New Orleans singer Dr. John dies at 77: Cause of death was a heart attack, Twitter tributes roll in

Dr. John
New Orleans singer Dr. John died of a heart attack. Pic credit: @ImageCollect/Carrie-nelson

Grammy-winning New Orleans singer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dr. John, born Mac Rebennack, has died at 77.

Dr. John died on Thursday of a heart attack, a statement by his family released by his publicist revealed. The statement also revealed that he died “toward the break of day,” but did not say whether he died at home or away from home.

“Towards the break of day June 6, iconic music legend Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr, known as Dr. John, passed away of a heart attack,” the statement said. “The family thanks all whom shared his unique musical journey & requests privacy at this time. Memorial arrangements will be announced in due course.”

Dr. John’s death comes following a lull in his singing career in 2017 after he canceled several scheduled performances. His publicist Karen Beninato later revealed he retired to his home in New Orleans.

Fans, celebrities, and fellow musicians, including New Orleans singer Irma Thomas and Beatles’s drummer Ringo Starr, paid tribute to the late musician.

“God bless Dr. John. Peace and love to all his family. I love the doctor… peace and love,” the Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr tweeted.

“He was just a mystical person,” Thomas told WVUE  television. “He did what he liked best and was very unique with his style.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also released a statement eulogizing the late singer.

“Dr. John was a true Louisiana legend,” the governor’s statement 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.”

Dr. John was known for his hit song Right Place, Wrong Time, the first single from his album In the Right Place (1973). He won six Grammys and was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

His 1968 debut Gris-Gris, which blended R&B with psychedelic rock, illustrated his ability to fuse various musical styles and genres, including blues, pop, jazz, and rock and roll.

He was also known for his fascination with the occult and voodoo. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau reportedly inspired his Dr. John stage persona.

His stage persona was also reportedly inspired by the life of a Senegalese voodoo practitioner who came to New Orleans from Haiti in the 1800s.

In his memoir, Dr. John said his work drew inspiration from New Orleans folklore.

He dropped out of high school and became involved in petty crime suffering from heroin addiction. During the early years of his career in the 1950s after dropping out of school, he performed at various venues, including strip clubs and roadhouses.

He lost the ring finger of his left hand in a shooting incident in Jacksonville, Florida in 1961, and served time in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, for selling drugs and running a brothel.

He refocused on his music career in L.A. after he left prison at the age of 24.

He collaborated with numerous top singers and groups, including James Booker, Earl King, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments