Tributes are being paid to the Grammy award-winning musician Dr John, who has died of a heart attack at the age of 77.
Born Malcolm John Rebennack, Dr John was one of the most venerated pianists in New Orleans’ musical history, a six-time Grammy winner and a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee.
With a unique singing voice, he was a songwriter and performer who combined genres of blues, pop, jazz, boogie woogie and rock and roll.
The musician’s family announced the news of his death in a statement released on his Twitter account.
“Towards the break of day on June 6 2019, iconic music legend Malcolm John Rebennack Jr, professionally known as Dr John, passed away of a heart attack,” the statement said.
“As a Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, six-time Grammy winner, songwriter, composer, producer and performer, he created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart.”
“The family thanks all whom shared his unique musical journey.”
Memorial arrangements will be announced soon, they said.
Stars paying tribute include Ringo Starr, Debbie Harry and Ellen DeGeneres.
“God bless Dr. John peace and love to all his family I love the doctor peace and love,” Starr wrote on Twitter.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards paid tribute to a “true Louisiana legend”.
In a statement, he said: “He showed the world Louisiana’s rich musical heritage, and his passion for music has left a mark on the industry unlike any other.”
Fellow New Orleans singer Irma Thomas said he was loved around the world.
There was no other performer like Dr. John, and there never will be. Tonight my heart is in New Orleans.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) June 7, 2019
“He was just a mystical person,” she told WVUE television when asked what made his music special. “He did what he liked best and was very unique with his style.”
The Recording Academy, which organises the Grammys, described the musician as “a New Orleans icon”.
“His funky approach to blending musical styles and imaginative persona helped diversify the New Orleans sound, which was on full display during an energetic performance with the Black Keys at the 55th Grammy Awards.
“This is a great loss for our industry and Dr John will be deeply missed.”
Dr John first encountered the New Orleans music scene through his father, who ran a record shop and also fixed the PA systems in bars, and took up music full-time after dropping out of high school and spending time in prison.
A pianist and guitar player, he switched solely to piano after losing the ring finger of his left hand in a shooting incident in Florida in 1961.
The Dr John personality was born from his fascination with voodoo. In his memoir, he said, he drew inspiration from folklore about a root doctor who flourished in the mid-1800s.
He made his debut with Gris-Gris in 1968, combining rhythm ‘n blues with psychedelic rock, and later had a US top 10 hit with Right Place, Wrong Time.
He was also known as a member of the famed Wrecking Crew – a group of LA backing musicians who played on hits by Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Cher, Frank Zappa and countless others
In the years that followed, he played with The Grateful Dead, appeared with The Band in director Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz documentary, contributed to The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street album and collaborated with countless others, including Earl King, Van Morrison and James Booker.