Bob Johnston, record producer best known for his tenure with Columbia Records, as well as being at the helm of some of label’s classic albums from artists including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen, died on Friday in Gallatin, Tennessee at the age of 83. His son reported the cause the death as heart failure.
Originally a songwriter and rockabilly singer, Johnston soon began working for various small labels including Kapp, before moving to Columbia Records. Following his production of Patti Page’s “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, Johnston began producing the label’s biggest artists, starting with Bob Dylan. With this artist, he produced seven albums, including two that would rank in the top ten on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde).
He would also be at the helm of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, as well as seven albums from Johnny Cash, including his two live albums, At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin. Other Columbia artists that have worked with Johnston include Leonard Cohen and the Byrds.
Johnston left Columbia Records in the 1970s, and became an independent producer, working with artists including Jimmy Cliff, Pete Seeger, and John Mayall. Later production works includes the tribute album Go Cat Go, and the Willie Nelson album, The I.R.S. Tapes. In an interview with Louis Black of the Austin Chronicle, Johnston once described his method of producing, as “never picking a song list, or telling where to cut, as what the artist have written would turn out great”.