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Scoot: R.I.P. Dr. John – the mystique of New Orleans personified

June 10, 2019 - 7:21 am

There is a mystique about New Orleans that was born in the city’s early relationship with voodoo from those who came from Africa and the Caribbean.  Dr. John epitomized that New Orleans mystique like no other artist.

Early on June 6, 2019, Malcolm John Rebennack, known to the world as Dr. John, died at the age of 77.  The reaction to the passing of this musical legend reminded us that the spirit of Dr. John will live on.

Dr. John was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and it was appropriate that singer, songwriter and pianist John Legend announced the induction.

Dr. John won six Grammy Awards and had a few songs that hit the Billboard chart:  “Right Place, Wrong Time” peaked at #9 on the Billboard chart in the summer of 1973.  In the fall of that same year, “Such A Night” rose to #42.  “Iko Iko” and “(everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away” hit the Top 100, but the impact of Dr. John’s unique musical talent was not measured by charted hits.  Dr. John had a voice and style that were unique and reflective of the mysterious ambience of New Orleans.  The good Dr. worked with top artists including, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Gregg Allman and his music added to the authenticity of the HBO series, Treme’, one of the earliest neighborhoods in New Orleans.  Dr. John appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in 1977.

Here are a few of the countless tributes that hit social media after the death of Dr. John was announced:






Dr. John was a singer, songwriter and composer and the character of Dr. John was inspired by medicine shows, Mardi Gras pageantry and voodoo rituals.  And true to his voodoo roots, the Dr. often wore animal parts around his neck.  He met Professor Longhair at the age of 13 and was infatuated with his style, which also influenced Dr. John. 

My brief conversations with Dr. John over the years left me with the impression that he was a quiet, yet confident soul.  His soft-spoken style contradicted his visual flamboyance and that added to his innate mystery.

As a native of New Orleans, who had experienced Dr. John on stage many times, the news the he passed away left me with a feeling of emptiness and disbelief that Dr. John was gone.

With all of the great and colorful performers who rose from the New Orleans culture, Dr. John stands out as an authentic reflection of all that is unique and mysterious about New Orleans.

As much as Dr. John will be missed – take comfort in the reality that his legend lives on.

R.I.P.  Dr. John!

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