Dr. John Dies at 77
Dr. John, the legendary singer, songwriter and pianist, has died at the age of 77.
John, whose real name was Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack, was known for his influential brand of blues rock music. The artist, who was regarded as a favorite son in his hometown of New Orleans, was a six Grammy winner and a 2011 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A statement posted to Dr. John's official Twitter page attributed his death to a heart attack.
A native of New Orleans' Third Ward, Dr. John got his first taste of music by playing in high school bands. He dropped out shortly thereafter, becoming a regular performer throughout the city, playing everywhere from music halls to strip clubs.
Hanging around the seedy side of New Orleans began to influence the young Dr. John. Drug charges landed him in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas. Upon his 1965 release, he moved to Los Angeles.
Once in Hollywood, Dr. John quickly established himself as a marquee session musician. A member of the legendary Wrecking Crew, his list of collaborators features some of the biggest names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Sonny and Cher, Aretha Franklin, and Ringo Starr.
Dr. John’s career as a solo artist began in 1968. His breakthrough album, Gris Gris, introduced his voodoo-funk sound of rock to a worldwide audience. A unique personality with a colorful fashion sense, Dr. John’s style and distinctive vocal delivery quickly made him one of the most eccentric voices in music.
He hit his commercial peak with 1973's In the Right Place. The album, produced by fellow New Orleans luminary Allen Toussaint, was the highest selling of Dr. John’s career, thanks in large part to the hit single "Right Place Wrong Time."
Dr. John Performs "Right Place Wrong Time"
In recent years, Dr. John’s impressive career has been celebrated by a new generation of artists. In 2013, the musician won his sixth Grammy for the album Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. A year later, he appeared on Sonic Highways, the HBO music documentary series produced and hosted by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
A 2016 tribute album and concert titled The Musical Mojo of Dr. John featured an impressive lineup of great musicians performing some of the New Orleans rocker's most loved songs, including Bruce Springsteen, Mavis Staples and John Fogerty.
Dr. John also contributed to the worlds of film and television. His music was featured in Disney’s animated film The Princess and the Frog as well as the 2016 live-action remake of The Jungle Book. He provided the theme song to the PBS children’s show Curious George, created the “Love That Chicken” jingle for Popeye’s and was the inspiration for the Muppets character Dr. Teeth.
As news of Dr. John's passing began to spread, many fellow musicians and former collaborators took to social media to share their condolences.