Bob Neuwirth (photo from his Facebook page) Robert John Neuwirth (June 20, 1939 – May 18, 2022) was an American folk singer, songwriter, record producer, and visual artist. He was noted for being the road manager and associate of Bob Dylan, as well as the co-writer of Janis Joplin’s hit song “Mercedes Benz”.
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Neuwirth first met Bob Dylan in 1961, at the inaugural Indian Neck Folk Festival held in Branford, Connecticut. He soon became Dylan’s friend and associate, as well as his road manager. Neuwirth consequently accompanied Dylan on his England tour in 1965, the Newport Folk Festival that same year that saw the Electric Dylan controversy, and featured alongside him in D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary Don’t Look Back (1967). Neuwirth pulled back from Dylan’s circle after the latter’s motorcycle accident in 1966 and subsequent withdrawal from public life. However, he returned in time to help assemble the backing band for the Rolling Thunder Revue tour ten years later. He also appeared in Dylan’s own self-referential romantic fantasy/tour film Renaldo and Clara (1978). The lower half of him appears behind Dylan in Daniel Kramer’s front cover photo for the album Highway 61 Revisited.
With Janis Joplin and poet Michael McClure, Neuwirth co-wrote the song “Mercedes Benz”. He also introduced Kris Kristofferson to Janis Joplin, who would have a major (posthumous) hit single with Kristofferson’s song “Me and Bobby McGee” (which Neuwirth first played for Joplin). Colin Irwin wrote:
Painter, road manager, sidekick, confidante, henchman, poet, underground cult hero, womanizer, party organizer, self-appointed king of cool, and baiter-in-chief of Baez, Donovan, and any other unfortunate who wound up in the line of fire of his sledgehammer jibes, Neuwirth went on to become a film-maker and a credible singer-songwriter in his own right, co-writing the wonderful “Mercedes Benz” with his friend Janis Joplin.
After relocating to Los Angeles during the 1970s, Neuwirth released his debut album Bob Neuwirth (1974) with Asylum Records. Although it included guest artists such as Kris Kristofferson, Booker T. Jones, Rita Coolidge, Chris Hillman, Cass Elliot, Dusty Springfield, Don Everly, [Denver’s own] Richie Furay, and Iain Matthews, it was not commercially successful, in part because he declined to publicize it extensively. The album eventually became a cult favorite and a proposal to reissue it was in place at the time of Neuwirth’s death. . .
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Neuwirth was in a domestic partnership with Paula Batson until his death. He resided in Santa Monica, California, during his later years. He carried on painting throughout this time at a studio in the Meatpacking District in New York, and identified Jackson Pollock as his main inspiration that guided Neuwirth’s colourful and abstract style. His artwork was displayed at Track 16 Gallery in a 2011 exhibition titled “Overs & Unders: Paintings by Bob Neuwirth, 1964–2009”.
Neuwirth died on the evening of May 18, 2022, in Santa Monica. He was 82, and had heart failure prior to his death.
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OTHER NOTABLE MUSICIANS’ DEATHS
Our music community continues to lose our talented artists to COVID-19 and suicides – staggering loses. We are going to miss them so much. If you want to know more about any of the musicians we lost, please check them out at http://www.wikipedia.com
25: Jean-Louis Chautemps, 90, French jazz saxophonist.
23: Thom Bresh, 74, American country guitarist and singer, esophageal cancer.
21: Yam Bing-yee, 90, Hong Kong Cantonese opera singer and actress.
20: Samir Sabri, 85, Egyptian singer, actor (Chased by the Dogs, Abi foq al-Shagara, Truth Has a Voice) and television presenter.
19: Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, 87, Bangladeshi-born British journalist and songwriter (“Ekusher Gaan”); Guido Lembo, 75, Italian singer and guitarist; Bernard Wright, 58, American funk and jazz singer (“Who Do You Love”), traffic collision.
18: Silvia Baleani, Uruguayan operatic soprano; Cathal Coughlan, 61, Irish singer-songwriter (Microdisney, The Fatima Mansions); Anne Howells, 81, British operatic mezzo-soprano, myeloma; * Bob Neuwirth, 82, American singer-songwriter (“Mercedes Benz”); Paul Plimley, 69, Canadian free jazz pianist and vibraphonist, cancer; Wim Rijken, 63, Dutch actor, singer and lyricist; Oleksandr Smyk, 64, Ukrainian singer-songwriter and poet.