Bob Johnston, a staff producer at Columbia Records who worked on legendary LPs like Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison and Simon & Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, passed away Friday at a Nashville hospice. He was 83.
A friend of Johnston's confirmed the producer's death to the Austin Chronicle, saying, "For several days before, swinging, swaying, and waving around his hands, telling stories out loud, entertaining and consuming all those that saw and heard him. Once he was confined to [a] bed and connected to machines, hospice only gave him a few days to live. He was on morphine to help any pain he was experiencing. Bob's wife told me he pass[ed] away peacefully. The grand master waved his magical wand for the last time, then disappeared off into the night." . . .
Johnston also . . . produced Leonard Cohen's Songs From a Room and 1971's Songs of Love and Hate, and helmed albums by the Byrds, Jimmy Cliff, Pete Seeger and Marty Robbins. Johnston was also behind the board for Willie Nelson's infamous IRS tapes.
In 2011, Johnston talked about his successful hands-off approach to working with the artists and how he never told them what songs to include or not include on their albums.
"How could I? 'I don't like that song, Paul. Let's get rid of 'Parsley Sage' and do another one. It's too fuckin' slow.' Fuck that! I told Dylan and Cohen and Cash and Simon and everybody else, 'You don't have a contract with me. I got a contract with CBS. You can tell me to hit the fuckin' door. You don't have to call CBS. Just tell me to get the fuck out of here, and I'll be gone," Johnston said. "None of 'em ever messed with the sound, except Paul Simon, a little bit. But everybody else, it was what I did. I was better than everybody else. And everybody else, you compare my work. Blonde on Blonde was voted the best album in rock history. And you compare all the work with what I did and compare the other people's records. I sold a billion fuckin' albums, worldwide."