Bruce Langhorne, Inspiration Behind Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Dies At Age 78
Bruce Langhorne, a guitarist who helped define the folk-rock sound of the 1960s, died in his home in Venice, California, on Friday at the age of 78. As reported by The New York Times, Langhorne’s friend, Cynthia Riddle confirmed the cause was kidney failure.
Langhorne, although a prolific musician in his own right, is most notably remembered for his collaborations with Bob Dylan. He first began working with Dylan on the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan but played a much larger role during the recording of Dylan’s 1965 album, Bring It All Back Home. Langhorne, on Bring It All, played lead guitar on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “She Belong’s To Me,” and “Outlaw Blues.” He also provided the iconic countermelody on “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
But the countermelody wasn’t Langhorne’s only contribution to one of Dylan’s most celebrated songs – he also was the inspiration.
In the liner notes to Dylan’s Biograph box set, the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature wrote about Langhorne’s influence. “Bruce was playing guitar with me on a bunch of the early records. On one session, Tom Wilson had asked him to play tambourine. And he had this gigantic tambourine. It was like, really big. It was as big as a wagon-wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in mind. He was one of those characters… he was like that. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that.”
While Langhorne was able to spread his sound into Dylan’s music, he also contributed to the work of many other folk music legends during the ’60s and ’70s. Langhorne collaborated with Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Tom Rush and many more.
Despite having worked on many songs that would soon go on to define an entire generation of musicians, Langhorne only released one solo album over the course of his career. The album, Tambourine Man was released in 2011.
Langhorne is survived by his wife, Janet Bachelor. They were married for 29 years.