Dr. John, legendary pianist, dies age 77

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The world of music received another tragic blow this week. On Thursday, the New York Times and CBS News announced the death of legendary pianist, Dr. John. The performer was 77. The cause of death is a heart attack, sources report.

Dr. John was a larger-than-life personality. His personality was only rivaled by his playing. Even if people did not own his records, most people have heard his style. Dr. John played on records by the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.

About Dr. John, in brief

Born Malcolm John Rebennack, Dr. John’s musical style has been described as a blend of r&b and psychedelic rock. His style enabled him to make a name for himself playing music with some of the biggest names in rock  ‘n’ roll and r&b. The list of people he has worked with is tremendous.

For audiences who have watched documentaries about certain jazz performers, Dr. John was a contributor. His fascination with his hometown’s history and its relationship with history and voodoo, helped Rebennack create the fictional Dr. John character.

Legend has it that he had originally planned for another performer to use the creation, Dr. John, but when that musician refused, Rebennack kept it for himself.

Dr. John had been playing music since he was a teenager in the 1950s. By 1968, his stage name had been invented and he had an early hit with a song called “Gris-Gris.”

By 1973, Dr. John scored a Top 10 hit with “Right Place, Wrong Time.” At the time of the song’s release, audiences all over the US became familiar with the piano stylings of Dr. John.

Dr. John’s genre-blending work yielded the performer several Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

CBS News describes him as “A white man who found a home among black New Orleans musicians, he first entered the music scene when he accompanied his father, who ran a record shop and fixed the P.A. systems at New Orleans bars.”

The loss of Dr. John is poignant for the music community.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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