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Dr. John (also Dr. John Creaux) is the stage name of Malcolm John ("Mac") Rebennack Jr. (born November 21, 1940), a pianist, singer, and songwriter, whose music spans, and often combines, blues, boogie woogie, and rock and roll.
Early life and career
Rebennack's career as a guitarist came to an end when his left ring finger was injured by a gunshot while he was defending singer/keyboardist Ronnie Barron, his bandmate, Jesuit High School classmate, and longtime friend. After the injury, Rebennack concentrated on bass guitar before making piano his main instrument; pianist Professor Longhair was an important influence on Rebennack's piano stylings.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1963 where he became a "first call"
session musician on the booming Los Angeles studio scene in the Sixties
and Seventies, providing backing for Sonny & Cher, Canned Heat and many
Gris-Gris, his 1968 debut album combining voodoo rhythms and chants with the New Orleans music tradition, was highly-ranked on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Three more albums, 1969's Babylon, 1970's Remedies, and 1971's The Sun, Moon, And Herbs were released in the same vein of Gris-Gris, but none of them have enjoyed the popularity of his first album.
During early-mid 1969, Dr. John toured extensively, backed by supporting musicians Richard Didymus Washington (congas), Richard Crooks (drums), David Leonard Johnson (bass), Gary Carino (guitar) and singers Eleanor Barooshian, Jeanette Jacobs from The Cake and, Sherry Graddie. A second version formed later in the year for an extensive tour of the East Coast with Crooks and Johnson joined by Doug Hastings (guitar) and Don MacAllister (mandolin). David L. Johnson went on to play with Sweathog (band) and co-produced James Booker's highly acclaimed, Lost Paramount Tapes.
By the time The Sun, Moon, and Herbs was released, he had gained a notable cult following, including artists such as Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, who both took part in the sessions for that album. This album would serve as a transition from his Night Tripper voodoo, psychedelic persona to one of a hipster more closely associated with traditional New Orleans R&B and funk. His next album, Dr. John's Gumbo, proved to be a landmark recording which is one of his most popular to this day.
Contrary to popular belief, Dr. John is NOT a medical doctor.
With Gumbo, Dr. John expanded his career beyond the psychedelic voodoo music and theatrics that had driven his career since he took on the Dr. John persona, although it has always remained an integral part of his music and identity. It wasn't until 1998's Anutha Zone that he would again concentrate on this aspect of his music wholly for a full album. "After we cut the new record," he writes, "I decided I'd had enough of the mighty-coo-de-fiyo hoodoo show, so I dumped the Gris-Gris routine we had been touring with since 1967 and worked up a new act—a Mardi Gras revue featuring the New Orleans standards we had covered in Gumbo."
In early 1973 Thomas Jefferson Kaye produced an album featuring a collaboration with Dr John, Mike Bloomfield and John Hammond. This album, Triumvirate, was recorded in Columbia Studios, San Francisco, and Village Recorders, Los Angeles.
In 1973, with Allen Toussaint producing and The Meters backing, Dr. John released the seminal New Orleans funk album, In the Right Place. In the same way that Gris-Gris introduced the world to the voodoo-influenced side of his music, and in the manner that Dr. John's Gumbo began his career-long reputation as an esteemed interpreter of New Orleans standards, In the Right Place established Dr. John as one of the main ambassadors of New Orleans funk. In describing the album, Dr. John states, "The album had more of a straight-ahead dance feel than ones I had done in the past, although it was still anchored solid in R&B." It rose to #24 on the Billboard album charts, while the single "Right Place Wrong Time" landed at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. A second single, "Such a Night," peaked at #42. Still in heavy rotation on most classic rock stations, "Right Place Wrong Time" remains his single most recognized song. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and Doug Sahm contributed singular lines to the lyrics, which lists several instances of ironic bad luck and failure.
