in a statement (via Rolling Stone). “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.”
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