Kenny Rankin: Guitarist and singer who played with Bob Dylan

Many of the reviews of Kenny Rankin's dozen albums compare him to James Taylor and certainly he fits into that soft rock, easy listening mould. He was as much influenced by the pre-war songwriters as his contemporaries, however, and this quality is noted both in his own songs and in the standards which he recorded. Paul McCartney was impressed with his exquisite versions of Beatle songs such as "Blackbird" and asked him to collect an award for Lennon and McCartney from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.

Kenny Rankin was born in New York in 1940 and grew up in a multi-cultural society where he enjoyed Latin-American and other rhythms as much as the rock'n'roll records he heard on the radio. He loved Dick Clark's TV show, American Bandstand, and wanting to be a teenage idol himself, he made his first singles, "Cindy Lou, My Cinderella" and "Sure As You're Born", around 1959, although they did not sell.

Rankin was friendly with the hit-making Dion Dimucci, who introduced him to his arranger at Columbia Records, Robert Mersey. Mersey spotted his songwriting potential and "My Carousel" was placed with the jazz singer, Carmen McRae. While at Columbia, he took on session work and played rhythm guitar on "Maggie's Farm" and a few other cuts on Bob Dylan's ground-breaking album, Bringing It All Back Home (1965). As Rankin was writing songs in a structured, Tin Pan Alley manner, he was intrigued as to how Dylan would make each chorus a little different, as though he did not want to repeat himself.

Rankin had little success with his own recordings for Columbia but Peggy Lee recorded "In The Name Of Love" (1964) and Mel Tormé "Haven't We Met" (1966). He spent some time in Europe, performing at the San Remo Song Festival and recording in other languages. He released his first album, Mind-Dusters, for Mercury in 1969, which included Dylan's "Mr Tambourine Man". The sleeve notes were written by the American chat show host, Johnny Carson, who featured him nearly 20 times. The album included "Peaceful", which became a hit for Helen Reddy and was featured on her album, I Am Woman (1973), and Fred Neil's "The Dolphins".

By this time, Rankin was high on speed but within a couple of years he had gone into rehab and then written the album, Like A Seed (1972). It included "Comin' Down", an unlikely choice for a UK single, in which he declared, "What a waste of time, to live your life as I've lived mine." Despite this, Rankin's work was branded as mellow easy listening.

The title track of his album, Silver Morning (1975), was written with his wife, Yvonne and the LP also included fine versions of Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready". The following year he worked with a 60-piece orchestra and Frank Sinatra's arranger, Don Costa, on a collection of standards and new songs for The Kenny Rankin Album. It included "On And On", which became a US hit for Stephen Bishop. Rankin worked again with Costa on After The Roses (1980).

In 1995, Rankin recorded another album of standards, Professional Dreamer, as well as a Latin American album, In My Heart. His final album was the jazz-tinged A Song For You (2002). He had signed a new album deal for Sly Dog Records at the time of his death.

Kenny Rankin, guitarist, singer and songwriter: born Manhattan 10 February 1940; married (marriage dissolved, one son, two daughters); died Los Angeles 7 June 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory