Wilko Johnson, guitarist for the British blues-rock band Dr. Feelgood, who enjoyed an unexpected renaissance after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, has passed away.
He was 75.
A statement posted Wednesday on Johnson’s official social media accounts on behalf of his family said the musician passed away on Monday evening at his home in southeastern England.
Born John Wilkinson in 1947, Johnson grew up on Canvey Island, a swampy industrial oil town at the mouth of the River Thames in England.
He studied Anglo-Saxon literature at Newcastle University and worked as a teacher before founding Dr. Feelgood with other local friends.
In a time of glamor and passionate prog rock, they played a blues and R&B that wasn’t trendy at the time, wearing cheap suits that made them look like “bad bank robbers”, Johnson later this said.
Johnson helped give Dr. Feelgood a dangerous side with his shrill, restless guitar style and a thousand-foot glare — a look intimidating enough to land him a later role. life as the silent executioner Ser Ilyn Payne in “Game of Thrones”.
The anarchist outfit inspired bands, who would soon fuel the UK punk boom and stand on the brink of global fame, scoring the UK’s #1 album , American tours and a deal with CBS records.
Then, in 1977, Johnson died amid friction with charismatic lead singer Lee Brilleaux, who died in 1994.
Johnson later said that if the band could have followed the manager’s instructions to behave, “I’m pretty sure we’d be millionaires. But we didn’t. We were the founders. weirdo from Canvey Island. We were great friends and we fell apart.”
Johnson continued to perform with Ian Dury’s band, the Blockheads, and spent many years playing for a devoted fanbase, largely in the UK and Japan.
In 2012, Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told it was in the terminal stages.
The prospect of an unexpected death revived his creative energy. He turned down chemo, decided to go on one last tour and record a “final” album, “Going Back Home,” with The Who’s Roger Daltrey.
On the other hand, a fan and oncologist offered to help.
After surgically removing a 3 kg (6.6 lb) tumor, Johnson announced in 2014 that he was cancer-free.
He released another album, “Blow Your Mind” in 2018 and played gigs with his Wilko Johnson Band until last month.
Johnson is survived by sons Simon and Matthew and grandson Dylan.