There are some in the music industry whose legacy is mostly through their influence on other musicians. Folk singer-songwriter Bob Neuwirth was one of those artists.
Neuwirth, best known for his profound influence on legends Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, died of heart failure Wednesday in Santa Monica, California, the New York Times reported. He was 82-years-old.
With a career spanning decades through several genres, Neuwirth is best known for being one of Dylan’s closest companions in his inner circle that’s a who’s who of the music industry. In his 2004 memoir “Chronicles: Volume One,” Dylan described Neuwirth with raw detail the way only an intimate friend could.
“Like Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in ‘On the Road,’ somebody should have immortalized Neuwirth,” Dylan wrote. “He was that kind of character. He could talk to anybody until they felt like all their intelligence was gone.”
“With his tongue, he ripped and slashed and could make anybody uneasy, also could talk his way out of anything,” Dylan added. “Nobody knew what to make of him,” he said.
Neuwirth also played a pivotal role in the career of Janis Joplin, whose storied career was cut short by her overdose death in 1971. He co-wrote her iconic “Mercedes Benz” acapella number and introduced Joplin to the Kris Kristofferson song, “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Joplin’s recording of the folk song went on to be a posthumous number one hit the year after she died. Through the years, Neuwirth would also mentor other favorite artists like Patti Smith.
Though Neuwirth was a musician in his own right with an eclectic slate of albums, it seems his lasting legacy lies in the people he helped catapult to stardom along the way. The music scene was shaped and molded by his influence, and now the music industry mourns the loss of another great.