Dr. John’s trippy treatment became the right remedy
(CNN)If you measure a musician’s stardom by way of sales handiest, then you may probably regard Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack, better called Dr. John, as a one-hit surprise, considering that he made best one record that cracked the Top 40: “Right Place, Wrong Time.” It was given as excessive as No — nine at the Billboard Hot a hundred singles chart lower back in 1973. And yet, slightly a day after Dr. John’s death Thursday at seventy-seven, his loss nonetheless summons the kind of extensive grief, desolation, and ardor that seem out of percentage to those whose memories of his work begin and stop with that catchy tune. Admit it: If you are over 50, simply seeing the phrase “Right Place, Wrong Time” appears in front of you is making you leap to the reminiscence of that infectious rolling beat.
That beat, as a great deal as anything ought to, tells you why Dr. John changed into so much more than a one-hit marvel. It becomes the sound of late-twentieth-century New Orleans famous song; a heady mélange of rhythm-and-blues, traditional jazz and swamp holler pro with Tin Pan Alley vaudeville, Mardi Gras bonhomie, and what one of the town’s musical pillars, Jelly Roll Morton, characterized as “Latin tinge.”
Dr. John embodied that spicy tradition as creator, singer, and, most of all, pianist. Oddly sufficient, he started out as a budding guitar wizard whose earliest recordings as a teen within the Nineteen Fifties advise an eccentric, thickly layered technique that within a decade or so ought to have placed him in kind of the equal corporation as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Along with such keyboard titans as Professor Longhair, James Booker, Huey (Piano) Smith, Fats Domino, and Allen Toussaint, the health practitioner turned into a touchstone, an aid a musical landmark for the town he called home. Those others are gone, and now so is he.
But in 1961, Rebennack — who’d been striking out with hard company even as developing a cult reputation in Crescent City recording studios, nightclubs, and strip joints — took a bullet wound in one in all his arms at the same time as interceding in a bar fight. He changed into forced to exchange his number one instrument for piano and organ. After a stretch in jail associated with a heroin habit, Rebennack relocated to Los Angeles wherein, at some stage in the mid-Nineteen Sixties, his freewheeling boogie-woogie piano style and ambitious musical resources made him an asset in recording sessions with the likes of Frank Zappa, Canned Heat and Sonny and Cher, for whom he served for a time as musical director. (“Sonny” becomes Sonny Bono, Cher’s first husband — and who Cher is.)
It turned into in 1968 that Rebennack first set loose his alter ego, “Dr. John, the Night Tripper.” (The name got here from a nineteenth-century voodoo priest from New Orleans named John Creaux.) The health practitioner’s first album, “Gris-Gris,” launched that same year, became steeped in a sultry, goofy mixture of psychedelia, mysticism, and funk. Few besides a coterie of listeners knew pretty what to make of the album while it became launched. But in the direction of the century’s cease, its recognition became such that it made a rolling stone’s listing of the five hundred greatest albums of all time at No. 143.
As many years handed, Rebennack endured getting studio gigs of all kinds, whether it turned into the backup for Maria Muldaur’s first solo album to jingles for Popeye’s Fried Chicken. And at the same time as “Right Place, Wrong Time” nor its follow-up, “Such a Night” (which peaked at variety forty-two on the Billboard chart), made Dr. John a main rock big name, they both became strong embellishes of his legend as a New Orleans piano hero. Rebennack introduced the track to us at the same time as Dr. John brought alongside the birthday celebration. It’s tough to imagine an international without both of them.