Malcolm John Rebennack, the Grammy-winning musician known as Dr. John, has died. The New Orleans rhythm and blues legend passed away of a heart attack on Thursday at age 77, Fox News reports. In a statement posted to Dr. John’s official Twitter page, his family announced that he passed away “towards the break of day June 6.” Dr. John had not been seen publicly since 2017 when he canceled several scheduled performances.
The six-time Grammy winner, who blended the blues, pop, jazz, and rock and roll genres, started in the music business as a teen after dropping out of high school. Rebennack played guitar in New Orleans clubs then gained fame as a solo artist in the 1960s under the name Dr. John, the Night Tripper. His breakout album was 1968’s Gris-Gris, which introduced the Dr. John character. Rebennack, who was known for his elaborate, voodoo-inspired stage shows later dropped the “Night Tripper” subtitle and went on to record more than 20 albums.
During his incredible career, Dr. John worked as a session musician with a long list of big-name collaborators, including Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Frank Zappa, and Aretha Franklin. He also contributed to the iconic 1972 Rolling Stones album “Exile On Main St.,” James Taylor and Carly Simon’s duet “Mockingbird,” and in 1973 he recorded the top 10 hit “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
Dr. John also had success as an actor, appearing in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie and on the small screen in Touched By An Angel and NCIS: New Orleans. His music also appeared on a whopping 88 soundtracks, including The Jungle Book, Sleepless in Seattle, and Bull Durham, per Deadline. Dr. John was also partially the inspiration for the beloved Muppets character Dr. Teeth.
Dr. John was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by John Legend in 2011. His final performance was at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
After Dr. John’s death was announced, many fans and famous friends took to social media to remember him and all of his contributions to the music industry over his 80-year career.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards remembered Dr. John as “a true Louisiana legend.” Beatles legend Ringo Starr wished peace and love to Dr. John’s family. And a post on the official Bonnaroo Twitter page noted that the iconic annual music festival was named after Dr. John’s 1974 album, Desitively Bonnaroo. You can see some of the reactions to the death of Dr. John below.
Sad news for the Bonnaroo Family: Dr. John, who's album Desitively Bonnaroo inspired the name of this place we call home, has passed away. You will be sorely missed????https://t.co/UXH5lQTuYR— Bonnaroo (@Bonnaroo) June 6, 2019
God bless Dr. John peace and love to all his family I love the doctor peace and love ????✌️????❤️????????☯️☮️ pic.twitter.com/ljFWmMp9V9— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) June 6, 2019
R.I.P. to the Legendary Mac Rebennack, Dr. John.— Faith No More (@FaithNoMore) June 7, 2019
One of My heroes Musically, and an incredibly generous and kind human being Personally.
Faith No More
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
You can see the full statement from Dr. John’s family below.