’60s songwriter, singer and folk artist Bob Neuwirth dies – KIRO 7 News Seattle
Folk singer, songwriter and entertainer Bob Neuwirth dies Bob Neuwirth wrote “Mercedes Benz” for Janis Joplin. (DTM)
Bob Neuwirth, an artist, singer and songwriter who helped make Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin the center of the music world of the 1960s, has died. He was 82 years old.
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Neuwirth’s longtime partner Paula Batson confirmed his death saying he died of heart failure, The New York Times reported.
Neuwirth became friends with Dylan after they met at the Indian Neck Folk Festival in Connecticut in 1961. At the time, Dylan was still relatively unknown but he caught Neuwirth’s attention “because he was the only other guy with a harmonica holder around his neck. he said years after the encounter, according to the Times.
Neuwirth was part of Dylan’s inner circle, frequently accompanying Dylan on tours over the years.
“Neuwirth was the eye of the storm, the center, the catalyst, the instigator,” Eric Von Schmidt said, according to The Times. “Wherever something big was happening, he was there, or he was on his way to it, or he was rumored to be close enough to have had an effect on whatever was in the works.”
Patti Smith called Neuwirth “a catalyst for action” in memoirs about her own life, Variety reported.
Dylan wrote of Neuwirth: “As Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in ‘On the Road’, someone should have immortalized Neuwirth. If ever there was a Renaissance man who jumped in and out of things, he had to be,” according to Variety.
Neuwirth also toured with his friend Kris Kristofferson.
Neuwirth said his time with various singers was different then than it was when he was interviewed for Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary about Dylan, “No Direction Home.” Neuwirth said: “At the time it wasn’t driven by money. It was about whether an artist had something to say. Whether it was Bob Dylan or Ornette Coleman, what people were asking was, “Does he have something to say?”
Neuwirth wrote one of Joplin’s best-known and posthumous hits, “Mercedes Benz,” just before the singer died in 1970. He said in an interview that he wrote it while the two were drunk between shows. She played it and the fans liked it, so it was added to her “Pearl” album as filler.
“It’s a campfire song, isn’t it?” Neuwirth said in 2013, according to Variety. “You don’t need to have any particular musical skill to sing it, and since it’s a cappella, everyone can approach it in their own way. But I’m sure Janis would be shocked at the attention this song has garnered over the years. She would just shake her head in disbelief.
Neuwirth is also credited with introducing Joplin to his signature song “Me and Bobby McGee”, written by Kristofferson.
Neuwirth was born in Akron, Ohio. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He returns to Boston after a stint in Paris. He was part of the folk movements in Cambridge, New York, Berkeley and San Francisco. He was also an entertainer and was part of the group that would reunite at Max’s Kansas City, which included Andy Warhol, Larry Poons, Robert Smithson and Robert Rauschenberg, Variety reported.
Neuwirth leaves behind Batson and his niece Cassie Dubicki and family, Variety reported.
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