Bob Neuwirth, Singer-Songwriter Who Influenced Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, Dies at 82

Neuwirth co-wrote the Joplin classic “Mercedes Benz”

bob neuwirth
Bob Neuwirth circa 1970 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Bob Neuwirth, a folk musician who was also a member of Bob Dylan’s inner circle and co-wrote songs with Janis Joplin, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica.

Neuwirth, who released a self-titled debut album in 1974 and worked on other musical projects, was perhaps best known for being an instrumental figure in Dylan’s orbit, first meeting him in 1961 and accompanying him on various tours. According to the New York Times obit, he helped put the band together for Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour (a tour immortalized in a documentary from Martin Scorsese, where Neuwirth appears).

Dylan biographers have pointed to Neuwirth as directly influencing Dylan’s persona and Dylan wrote about him in his book “Chronicles: Volume One” (via the NYT): “Like Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in ‘On the Road,’ somebody should have immortalized Neuwirth. 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. Nobody knew what to make of him.”

Two years after he met Dylan, Neuwirth befriended Janis Joplin. He introduced Kris Kristofferson to Joplin (together the two would have a major hit, released after her death). He is one of the credited songwriters on Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” from her 1971 album “Pearl.”

Truly a counterculture icon that influenced and helped those whose talent he appreciated and a singular artist in his own right. He is survived by his longtime partner Paula Batson.