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Author Topic: Dr. John, a chief musical architect of the New Orleans sound, dies at 77  (Read 851 times)

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Dr. John, a chief musical architect of the New Orleans sound, dies at 77
By Randall Roberts
Jun 06, 2019 | 8:35 PM
Dr. John, a chief musical architect of the New Orleans sound, dies at 77

Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, the nine-fingered New Orleans-based pianist, singer, songwriter and session musician best known for his 1973 top 10 hit “Right Place, Wrong Time,” has died. He was 77. Across six decades as a creator, Rebennack served as the unofficial voodoo ambassador of the Crescent City, and starting in the 1960s helped update the region’s distinctive boogie-woogie sound for a new generation.

Rebennack suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday morning, according to a statement released to the Associated Press.

Rebennack was born in New Orleans in 1941. His persona both on and off stage was a wonder built on myths, lies, speculation and deceit. He willfully obscured his biography in service of his art. Starting with his 1968 debut, “Gris-Gris,” and extending through at least 30 studio albums, the artist created singular works that used as a template classic American songcraft — but with a handmade New Orleans roux mixed in.

In his 1994 autobiography, “Under a Hoodoo Moon,” Rebennack described his mystical creation as “a medicine man who claimed to be a prince of Senegal before he was abducted and taken to Cuba.”

He came up with the idea while living as a session musician with a community of roustabouts in a Melrose Avenue building misleadingly called the Hollywood Executive Hotel. He recorded “Gris-Gris,” a swamp rock classic, at Gold Star Studios with off-hours studio time paid for by Sonny and Cher.

As a session musician, Rebennack played on seminal 1960s and ’70s recordings by artists including Aretha Franklin, Harry Nilsson, Canned Heat, Carly Simon, Buddy Guy and Joe Cocker, and was a memorable presence in “The Last Waltz,” Martin Scorsese’s documentary on The Band’s final performance.

As he evolved, Rebennack moved from a deliberately uncommercial approach to tripped-out voodoo music and toward a desire to succeed in the market. As he famously told Rolling Stone in 1973, “The only thing that makes a record commercial is if people buy it.”

His 1974 song and album, "Desitively Bonnaroo,” birthed the name of the popular music festival held annually in Manchester, Tenn.

Across his life on the stage, the self-described “Night Tripper” wondered on the nature of death and even used his record-store-owning father’s ghost as a muse.

“There’s times I've been sat on his grave and heard him hummin’ stuff without seeing him,” he told the Independent in a 2001 interview of one such session, “but on this occasion he was sitting close as you are now. He looked like when he was young, and he was singing that exact melody.”

Offline Pigmeat

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You and your hippie, dope-fiend, Devil-worshippin' friends! Whaddya think, I didn't see that documentary about "Dragnet" and you and Dan Ackroyd doing the "Dance of Goat Pants" back in the 80's?

I've got my eye on you, Goat-Boy.

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In the late 80's I lived near the regional terminal's of a lot of trucking companies. There was a greasy spoon nearby that never closed, nothing but truck drivers, drunks, and shift workers after midnight. A lot of the drivers who hauled chemicals were from the Baton Rouge/ New Orleans corridor. One claimed to have grown up with the Neville Brothers and Mac Rebbenack. He was miffed that they blew him off after they got famous. He'd go on about it weekly.

Ralph was a big guy, but there was this fireplug of a Cajun who worked out of the same terminal. One night the Cajun had heard it once too often and blew up. He stood up and said,"Did ya ever think it's because yer a big dumb asshole, Ralph!?" Everyone in the place started howling with laughter. Ralph stormed out yelling insults in Creole French and English never to be seen again.