Legendary songwriter, award-winning arranger, and multi-instrumentalist, Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack Jr., known to the greater music world as Dr. John, died Thursday. He was 77.
The Louisiana Music Hall of Famer and native was the sights, sounds, and soul of New Orleans personified. He merged strands of blues, rock, jazz and syncopated rhythm-piano with the mystique and mythos of the cultures and traditions of the region. Like many of his local contemporaries and musicians that came before him, James Booker and Professor Longhair to name a few, his music was equal parts persona and performance. Stage show theatrics included ornate outfits, lined with elaborate trims and trinkets; a cane, often adorned with feathers that imitated the regalia of Mardi Gras Indians, and elements of voodoo.
For more than six decades, Dr. John brought the unique music of The Big Easy to a wide audience, from his chart-topping single “Right Place, Wrong Time” to his iconic performance of “Such a Night” during The Band’s Last Waltz to a song on Disney’s "Princess and the Frog." In 2013, he won one of many Grammys for Locked Down, produced by The Black Keys' frontman and producer, John Auerbach.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. John became an advocate for awareness and relief efforts. He contributed to the benefit album, Our New Orleans and recorded Sippiana Hericane."We're gonna be back, twice as strong,” he sang.
As we remember the musician, take a second line stroll through his prolific catalogue. Rest easy, Dr. John.