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Kenny Rankin Singer-Songwriter's Long Career Almost Defied Categorization Dies

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Kenny Rankin
A well-regarded guitarist, he wrote the hit song 'Peaceful' for Helen Reddy and played in Bob Dylan's backup band on the influential 1965 album 'Bringing It All Back Home.'

Kenny Rankin, a singer-songwriter and musician whose song “Peaceful" was a hit for Helen Reddy and who had popular covers himself of a pair of Beatles hits, has died. He was 69.

Rankin died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death, according to his management company, was lung cancer, which was diagnosed three weeks ago.

His career, which spanned more than five decades, almost defied categorization. A well-regarded guitarist, he played in Bob Dylan's backup band on the influential 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home." He also spent several years on the road opening for comedian George Carlin.

Rankin appeared on “The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson more than 25 times. Carson was such a fan that he wrote the liner notes for Rankin's 1967 debut LP, “Mind Dusters."

As a singer with a velveteen tenor voice, he had highly successful covers of the Beatles' “Blackbird" and “Penny Lane" in the mid-1970s and in 1976 recorded an LP of standards, “The Kenny Rankin Album," with a large orchestra conducted by Don Costa.

In a review of a 2000 Rankin performance at a San Fernando Valley jazz club, critic Don Heckman wrote in The Times: “Rankin has been -- for a decade or more -- a singer whose unusual improvisational skills and innate capacity to deliver a melody with a strong sense of swing stamp him as a consistently appealing jazz artist."

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