Singer-songwriter Kenny Rankin, whose musical creations ran from smooth jazz to pop, died Sunday of complications of lung cancer.
Rankin, 69, was working on a collection of new material to record when he fell ill a few weeks ago.
His career started in the 1950s, when he signed with Decca Records while still in his teens. His most popular work, the pop standard “Peaceful,” debuted in 1967.
He was a featured guitarist on Bob Dylan’s 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home,” and continued to work with Dylan at Columbia Records.
He made more than 20 appearances on “The Tonight Show” with host Johnny Carson, who contributed liner notes to Rankin’s first album, “Mind Dusters.” Other albums by Rankin included “Family,” “Like A Seed,” “Inside” and “Silver Morning.”
Rankin also had a connection to the Santa Clarita Valley community, as the first musician to perform at the Evening Under The Stars, a benefit gala for the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children’s Cancer, now in its 16th year.
“Kenny was a class act,” said KHTS co-owner Carl Goldman, who hosted that fundraiser with his wife, Jeri. “I knew him through a college classmate of mine who had married into his family. Kenny performed at his wedding, and soon after he graciously donated his time to perform for the first Michael Hoefflin Evening Under The Stars event at our Sand Canyon home in 1994. He gave a wonderful performance. He really set the bar for that event.
“I’ve followed his career closely since then. He had so much talent. Every song he sang had his own signature. It was amazing how he could take a popular hit and turn it into a Kenny Rankin classic,” he added. “Our industry will really miss him.”
Denny Stillwell, president of Mack Avenue Records, which was due to release the new recording, issued a statement upon learning of Rankin’s death.
“That he was still at the top of his game is one of the saddest parts of his passing for me,” Stillwell said. “He performed the new material in our office over the last few months and his voice was still in its finest form – he sounded absolutely amazing. Our hearts and prayers are with his family.”
Rankin is survived by his son, Chris Rankin, daughters Chandra Rankin and Jena Rankin-Ray and a granddaughter. His record label, Mack Avenue Records, said that funeral arrangements are pending.