Folk Singer Icon Bob Neuwirth Passed Away At 82
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Bob Neuwirth, country singer-songwriter and leading figure in the folk movement of the 1960s, has passed away at the age of 82.
Neuwirth has collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. His death was confirmed by his partner, Paula Batson, who said that the icon died from heart failure on May 18 in Santa Monica, California.
Neuwirth’s family told Rolling Stone:
“On Wednesday evening in Santa Monica, Bob Neuwirth’s big heart gave out.
“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.”
Born in Akron, Ohio, in 1939, Neuwirth was introduced to Dylan in the early ’60s folk scene of Cambridge, Mass. The duo became friends and Neuwirth went on to take part in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary, Don’t Look Back, which focused on Dylan’s 1965 concert tour of the U.K.
Neuwirth continued working around Dylan’s world and even assisted in assembling the backing band for 1975’s Rolling Thunder Revue. He also appeared in Dylan’s semi-fictional film, Renaldo and Clara. Neuwirth’s lower half body was also seen on the cover of 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited.
In the summer of 1969, Neuwirth befriended another American singer-songwriter, Patti Smith, who was still several years away from her debut. While in 1970, Neuwirth jammed with Joplin and poet Michael McClure to write “Mercedes Benz.” Neuwirth also introduced Joplin to Kris Kristofferson, whose song “Me and Bobby McGee” would become the late singer’s biggest hit. Both songs were included in Joplin’s posthumously released No. 1 album Pearl.
Neuwirth went on to release five solo albums and collaborated with John Cale on his 1994 LP Last Day on Earth. In his 2016 interview with The Paris Review, he said:
“Everything is a matter of opportunity.
“What’s available is what happens. Whatever art supplies are available is what the project becomes. When paintings are drying or I’m taking a break in the studio, there’s always a guitar lying around.”