New Orleans music icon Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) passed away on Thursday at the age of 77 after suffering a heart attack. He had recently been in poor health. Dr. John led a colorful, tumultuous life that saw him play many roles, good and bad. Through it all, he managed to maintain a positive spirit and create an identity that would become synonymous with the sound of a city itself.
Rebennack was a session musician who struck out on his own, creating a voodoo persona for himself: The Night Tripper. Mixing creole soul, funk and psychedelic rock on his first solo release, Gris-Gris, in the late sixties, Dr. John crafted a legend around himself that the world completely embraced. His was one of the first names that would come to the minds of folks thinking of the music of New Orleans. Dr. John had the perfect mix of talent, style, and image for the era and he scored a few radio hits, several Grammy awards, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and a musical legacy that would last to this day.
His contributions ranged from classic songs like “Right Place, Wrong Time” and a definitive take on The Dixie Cups classic “Iko Iko” to seminal albums like Babylon and Gumbo while working with a who’s who of collaborators including Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Harry Connick Jr., Bette Midler and countless more. His songs have been featured in dozens of films and television shows as his musical mark was writ large on the face of pop culture itself. Heck, his Desitively Bonnaroo album gave us the name of one of the biggest annual music events in the world!
We surely have more to say about the loss of this icon, but for now we thought it fitting to close with a seminal moment with the good Doctor when he was part of another closing moment of music history—his signature performance of “Such A Night” with The Band as part of their star-studded final show, immortalized in the Martin Scorsese concert documentary The Last Waltz.
Dr. John w/ The Band – “Such A Night”
Rest in peace, Mac. We are all in your debt for the magic music you made for us all to enjoy!