Bruce Langhorne, who has died aged 78, was a guitarist, percussionist, acclaimed composer of film scores, and creator of what many consider to be the world’s finest chili sauce; he also spent five years as a macadamia nut farmer in Hawaii.
Bob Dylan was inspired to write the 1965 song Mr Tambourine Man after he saw Langhorne at a party playing a Turkish tambourine close to a metre in diameter.
Langhorne collaborated with figures such as Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte, but his most significant musical association was with Dylan: their collaboration began on the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and continued for a decade.
He played guitar on many of the singer’s greatest recordings, notably on every track on the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, including Mr Tambourine Man. He played the guitar on Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and percussion on Like a Rolling Stone.
“If you had Bruce playing with you,” Dylan wrote in his 2004 memoir, Chronicles, “that’s all you would need to do just about anything.”
Langhorne’s virtuosity as a guitarist was especially remarkable given that the thumb, index and middle fingers of his right hand were reduced to short stumps – the legacy of a ballistics experiment he had conducted at the age of 12 to test how much powdered magnesium might safely be included in a home-made mix of rocket propellant. On the morning of the explosion his mother Dorothy was downstairs in the kitchen, working on her own, less hazardous, recipes.
What a fascinating fella. I had never heard of him until I read this obituary today. Read the whole think yourself. I should pick up some of his hot sauce as a belated tribute.