Singer-songwriter Bob Neuwirth has died aged 82.
The folk artist from the 1960s New York scene was an influence on Bob Dylan and co-wrote Janis Joplin’s single “Mercedes Benz”.
Along with Dylan and Joplin, Neuwirth has also collaborated with John Cale, Peter Case and many others.
Neuwirth died in Santa Monica on Wednesday evening (May 18). The cause of death was heart failure, Variety reports.
“Wednesday night in Santa Monica, Bob Neuwirth’s big heart gave out. He was 82 and would have been 83 in June,” Paula Batson, Neuwirth’s longtime partner and head of entertainment, said in a statement. “Bob was an artist in every cell of his body and he loved encouraging 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 has been 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 an instigator generous who produced and often made things happen anonymously. Art is what mattered to him, not merit. He was an artist, mentor and supporter to many. He will be missed by all who love him. »
From 1974 to 1999, Neuwirth released five solo albums and also worked on other artists’ records, including Cale’s 1994 LP, Last day on earth.
Neuwirth can also be seen in the Dylan documentary, Do not look backstanding next to Allen Ginsberg in the background of the famous music video for the single “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.
He helped put the band together for Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue Tour in the 1970s. He also toured with his friend Kris Kristofferson.
“Mercedes Benz” became a posthumous hit for Joplin. “It’s a campfire song, isn’t it?” You don’t need any special musical skills to sing it, and because it’s a cappella, everyone can approach it in their own way,” Neuwirth said of the song. “But I’m sure Janis would be shocked at the attention this song has gotten over the years. She would just shake her head in disbelief.
After the 2000 film, O brother, where are you? rose to prominence in 2000, Neuwirth teamed up with filmmaker DA Pennebaker, the director of Do not look backto produce a new documentary, Down the mountain. It was filmed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville with the artists who composed the music for the O brother, where are you? soundtrack. Additionally, Neuwirth was the musical director of the concert tour that followed.
He is survived by Batson, his niece Cassie Dubicki and her family.
Photo by John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images