Earlier today, the famed Louisiana musician Dr. John died of a heart attack at the age of 77. A statement posted to his Twitter feed confirmed the news: “Towards the break of day June 6, iconic music legend Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr., known as Dr. John, passed away of a heart attack. The family thanks all whom shared his unique musical journey & requests privacy at this time. Memorial arrangements will be announced in due course.”
Dr. John was born in New Orleans and raised in the city’s Third Ward. His storied career in music, which spanned more than 70 years, featured countless gigs as a session player and a sideman, dozens of solo and collaborative albums, time spent working in the music scenes in Los Angeles as well as his hometown, a multi-year prison stint in Texas for heroin possession, film and television appearances as himself (in HBO’s Treme and The Blues Brothers movie, for example), and much more. He fused the myriad strands of musical DNA running through New Orleans to create a unique sound and stage persona that made him a larger-than-life figure. He wrote an autobiography called Under a Hoodoo Moon, won multiple Grammys across three separate decades, had a handful of hits on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
Although he battled a heroin addiction for decades, Dr. John finally kicked the habit for good in the late 1980s. He released new music well into the final years of his life, with his last album, the Louis Armstrong tribute collection Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, being released in 2014.