Bob Neuwirth, singer-songwriter who influenced Bob Dylan, dies at 82

One day in 1970, a young Patti Smith was sitting in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel in New York writing poetry when a familiar figure approached her. “He came up and asked me if I was a poet,” she told Rolling Stones She immediately recognized the figure wearing the trademark sunglasses bob dylan Record. “I know exactly who he is. He looks like he’s walking out Do not look back, I’ve seen it about 100 times. He said, “Let me see what you’re writing.” He started reading, and he was one of the first people to see my work and take it seriously. He said, ‘You should write songs. ‘”

This number is Bob Newworth, folk singer-songwriter and painter who influenced or influenced numerous artists including Smith, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. Newworth died Wednesday in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 82, according to his partner Paula Batson, who confirmed his death. Rolling Stones.

“Wednesday night in Santa Monica, big heart of Bob Newworth gave up,” Newworth’s family said in a statement. “Bob is an artist in every cell of his body and he likes to encourage others to create their own art. He is a painter, songwriter, producer and recording artist whose work is loved and respected For over 60 years, Bob has been at the center of cultural moments from Woodstock to Paris, Do not look back to Monterey Pop, rolling thunder to Nashville and Havana. He was a generous demagogue, often making and making things anonymously. For him, art is what matters, not credit. He is an artist, mentor and supporter for many. All who loved him will miss him. “

Throughout his decades-long career, Newworth has traveled back and forth between the music and art worlds, and while his association with classic rock has made him a legend, he is largely and happily unknown.Dylan fans remember his mean cameo on the show Do not look backdirector DA Pennebaker’s film of Dylan’s 1965 UK tour, and Neuwirth’s 1975 performance Rolling Thunder Opera travel. Joplin fans recognized him by the a cappella classic “Mercedes Benz” she co-wrote with poet Michael McClure. In the private collection art world, Neuwirth is known for his exhibitions of paintings, while Velvet Underground die-hards recall his work with John Cale in the ’90s. Neuwirth also introduced Joplin to “Me and Bobby McGee” written by his friend Kris Kristofferson; Joplin recorded the song a few days before her death in 1970.

“When you’re with people like that, you’re not driven to be a musician,” Neuwirth said of his collaboration in 1989. “I have other outlets. I’m a painter, so it never occurred to me to do anything else.”

“He’s good at everything,” Smith said. “He’s a great songwriter. A moving singer. What a good painter. He’s charming. You can’t not be drawn to him. But it’s not because he’s pushy. He’s just not the kind to put his own agenda A person who pushes into a situation.”

Born in Akron, Ohio, on June 20, 1939, Neuwirth first attended Ohio University before moving to Boston in 1959 to attend the Museum of Fine Arts on an art scholarship. After a trip to Paris, he returned to Boston to work in an art store and learn to play the banjo and guitar, which made him a part of the Cambridge folk scene in the early ’60s. “In a way, painting was my way of getting into folk music,” he said in 1989. This has always been my secondary art and my part-time job. ”

Neuwirth started visiting a similar scene developing in New York’s Greenwich Village (in part, he once joked, because weeds were more accessible). At one point, he met Dylan at a club there, and he shared a caustic, sharp sense of humor and a funky personality. “From the beginning, you could tell that Newert liked to be provocative and nothing would limit his freedom,” Dylan said in a statement. Chronicle Volume 1“He’s going crazy against something. When you talk to him, you have to be ready.” Dylan also called Neuwirth a “bulldog.”

Eventually, Neuwirth became part of Dylan’s tight inner circle, hanging out in bars like the Kettle of Fish in the village and exchanging barbs with anyone in a singer who played with dylan put it Rolling Stones In 1972, “Neuwirth was a set maker, a very strong cat. When he arrived in New York in 1964, he started hanging out around Dylan. And that’s when Dylan started to change. Partly because of Neuwirth, He’s been a huge influence on Dylan. Neuwirth has a negative attitude that emphasizes pride and ego, kind of like, “Head up, man, don’t shit, just take over the scene. “He’s the kind of cat who can influence others, work for their egos and support those egos. His negativity is exactly how Dylan feels.”

Neuwirth moved to Los Angeles soon after, where he stayed most of the time. In 1974, after years of club playing, he finally released his own record, Bob Newworth, on the asylum label of David Geffen. The album – which set Neuwirth’s rugged sound to be whatever, and sometimes even drunk, honky-tonk – wasn’t a commercial success. But it was a cult favorite, and when Neuwirth passed away, plans to re-release it were brewing. (The project is currently scheduled for release next year.)

Bob Newworth

Bob Newworth

Larry Bercow

also Do not look backNeuwrith also co-starred in Dylan’s 1978 experimental film Reinaldo and Clara. The film also features many of the artists in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, Neuwirth is aids in assembly(Neuwirth’s 1975 performance at The Other End in the Village became a meeting point for many of the participants on that tour.)

For Joan Baez, who met Neuwirth on the Cambridge Ballad stage, Neuwirth could be a stable figure when she found herself out of place in Dylan’s world, starting on tour Do not look back. “I felt bad when we were on that tour, Bob [Neuwirth] wanted me to go home,” he said. “He said, ‘It’s not going to get better. ‘ this is not the truth. But Newworth was right. A decade later, on the Dylan-led Rolling Thunder show, Baez had similar discomfort. “I felt slighted again, and that’s what I spent most of my time with Dylan,” she said. “I was in a hotel bed. Lying down, Neuwirth came in and started playing silly, opening the window and yelling, ‘She’ll live! ‘ He’s just one of those people who can make you laugh. “

The painting work he started in the early sixties continues. Early in his career, he created what he called “an eccentric mix of Cubism and Surrealism”. Later, he focused on wall works combining painting and sculpture. A major exhibition of his work, Overs & Unders: Paintings by Bob Neuwirth: 1964 – 2009held in Los Angeles in 2011.

Although his music career was never his priority, Newworth returned to that part of his life intermittently.Start with a beautiful spare in 1989 back to the frontAfter that, he returned to making occasional, ironic, and often stark country records.Made 1994’s with John Cale, whom he met while hanging out at Andy Warhol’s factory in the ’60s last day on earthNeuwirth describes it as “an abstract Prairie Home Companion. In 1995, Mercedes-Benz licensed Joplin’s song for a high-profile commercial. “I wonder what took them so long,” Newworth snarled at the time. (The song is Written quickly between the two shows at Joplin’s show, he said, “It was a one-off, fluke. I wouldn’t call it songwriting.”) Newworth also wrote for the Texas singer and songwriter. Composer Vince Bell produced two albums.

In 2004, Neuwirth served as emcee of Great High Mountain, a bluegrass and Americas tour inspired by o Brother, where are you? And featuring Alison Krause, Ralph Stanley, and more. In recent years, he has also participated in concerts honoring Randy Newman and the late folklorist Harry Smith, as well as a 2018 New York concert at City Hall that recreated Dylan’s 1963 performance. The latter is especially notable, as Newworth generally distanced himself from his Dylan associates, giving few interviews about that period of his life.

“Like Kerouac having Neil Cassady in on the way, someone should immortalize Newfrith,” Dylan wrote. “He’s just that kind of character…his tongue, ripped and cut, can upset anyone and get out of his way. anything. No one knows what will happen to him. If ever there was a Renaissance man who jumped in and out of things, he must be it. ”

For Smith, Dylan’s cover Revisiting Highway 61 — which shows Neuwirth, but only as a pants-wearer standing behind Dylan — about his low-key but important role in the culture. “In short, this is him,” she said. “He stayed behind the scenes. But he was there, and his presence was always strong.”

Additional reporting by Daniel Kreps

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