New Orleans legend Dr John dead at 77

Dr John onstage
Dr John (Image credit: Ronald C. Modra / Getty Images)

Legendary singer/songwriter Malcolm John Rebennack Jr, aka. Dr John, has died at the age of 77. 

The news was confirmed in a statement on his Twitter account which reported that he died after suffering a heart attack.

The statement reads: “Towards the break of day on June 6, 2019, iconic music legend Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., professionally known as Dr John, passed away of a heart attack.

“As a Rock And Roll Fall Of Fame inductee, six time Grammy winner, songwriter, composer, producer and performer, he created a unique blend of music which carried his home town, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart.

“The family thanks all whom have shared his unique musical journey, and requests privacy at this time. Memorial arrangements will be announced in due course.”

Dr John was born on November 20, 1941, and rose to prominence as a session musician in the New Orleans scene in the late 50s playing guitar and bass.

He later switched to piano after suffering a gunshot would to his left hand when trying to defend his friend Ronnie Barron during an incident in Jackson, Mississippi.

He broke out as a solo artist with the release of his 1968 album Gris-Gris which fused rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock and also introduced his stage persona Dr John Creaux The Night Tripper to the world.

His voodoo-influenced stage shows were famous for their over the top theatrical flourishes, with Dr John wearing elaborate costumes, while regularly scattering glitter on the audience.

Dr John released dozens of solo albums throughout his career and formed Bluesiana Triangle with Art Blakey and David ‘Fathead’ Newman. He also collaborated with a host of musicians including Frank Zappa, B.B. King, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones and Gregg Allman.

He also performed with The Band on Martin Scorsese’s 1978 film The Last Waltz.

He battled a heroin addiction throughout the 80s, kicking the habit in 1989 and subsequently went on to play with Ringo Starr on the All Starr Band tour later that year.

Starr was one of the first to pay tribute to Dr John, posting a picture of them together on Twitter saying: "God bless Dr John. Peace and love to all his family. I love the doctor, peace and love."

The Allman Brother Band’s Twitter account added: “Mac ‘Dr John’ Rebennack, a true friend and fellow musical traveler died today. 

“The Allman Brothers Band family express their sincere sadness in his passing. Mac played many times with the Brothers. Walk on Gilded Splinters our Old Friend, we will all meet up at The Right Place.”

Read some of the other tributes to Dr John below.

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Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.