In a career spanning four decades, Rankin was a well-regarded singer and songwriter. Though he had already released several singles, he was first noticed as a lead guitarist on Bob Dylan's landmark album "Bringin' It All Back Home" in the 60s. Appearances on The Tonight Show boosted his profile, and he became one of Johnny Carson's favorite musical guests (Carson contributed liner notes to Rankin's "Mind Dusters" album).
His hits included "Spanish Harlem," "Round Midnight" and "Peaceful." His smooth guitar skills were so evident on his cover of The Beatles' hit "Blackbird" that Paul McCartney requested he play the tune when he and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His own compositions were recorded by Peggy Lee, Carmen McRea and Mel Torme, among others. Rankin was a long-time supporter of WeSpark, an organization created by my late friend Wendy Jo Sperber as a support center for cancer patients.
Here is a typically smooth performance of a soul-comforting tune:
Kenny Rankin died Sunday from lung cancer. He was 69.