Bob Neuwirth, a painter, recording artist and songwriter who additionally had an impression as a member of Bob Dylan’s internal circle and as a conduit for 2 of Janis Joplin’s best-known songs, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82.
His accomplice, Paula Batson, stated the trigger was coronary heart failure.
Mr. Neuwirth had an eclectic string of albums, together with his debut, merely titled “Bob Neuwirth,” in 1974, in addition to a 1994 collaboration with John Cale referred to as “Final Day on Earth” and a 2000 collaboration with the Cuban composer and pianist José María Vitier, “Havana Midnight.” However he was maybe higher recognized for the roles he performed within the careers of others, starting with Mr. Dylan.
Mr. Neuwirth stated he first encountered Mr. Dylan on the Indian Neck Folks Pageant in Connecticut in 1961. Mr. Dylan was nonetheless largely unknown then, however, Mr. Neuwirth stated years later, he caught his eye “as a result of he was the one different man with a harmonica holder round his neck.”
The 2 hit it off, and Mr. Neuwirth grew to become a central determine within the circle that coalesced round Mr. Dylan as his fame grew. When Mr. Dylan held court docket on the Kettle of Fish bar in Greenwich Village within the early Sixties, Mr. Neuwirth was there. When Mr. Dylan toured England in 1965, Mr. Neuwirth went alongside. A decade later, when Mr. Dylan launched into his Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Mr. Neuwirth was instrumental in placing the band collectively.
Mr. Dylan’s contemporaries and biographers have described Mr. Neuwirth’s position in numerous methods.
“Neuwirth was the attention of the storm, the middle, the catalyst, the instigator,” Eric Von Schmidt, one other folks singer lively on the time, as soon as stated. “Wherever one thing essential was occurring, he was there, or he was on his technique to it, or rumored to have been close by sufficient to have had an impact on no matter it was that was within the works.”
It has typically been prompt that as Mr. Dylan assembled his distinctive persona whereas climbing to worldwide fame, he borrowed a few of it, together with a sure angle and a caustic streak, from Mr. Neuwirth.
“The entire hipster shuck and jive — that was pure Neuwirth,” Bob Spitz wrote in “Dylan: A Biography” (1989). “So had been the lethal put-downs, the wipeout grins and innuendos. Neuwirth had mastered these little twists lengthy earlier than Bob Dylan made them well-known and conveyed them to his finest good friend with altruistic grace.”
Mr. Neuwirth, Mr. Spitz prompt, may have ridden those self same qualities to Dylanesque fame.
“Bobby Neuwirth was the Bob Most More likely to Succeed,” he wrote, “a wellspring of monumental potential. He possessed all the weather, apart from one — nerve.”
Mr. Dylan, in his ebook “Chronicles: Quantity One” (2004), had his personal description of Mr. Neuwirth:
“Like Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in ‘On the Highway,’ any person ought to have immortalized Neuwirth. He was that type of character. He may speak to anyone till they felt like all their intelligence was gone. Along with his tongue, he ripped and slashed and will make anyone uneasy, additionally may speak his method out of something. No person knew what to make of him.”
Ms. Joplin, too, benefited from Mr. Neuwirth’s affect. Holly George-Warren, whose books embody “Janis: Her Life and Music” (2019), stated that Mr. Neuwirth and Ms. Joplin met in 1963 and have become quick buddies.
“In 1969, he taught her Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ after he heard Gordon Lightfoot play the then-unknown tune at supervisor Albert Grossman’s workplace,” Ms. George-Warren stated by e mail. “He shortly discovered it and took it to Janis on the Chelsea Lodge.”
Her recording of the tune hit No. 1 in 1971, however Ms. Joplin was not round to benefit from the success; she died of a drug overdose the earlier yr.
Mr. Neuwirth was additionally concerned in “Mercedes Benz,” one other well-known Joplin tune that, like “Bobby McGee,” appeared on her 1971 album, “Pearl.” He was at a bar along with her earlier than a present she was doing on the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y., in August 1970 when Ms. Joplin started riffing on a ditty that the poet Michael McClure would sing at gatherings with buddies. Mr. Neuwirth started writing the lyrics the 2 of them got here up with on a serviette.
She sang the tune on the present that night time, and he or she later recorded it a cappella. She, Mr. McClure and Mr. Neuwirth are collectively credited because the writers of the tune, which on the album is lower than two minutes lengthy.
Ms. George-Warren stated that this anecdote was revelatory: Mr. Neuwirth nudged alongside the careers of artists he admired, together with Patti Smith, in no matter methods got here to thoughts.
“Although Bob was famend for his acerbic wit — from his days as aide-de-camp to Dylan and Janis — once I met him 25 years in the past, he epitomized kindness, mentorship and curiosity,” she stated. “That’s the unsung story of Bob Neuwirth.”
Robert John Neuwirth was born on June 20, 1939, in Akron, Ohio. His father, additionally named Robert, was an engineer, and his mom, Clara Irene (Fischer) Neuwirth, was a design engineer.
He studied artwork on the College of the Museum of High quality Arts in Boston and dabbled in portray over the many years; in 2011 the Monitor 16 gallery in Santa Monica offered “Overs & Unders: Paintings by Bob Neuwirth, 1964-2009.”
After two years at artwork college, he hung out in Paris earlier than returning to the Boston space, the place he started performing in espresso homes, singing and taking part in banjo and guitar.
Mr. Neuwirth appeared in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 Dylan documentary, “Dont Look Again,” in addition to in “Eat the Doc,” a 1972 documentary of a later tour that was shot by Mr. Pennebaker and later edited by Mr. Dylan, who’s credited because the director. He was seen in Mr. Dylan’s movie “Renaldo & Clara” (1978), most of which was filmed throughout the Rolling Thunder tour. And he appeared in “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,” the 2019 Martin Scorsese movie.
Mr. Neuwirth was a producer of “Down From the Mountain” (2000), a documentary, directed partly by Mr. Pennebaker, a couple of live performance that includes the musical artists heard within the Coen Brothers’ film “O Brother, The place Artwork Thou?”
“It’s all about the identical to me,” he stated, “whether or not it’s writing a tune or making a portray or doing a movie. It’s all simply storytelling.”
He lived in Santa Monica. Ms. Batson is his solely speedy survivor.
Mr. Neuwirth could possibly be self-deprecating about his personal musical efforts. He referred to as his collaboration with Mr. Vitier, the Cuban pianist, “Cubilly music.” However his music was typically critical. The Cale collaboration was a kind of tune cycle that, as Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Instances when the 2 carried out picks in live performance in 1990, “added as much as a shrug of the shoulders within the face of impending doom.”
“As a substitute of breast-beating or just wisecracking,” Mr. Pareles wrote of the work, “it discovered an emotional territory someplace between fatalism and denial — nonetheless uneasy however not fairly resigned.”