Bob Neuwirth, Folk Singer-Songwriter Who Had Profound Impact on Bob Dylan, Dead at 82
Bob Neuwirth, the folk singer-songwriter known for his long and influential association with Bob Dylan, has died at the age of 82. Neuwirth’s partner Paula Batson confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, adding he died Wednesday, May 18, in Santa Monica, CA.
“On Wednesday evening in Santa Monica, Bob Neuwirth’s big heart gave out,” Neuwirth’s family tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “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.”
A veteran of the early Sixties Cambridge, Massachusetts folk scene before aligning with Dylan, Neuwirth had a profound impact on the rock legend beginning in the mid-Sixties.
As one singer who played with Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1972, “Neuwirth was a scene maker, a very strong cat. When he got to New York in 1964, he started hanging around Dylan. And Dylan started to change at that time. Part of it was Neuwirth, he was a real strong influence on Dylan. Neuwirth had a negative attitude, stressing pride and ego, sort of saying, ‘Hold your head high, man, don’t take shit, just take over the scene.’ He was the kind of cat who could influence others, work on their egos and support those egos. His whole negative attitude fell in perfectly with what Dylan was feeling.”
Neuwirth is seen throughout D.A. Pennebaker’s legendary Dylan doc Don’t Look Back, and later co-starred in Dylan’s experimental 1978 film Renaldo and Clara. That film also featured many of the artists in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, an ensemble Neuwirth is credited with helping to assemble. (The bottom half of Neuwirth also featured as the pants-wearer behind Dylan on the cover of his 1965 classic Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan’s first album accompanied by a band.)
A talented singer-songwriter in his own right, Neuwirth also co-wrote his friend Janis Joplin’s hit “Mercedes Benz” along with the poet Michael McClure. According to his bio, Neuwirth also introduced “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by his friend Kris Kristofferson, to Joplin, who recorded the song just days before her Oct. 1970 death. The song became a posthumous Number One single for Joplin.
This story is developing.