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Dr John, legend of New Orleans sound, dies aged 77

6 June 2019

Mac Rebennack, the pianist, singer, songwriter and producer better known as Dr John, who embodied the New Orleans sound for generations of music fans, has died aged 77.

A family statement released by his publicist said the cause was a heart attack. The statement did not say where he died. He had been living in recent years on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.

Rebennack belonged to the pantheon of New Orleans keyboard wizards that includes Professor Longhair, James Booker, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and Fats Domino.

What distinguished him from his peers was the showmanship of his public persona. Onstage as Dr John, he adorned himself with snakeskin, beads and colourful feathers, and his shows blended Mardi Gras bonhomie with voodoo mystery.

Rebennack recorded more than 30 albums, including jazz projects, solo piano records and his version of Afropop. His 1989 album of standards, In a Sentimental Mood, earned him the first of six Grammy Awards, for his duet with Rickie Lee Jones on Makin’ Whoopee!

His only Top 40 single, Right Place Wrong Time, reached #9 in the US in 1973. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.