Bruce Langhorne, the session musician who inspired the Bob Dylan song “Mr. Tambourine Man,” died Friday, April 14, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 78.|
Langhorne was well-known in the 1960s Greenwich Village scene as a session musician for folk albums and performances. He played guitar and percussion instruments.
He worked with many performers during the folk revival that began in the 1950s. The list of musicians he accompanied include most of the legendary names in folk music. He worked with Joan Baez; Richie Havens; Odetta; Gordon Lightfoot; Peter, Paul and Mary; and many others.
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Langhorne met Bob Dylan in 1961. He told Premier Guitar in an interview that, at first, he didn’t think much of Dylan’s talents.
"I thought he was a terrible singer and a complete fake, and I thought he didn’t play harmonica that well,” Langhorne said. “I didn’t really start to appreciate Bobby as something unique until he started writing."
Langhorne played on the classic Dylan albums “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” which was released in 1963, and 1965’s “Bringing It All Back Home.” He played the lead guitar parts on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm.”
Langhorne was the inspiration for the title character in Dylan’s legendary song “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Langhorne often played a large Turkish drum that had bells attached to the outside that made it sound like a tambourine. Langhorne contributed electric guitar for the song.
Langhorne learned to play the violin as a child and was considered a prodigy. When he was 12, however, he lost three fingers in his right hand when he was lighting a homemade rocket. This contributed to his unique sound on guitar.
Later in life, he started a hot sauce company called Brother Bru-Bru's African Hot Sauce.
He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Janet Bachelor.