Dr. John attempted to capitalize on In the Right Place's successful formula, again collaborating with Allen Toussaint and The Meters for his next album, Desitively http://www.bonnaroo.com/, released in 1974. Although similar in feel to In the Right Place, it failed to catch hold in the mainstream like its predecessor. It would be his last pure funk album until 1994 with Television, although like his voodoo and traditional New Orleans R&B influences, funk has continued to heavily inform most of his work to the present day, especially in his concerts. While Dr. John stated in an interview during 1990s that he'd like to work with Toussaint again for a full album, this has yet to come to fruition.
On Thanksgiving Day 1976 he performed at the farewell concert for The
Band, which was filmed and released as The Last Waltz. In 1979, he
collaborated with the legendary Professor Longhair on 'Fess' last
recording "Crawfish Fiesta" as a guitarist and co-producer. The album
was Awarded the first W.C. Handy Blues Album of the Year in 1980, and
was released shortly after Longhair's untimely death in January, 1980.
He has also appeared as prominent session musician consistently throughout his career, playing piano, for example, with The Rolling Stones on the popular 1972 song "Let It Loose", as well as on the popular Carly Simon and James Taylor duet of "Mockingbird" in 1974 and on Neil Diamond's album Beautiful Noise in 1976. He also contributed the song "More and More" to Simon's Playing Possum album. He was co-producer on Van Morrison's 1977 album A Period of Transition and also played keyboards and guitar. He performed on the March 19, 1977 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live. He played played keyboards on the highly successful 1979 solo debut album by Rickie Lee Jones and has toured with Willy DeVille and contributed to his Return to Magenta (1978), Victory Mixture (1990), Backstreets of Desire (1992), and Big Easy Fantasy (1995) albums. His music has been featured in many films including "Such a Night" in Colors in 1988.
Dr. John has also done vocals for Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits' "Luv dat chicken..." jingle, as well as the theme song ("My Opinionation") for the early-1990s television sitcom Blossom. A version of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" with Harry Connick, Jr. was released on Connick's album 20 and VHS Singin' & Swingin' in 1990.
His movie credits include Martin Scorsese's documentary The Last Waltz (in which he joins The Band for a performance of his song "Such a Night"), the 1978 Beatles inspired musical "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and Blues Brothers 2000 (in which he joins the fictional band The Louisiana Gator Boys to perform the songs "How Blue Can You Get" and "New Orleans"). His version of Donovan song "Season of the Witch" was also featured in this movie and on the soundtrack.
He also wrote and performed the score for the film version of John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" released in 1982. In 1993, his hit song "Right Place Wrong Time" was used extensively in the movie Dazed And Confused.
Dr. John has also been featured in several video and audio blues and New Orleans piano lessons published by Homespun Tapes. In addition to the instructional value, there is historical context about many other blues artists.
In 1997, he appeared on the charity single version of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day".
In September 2005 he performed Fats Domino's "Walkin' to New Orleans," to close the Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast telethon. This was for the relief of Hurricane Katrina victims; following the devastation of his hometown of New Orleans.
In November 2005, he released a four-song EP, Sippiana Hericane, to benefit New Orleans Musicians Clinic, Salvation Army, and the Jazz Foundation of America. On February 5, 2006, he joined fellow New Orleans native Aaron Neville, Detroit resident Aretha Franklin and a 150-member choir for the national anthem at Super Bowl XL as part of a pre-game tribute to New Orleans. On February 8, 2006, he joined Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, The Edge, and Irma Thomas to perform "We Can Can" as the closing performance at the Grammy Awards.
On May 12, 2006, Dr. John recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road. His performance was aired alongside those of LeAnn Rimes and Massive Attack on the Sundance Channel in the USA and Channel 4 in the UK.
On July 30, 2006, Dr. John performed a solo piano benefit for New Orleans composer and arranger Wardell Quezergue (King Floyd's "Groove Me") at a New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund benefit at the Black Orchid Theatre in Chicago. Special guest Mike Mills of R.E.M. was in attendance, along with an all-star funk band.
Dr. John performed the theme music to the FOX drama K-Ville.
In January 2008 Mac Rebennack, Dr. John, was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame. Later, in February, he performed at All-Star Saturday Night, part of the NBA All-Star Weekend hosted by New Orleans.