Kenny Rankin, an acclaimed New York-based singer-songwriter who contributed guitar to Bob Dylan’s 1965 classic Bringing It All Back Home, passed away June 7th following complications related to lung cancer, Billboard reports. He was 69. Rankin also penned songs like “Peaceful,” a hit for Helen Reddy and “Haven’t We Met,” which was recorded by Carmen McRae and Mel Torme.
Signed in his teens to a contract with Decca Records, Rankin soon moved over to Columbia Records, where he was recruited to join in on the recording sessions for his labelmate Dylan. Rankin went on to have a notable solo career in his own right, beginning with his 1968 album Mind Dusters and peaking with 1976’s The Kenny Rankin Album, which was recorded live with a 60-piece orchestra.
According to Rankin’s official site, he appeared on the The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson more than 20 times, with Carson himself such a big fan that he wrote the liner notes for Rankin’s Mind Dusters. Rankin also recorded a version of the Beatles’ White Album ballad “Blackbird” for his own 1975 album Silver Morning. The cover was so revered, Paul McCartney asked Rankin to perform his version at the ceremony where McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Inspired by his multicultural upbringing in New York City’s Washington Heights, Rankin’s style shifted from singer-songwriter fare to jazz to standards to songs inspired by Brazilian music. “That he was still at the top of his game is one of the saddest parts of his passing for me,” Mack Avenue Records president Denny Stilwell said in a statement. “He performed the new material in our office over the last few months and his voice was still in its finest form — he sounded absolutely amazing. Our hearts and prayers are with his family.”