Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson dies aged 75

Wilko Johnson, the singer-songwriter and Dr Feelgood guitarist, has died aged 75.

The musician found fame in the 1970s pub-rock band who helped pave the way for British punk, also enjoying a successful solo career.

Johnson was previously diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2013 and was given just ten months to live.

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A statement on his Facebook page said: “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we do so, on behalf of Wilko’s family and the band, with a very heavy heart:

Wilko Johnson (left) with Roger Daltrey performing on stage during the Teenage Cancer Trust series of charity gigs, at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. Picture: PA
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“Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday evening, 21st November, 2022.

“Thank you for respecting Wilko’s family’s privacy at this very sad time, and thank you all for having been such a tremendous support throughout Wilko’s incredible life. RIP Wilko Johnson.”

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He initially chose to avoid treatment after being told he was terminal and embarked on a farewell tour, an album called Going Back Home recorded with The Who’s Roger Daltrey, and visited friends around the world to say goodbye.

However, later tests showed his cancer was not as aggressive as had been previously thought and an operation was offered as a chance to save his life.

After undergoing an 11-hour procedure that removed a tumour, his pancreas, spleen, parts of his stomach and intestines, and some blood vessels from around his liver, the musician was declared cancer-free.

In a statement paying tribute to his friend, Daltrey said Johnson’s music “lives on”.

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“More than anything Wilko wanted to be a poet,” Daltrey said. 2I was lucky to have known him and have him as a friend. His music lives on, but there’s no escaping the final curtain this time.”

Refencing the poem by J Milton. Hayes, Daltrey added: “So it’s goodnight to Mad Carew, the uncompromising Bard of Canvey.”

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Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said he was “sad” to hear of Johnson’s death.

In a tweet, Page recalled watching the Dr Feelgood guitarist perform at Koko in Camden in May 2013, describing the atmosphere as “electric”.

In an interview with The Northern Echo newspaper in 2019, Johnson said: “It seems very unjust, but I’m in the clear and feeling pretty healthy other than I’m missing a pancreas, but apart from that I’m really fit.”

Born on Canvey Island in Essex in 1947, Johnson recalled in his autobiography that he had a tough childhood and at aged 16, he was elated to come home from school one day to find his dad had died.

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In the book, he also said he found joy in literature but, after realising he was never going to cut it as a poet, he discovered music.

Johnson graduated from Newcastle University before travelling around India, then returned to Essex to work as an English teacher.

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Not long after, he formed Dr Feelgood in 1971 alongside Lee Brilleaux and John B. Sparks and went on to play with Ian Dury And The Blockheads for a spell. He then had a lengthy solo career playing with The Wilko Johnson Band.

Johnson also appeared in TV hit Game Of Thrones as the mute Lannister executioner Ser Ilyn Payne.

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