Tribute To New Orleans Music Icon Dr. John [1941 - 2019] Videos + Guide to Dr. John Albums [CD & LP] Available from Amoeba

Posted by Billyjam, June 10, 2019 11:17am | Post a Comment

In a year when already so many greats have died, another major music figure passed away this past week. On Thursday (June 6th) New Orleans music icon Dr. John died at age 77, reportedly from a heart attack and following several years of ill health. The following day the beloved Big Easy musician was warmly honored in his hometown when hundreds of Dr. John fans took to the streets for a traditional second line parade in his honor. Later that night hometown funk DJ Shane Love's monthly NOLO funk dance party Hook & Sling featured a  Dr. John themed playlist.

The New Orleans singer/pianist/guitarist was born Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. and grew up in the city’s 3rd Ward (also home to such notables as Louis Armstrong, Big Freedia, Master P and Birdman). Initially a guitar playing singer, in his formative music years he shifted his focus away from stringed instrument to take up what would become his trademark boogie woogie styled piano accompaniment.

By the late sixties he had carved his unique identity by adapting the spiritual folkways New Orleans Voodoo derived persona of Dr. John The Night Tripper. He cemented this image with the release of his 1968 debut album Gris-Gris (Atco), whose title came from the African/Wolof derived Voodoo terminology gris-gris meaning voodoo spell. Such later releases as the album Voodoo Hex would continue the Dr. John as voodoo witch doctor character mystique.

As “Dr. John The Night Tripper” Mac Rebennack further defined his Big Easy rooted image by dressing in traditional creole costume, on and sometimes off stage. Image aside however Dr. John became widely known and loved for his gravelly voiced raspy singing and genuine passion for his native city’s rich musical heritage, as uniquely interpreted by him via such releases as his aforementioned debut Gris-Gris (recently reissued on mono green vinyl) and his landmark 1972 album Dr. John’s Gumbo. While this album is typically filed under New Orleans music, Dr. John incorporated many musical styles from from his early era rock’n’roll stylings to rhythm & blues and jazz.

The most recent Dr. John title to arrive into Amoeba was the 2019 Orange Music Records released Dr. John Recorded Live in Tokyo. Clicking on the Amoeba online store Dr. John section you'll notice that the artist's albums might appear under such categories as New Orleans, rock or blues. Depending on where you look up his music, you’re likely to find Dr. John filed under a myriad of categories including R&B, rock, blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, funk and even psychedelic rock/New Orleans.

Technically Dr. John’s music can also be filed under hip-hop due to the number of times his back catalog has been sampled by such artists as Ice Cube, Beastie Boys, Vinnie Paz, Dudley Perkins, and KRS-One to name but a handful. Some Dr. John fans were first introduced to him via his guest spot singing "Such a Night” in Martin Scorsese's 1977 film The Last Waltz (scroll down to see video clip of that memorable performance).

Four Dr. John LP Titles Available on Vinyl

1: Dr. John Gris-Gris [Green Mono Vinyl] (LP)

2: Dr. John High Priest Of Psychedelic Voodoo LP

3:: Dr. John Night Tripper At His Best LP

4: Dr. John & Johnny Winter Live in Sweden 1987 LP

Beyond the must-have Gris-Gris  and Dr. John’s Gumbo, other recommended listening from Dr. John’s deep back catalog include the mostly non-vocal/instrumental Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack  (“Mac’s Boogie” is included here). However for those just now getting into the artist’s work a recommended starting point is to order from Amoeba online store are the numerous collections of his most memorable works; issued by various labels over the years on both CD and vinyl. Examples include the greatest hits packed An Introduction to Dr. John (latest 2019 edition pictured right features recently remastered versions of its ten tracks).

An even better introduction is the 30-track, double CD set Dr John The Definitive Pop Collection  that includes “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya,” “Mama Roux,” “Right Place, Wrong Time,” “Such a Night,” “Wash Mama Wash,” “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” and “Black Widow Spider.” Also included on this excellent artist collection are several tracks from the artist’s fifth (and most famous) album; his musical tribute to famous music from his beloved city of New Orleans; Dr. John’s Gumbo.

Tracks from the  Jerry Wexler and Harold Battiste produced 1972 landmark album for Dr John include interpretations of such New Orleans classics as “Iko Iko,”  Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” “Junko Partner,” “Mess Around” and his own song (Mac Rebennack) “Somebody Changed The Lock.”

Featured on all of these Dr. John best-of collections is the song “Right Place Wrong Time” that originally appeared on his 1973 album In The RIght Place on which he was backed by hometown soul/funk heroes The Meters with production by Allen Toussaint. “Such a Night” was another well known Dr. John track feature on that album.

An ever influential figure, Dr. John's 1974 Allen Toussaint produced album Desitively Bonnaroo would go on to inspire the name of the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee that began in 2002. The upcoming 2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival takes place this weekend; June 13-14th. No doubt Dr. John will be warmly honored and paid tribute to at the big and diverse music event in Manchester, TN.  Below, in addition to a few TV and concert clips of Dr. John is a CBS TV interview/feature on the late artist from 13 years ago. Rest In Peace Dr. John.

Dr. John "Right Place Wrong Time"

Dr. John "Such A NIght" from The Last Waltz (1977)

Dr. John "Revolution"

Dr. John - Walk On Gilded Splinters (1968)

CBS VT interview/feature from 2006: "Dr. John, of New Orleans"

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Dr. John Hip-hop Samples (1), Dr. John The Night Tripper (1), Dr. John Vinyl (1), Dr. John (5)