In memoriam: Dr. John [1941 — 2019]

They call me… Dr. John, known as The Night Tripper….”

Born Malcolm John Rebennack in New Orleans on November 20, 1941, the man whom the world knew and loved as Dr. John suffered a heart attack and sadly passed away on June 6. He was 77 years old. A statement from his family read, “He created a unique blend of music which carried his home town, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart.”

An active session musician throughout the nineteen-fifties, Dr. John gained a substantial underground following in 1968 with the release of his debut album, GRIS-gris, a hoodoo-voodoo gumbo of blues, psychedelic rock, and Creole music, with Rebennack assuming the persona of “Dr. John, The Night Tripper.” Rolling Stone would later include the album on their list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Three subsequent albums would follow in the same vein as GRIS-GrisBabylon (1969), Remedies (1970), and The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971), the last of which included guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, who had both become avid fans by this time.

But it was Rebennack’s fifth and sixth LPs—Dr. John’s Gumbo (1972) and In the Right Place (1973)—that catapulted the good doctor into the mainstream, with hits such as his rendition of the New Orleans anthem “Iko-Iko,” “Such A Night,” and “Right Place, Wrong Time”—Dr. John’s highest-charting single, which peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1973.

Dr. John would write, record, and tour rigorously until his passing, releasing over 30 albums, and performing sets at high-profile festivals such as Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. He was an American treasure in the truest sense and will be missed dearly by music fans throughout the world.