Bob Neuwirth, a painter, recording artist, and songwriter who is also part of Bob Dylan’s inner circle and the disseminator of two of Janis Joplin’s most famous songs, spoke Wednesday in San Mohamed, Calif. Nika passed away at the age of 82.
His partner Paula Batson said the cause was heart failure.
Mr. Neuwirth has a string of eclectic albums, including his debut album, simply titled “Bob Neuwirth” in 1974, and a 1994 collaboration with John Cale titled “The Last Day on Earth”, and 2000 In collaboration with Cuban composer and pianist Jose Maria Vittier, “Midnight in Havana”. But he’s probably better known for the roles he played in the careers of others, starting with Mr. Dylan.
Mr. Neuwirth said he first met Mr. Dylan at the 1961 Indian Neck Folk Festival in Connecticut. Mr. Dylan was still largely unknown at the time, but, Mr. Neuwirth said, years later, he caught his attention “because he was the only other guy with a harmonica stand around his neck.”
The two hit it off, and as Dylan’s fame grew, Mr. Newells became the centerpiece of the circle that gathered around Mr. Dylan. Mr Newworth was present when Mr Dylan appeared in court at the Kettle of Fish pub in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. When Mr Dylan toured the UK in 1965, Mr Newworth followed. Ten years later, when Mr. Dylan embarked on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Mr. Neuwirth was instrumental in forming the band.
Mr. Dylan’s contemporaries and biographers have described Mr. Newworth’s role in various ways.
“Neuwirth was the eye of the storm, the center, the catalyst, the instigator,” said Eric Von Schmidt, another folk singer active at the time. “No matter what important thing happened, he was there, or he was on his way there, or there were rumors that he was already nearby enough to have an impact on whatever was going on.”
Mr Dylan is often thought to have developed his unique character while increasing his international profile, and he has borrowed a few from Mr Newert, including a certain attitude and scathing personality.
“The whole hippie is teetering—that’s pure Newworth,” wrote Bob Spitz in “Dylan: A Biography” (1989). “The same goes for deadly belittling, devastating smiles and innuendo. Newworth mastered these long before Bob Dylan became famous and conveyed them to his best friend with altruistic grace. Small twists and turns.”
Mr. Spitz suggested that Mr. Neuwirth could have used these same qualities to gain Dylanesque fame.
“Bobby Neuwirth is the Bob most likely to succeed,” he wrote. “It’s a source of great potential. He has all the elements except one – nerves.”
Mr. Dylan, in his Chronicle: Volume I (2004), has his own description of Mr. Newells:
“Just like Kerouac immortalized Neil Cassady in On the Road, someone should immortalize Newworth. He’s just that character. He can talk to anyone until they feel all their wisdom It’s all gone. With his tongue, tearing and cutting, he can upset anyone and fix any problem his way. No one knows what’s going to happen to him.”
Ms. Joplin also benefited from Mr. Newworth’s influence. Holly George-Warren, whose books include “Janis: Her Life and Music” (2019), saying that Mr Newert and Ms Joplin met in 1963 and became good friends.
“He taught her Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ in 1969 after hearing Gordon Lightfoot play this then unknown song in manager Albert Grossman’s office,” Ms. George Warren Say via email. “He picked it up quickly and took it to Giannis at the Chelsea Hotel.”
The song she recorded hit number one in 1971, but Ms. Joplin didn’t enjoy success around; she had died of a drug overdose the year before.
Mr. Neuwirth also worked on “Mercedes Benz,” another well-known Joplin song that, along with “Bobby McGee,” appeared on her 1971 album Pearl. In August 1970, Ms. Joplin was performing with her in a bar before her performance at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, when Ms. Joplin began to sing the poet’s ditty repeatedly. Michael McClure Will sing at parties with friends. Mr. Neuwirth began writing the lyrics the two of them came up with on a napkin.
She sang the song at the show that night, and she later recorded a cappella. She, Mr. McClure and Mr. Neuwirth are jointly credited with authoring the song, which is less than two minutes long on the album.
Ms. George-Warren said the anecdote was instructive: Mr. Neuwirth advanced the careers of artists he admired, including Patti Smith, in any conceivable way.
“While Bob is known for his acerbic wit — from his days as a lieutenant to Dylan and Janice — when I met him 25 years ago, he was the epitome of kindness, guidance and curiosity,” she said. Say. “That’s the untold story of Bob Neuwirth.”
Robert John Newworth Born June 20, 1939 in Akron, Ohio. His father, also named Robert, was an engineer, and his mother, Clara Erin (Fischer) Neuwirth, was a design engineer.
He studied art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and has been involved in painting for decades; in 2011, he exhibited at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica “Overs & Unders: Paintings by Bob Neuwirth, 1964-2009.”
After two years at art school, he spent time in Paris before returning to the Boston area and began performing in cafes, singing, playing banjo and guitar.
Mr. Neuwirth appeared in DA Pennebaker’s 1967 Dylan documentary “Dont Look Back” and “Eat the Document”, a 1972 documentary filmed by Mr. Pennebaker and edited by Mr. Dylan and later toured. be recorded as a director. He appeared in Mr. Dylan’s film “Reinaldo and Clara” (1978), most of which were filmed during Rolling Thunder’s tour. He also starred in the 2019 Martin Scorsese film Rolling Thunder: The Bob Dylan Story.
Mr. Neuwirth is the producer of “Down the Hill” (2000), a documentary partly directed by Mr. Pennebaker about the Coen brothers’ film “Where Are You?”
“It’s all the same to me,” he said, “whether it’s writing songs, drawing pictures or making movies. It’s all just storytelling.”
He lives in Santa Monica. Ms. Batson was his only immediate survivor.
Mr. Neuwirth may be self-deprecating about his musical endeavors. He calls his collaboration with Cuban pianist Mr. Vittier “Cubilly Music”. But his music is often serious. Cale’s collaboration is a song loop that, as Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times in 1990 when the pair played a selection at a concert, “shrugged before the impending doom.”
“Instead of thumping your chest or making a quip,” Mr. Parreles wrote of the work, “it finds an emotional realm between fatalism and denial — still restless, but not totally yielding.”