Saturday, June 08, 2019

Dr John/ Mac Rebennack RIP

Some music deaths hit harder than others and that of Mac Rebennack aka Dr John at the age of 77 hits very hard indeed. Not only was he one of the last of the New Orleans music greats, but his mixture of jazz, R and B, soul and rock and roll, combined with some voodoo showmanship, made every performance by him memorable. I saw the good Doctor many times - in New Orleans, on visits to London and at the North Sea Jazz festival - and he never disappointed. His piano playing was legendary, but he started his career as a guitarist until having a finger shot off. He showed that he was still a fine guitarist when, rather hidden behind his piano, he played brilliant versions of his early recording 'Storm Warning', 'Carry On' and 'Lights Out' at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008 (pictured below). My photo above shows Dr John signing a copy of his autobiography 'Under A Hoodoo Moon' at Jazzfest in 1995. It's one of the best books about New Orleans R and B that I've read and runs through the many facets of his career, from his early rock and roll routes, producing and playing on many of the great New Orleans R and B classics and his emergence as Dr John, The Night Tripper. Here's his brilliant version of 'I Walk on Gilded Splinters' from the 'Gris Gris' LP plus his early 'Storm Warning' from 1959..      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWvdO3l4_P8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctlf1SCqTjw
For a fuller review of his life and work I recommend the Guardian obituary.      https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jun/07/dr-john-obituary.
The last week has also seen the death of another New Orleans legend Leah Chase, aged 96, founder of the Dooky Chase soul food restaurant which opened in 1941 and which was a meeting place during the Civil Rights Struggle. I remember having a superb lunch there in 2014.
Another notable death is that of Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators. Here he is (left) performing a very late night set with the group at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008.

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