Kenny Rankin, pop vocalist and musician-songwriter whose stylings ranged from jazz to pop to efforts with world music influences, died June 7 in Los Angeles of complications related to lung cancer. He was 69.
The musician, who first gained acclaim as one of the guitarists on Bob Dylan’s landmark 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home,” had been preparing to record an album of new material when he became ill a few weeks ago. Recording sessions scheduled with producer Phil Ramone were canceled as his health began to deteriorate.
Rankin wrote and recorded the pop standard “Peaceful” and also wrote “In The Name of Love,” which was recorded by Peggy Lee, and “Haven’t We Met,” performed by Carmen McRae and Mel Torme.
His own “The Kenny Rankin Album” was recorded live in 1976 with a 60-piece orchestra.
After signing with Decca while he was still in his late teens, he released a handful of singles before moving on to Columbia Records, also the home of Dylan. There, he took part in the recording of “Bringing It All Back Home,” the album in which Dylan moved firmly from an all-acoustic folk music sound to an electric mixture of pop and rock ‘n’ roll.
Soon thereafter, he made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show,” impressing host Johnny Carson so much that Carson contributed liner notes to Rankin’s first album, 1967’s “Mind Dusters.” Other albums included “Family,” “Like a Seed,” “Inside” and “Silver Morning.”
He would go on to appear as a guest on Carson’s “Tonight Show” more than 20 times.
Rankin’s supple tenor voice on such recordings as “Spanish Harlem,” ” ‘Round Midnight” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and “I’ve Just a Face” also won him the respect of fellow musicians as a singer’s singer.
Rankin spent much of the past 20 years touring, although he returned to the studio in the mid-1990s to release a pair of albums, “Professional Dreamer” and “Here in My Heart.” He also released a Christmas album in 1999.
Born in New York City, Rankin was raised in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood, where he said he grew up listening to a broad spectrum of music, including Afro-Cuban, jazz, top 40 and Brazilian.
He is survived by a son, two daughters and a granddaughter.