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Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, Bruce Langhorne, Dead at 78

Bruce Langhorne

Bruce Langhorne, the guitarist who inspired Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man,” has died at the age of 78 as a result of kidney failure.

He was a leading light in the Greenwich Village folk movement and a major contributor to Dylan’s 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, which became a defining moment in the history of folk rock. He also worked with Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Rush and many others, and composed movie soundtracks. He also performed in Washington, D.C., at the protest march on Aug. 28, 1963, just before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech.

Dylan was working on “Mr Tambourine Man” when he saw Langhorne arriving for a recording session in 1964, carrying a Turkish drum with bells attached – specifically inspiring the line “In the jingle-jangle morning I’ll come following you.” (The drum can now be seen at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.)

In his 2004 autobiography Chronicles, Dylan said of his colleague, “If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.” In turn, Langhorne said of Dylan, “The connection I had with Bobby was telepathic – and when I use that work I mean it. The communication was always very strong.”

Langhorne started out as a violinist, but a childhood fireworks accident in which he lost three fingers of his right hand prompted a move to guitar at the age of 17.Among his other interests were African and Caribbean music, farming and creating low-sodium hot sauce, inspired by his diagnosis with type 2 diabetes in 1992. He semi-retired in the ’90s and stopped playing guitar in 2006 after a stroke. But he played keyboards and percussion on his 2011 solo album, Tambourine Man. He had been living in a hospice since a more severe stroke in 2015.

An album titled The Hired Hands: A Tribute to Bruce Langhorne, featuring contributions from a wide range of musicians, was released in February, with proceeds donated to help support his bills.

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