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 (@akadrjohn) June 6, 2019
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.
— Debbie Harry/BLONDIE (@BlondieOfficial) June 6, 2019
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.”
Mac Rebennack @akaDrJohn was truly one-of-a-kind. He was a beautiful soul, a powerful pianist & one of the cultural icons that helped make New Orleans what it is. We say goodnight to the Nite Tripper & goodbye to a unique talent. May he rest in God’s perfect peace.#DrJohn pic.twitter.com/jpnR5PtrSE
— Mayor LaToya Cantrell (@mayorcantrell) 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
Dr. John gave us so much through his music and his truly unique spirit. We will miss this New Orleans legend, rest well Dr! pic.twitter.com/Qj4Dvz7WFN
— Jason Williams (@RunWithJason) June 7, 2019
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. John. I had the privilege of meeting and working with him on the Blues Brothers 2000 movie. What an incredible musician and stylist! My deepest condolences to his family. #RIPDrJohn https://t.co/hqAaflOv6M
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) June 7, 2019
Dr. John encapsulated New Orleans as few artists ever do. As a band we are eternally inspired by this Nite Trippin’ genius. He changed our lives immeasurably. All love and thanks for such a beautiful soul. RIP Mac pic.twitter.com/zAHaspMZ66
— Flow Tribe (@flowtribe) June 6, 2019
love you dr. john. one of the greatest ever who taught us how to be oneself and to bring the sound of ones town all over the universe. nobody did that better
— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) June 6, 2019
spent a lot of my early 20s in a van listening to dr. john. formative musical times for me. one of those artists who’s always with you somehow
— jackantonoff (@jackantonoff) June 6, 2019
New Orleans just lost a giant. Second one, after the recent passing of Leah Chase. RIP Mac Rebennack, AKA Dr. John. For a great read, check out his autobiography some time. And listen to his music any time.
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) June 6, 2019
Didn’t he ramble. One of the greatest American originals has passed. Good night, Mac. And know that the legacy of Dr. John will live forever in the streets and music halls of New Orleans and everywhere else in this world that holds music precious.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) June 6, 2019
Such a sad 2 weeks in NOLA.
True New Orleans originals gone…but never forgotten.
Ronnie Virgets, Leah Chase and now Dr. John.
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) June 6, 2019
Dr. John is an icon, a truly unique figure in 20th century music, and one of the greatest ever to come out of America’s greatest musical city. We’ll always be grateful for the time we spent together and the music we shared. Farewell Mac! https://t.co/t13xNiq9Mi
— Tedeschi Trucks Band (@DerekAndSusan) June 6, 2019
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.