- 23 Nov 22
The Canvey Island great also appeared in two seasons of Game Of Thrones
The sad news coming out of England this morning is that former Dr. Feelgood man Wilko Johnson has passed away at the age of 75.
The official announcement on his socials reads: "This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we do so with a very heavy heart: Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at his home in Westcliff On Sea on Monday 21st November. Thank you for respecting the family's privacy at this very sad time. RIP Wilko Johnson."
One of the most distinctive guitarists of his generation, Wilko and the rest of Dr. Feelgood, who once played 330 gigs in a year, helped pave the way for punk in the '70s with their scabrous Canvey Island blues. 1975's Downy By The Jetty and Malpractice and '77s Sneakin' Suspicion are as good a first three albums you'll hear from any band.
"Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he's right up there," Paul Weller noted in the past. "And there are a lot of people who'll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It's some legacy."
Wilko and Dr. Feelgood were also a huge influence on the nascent Boomtown Rats and, more recently, were the glue that bonded Roscommon tykes The Strypes together. In turn, he loved Rory Gallagher and played at the International Rory Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon in 2019.
After parting company with Dr. Feelgood in the late '70s, Wilko formed the Solid Senders whilst also doing his thing with Ian Dury & The Blockheads, kindred spirits if there ever were.
"More than anything Wilko wanted to be a poet," Daltrey reflects today. "I 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. So it's goodnight to Mad Carew, the uncompromising Bard of Canvey."
In 2013 he was given just months to live but miraculously kicked his cancer, allowing him to resume a hectic gigging schedule. He also gained cult acting acclaim appearing as Ser Ilyn Payne in the first two seasons of Game Of Thrones.
Tributes have been pouring in from Wilko admirers old and new-ish...
"Wilko was a phenomenon," Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. "His onstage demeanour was completely different to other guitar heroes of the time. He was all angular, jerky, wired movements, as if he were being pinged around the stage by a series of electric shocks. It added a different element of visual interest – and sometimes anxiety – to watching Dr. Feelgood. You never knew what contortion was coming next! Nowadays, Wilko would be stuck in one box or another. He’d be ADHD. Somewhere on the spectrum. Accused of suffering from some sort of personality disorder. In reality, when you met him you realised pretty quickly that – eccentric as he might have seemed – more than anything else, he was a unique talent, a highly intelligent individual, who approached the business of playing the guitar with a singularity that was utterly original to him. In his sense of style, his onstage character and the noise he extracted from his Fender Telecaster, he paved the way for punk. But of course, that was only the start. In the long run, he just got better as a guitar player. His contribution was immense – and will always be remembered."
Wilko Johnson was a precursor of punk. His guitar playing was angry and angular, but his presence - twitchy, confrontational, out of control - was something we'd never beheld before in UK pop. Rotten, Strummer and Weller learned a lot from his edgy demeanour. He does it right RIP pic.twitter.com/ukoJ69r41h
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) November 23, 2022
So sad to hear that Wilko Johnson has passed on. An utterly unique guitarist and a truly decent man. Those early #DrFeelgood sides will live forever. Will play a track on the radio show tonight with full tribute to follow. #WilkoJohnson @wilkojohnson pic.twitter.com/sWp18cE5u1
— Ralph McLean (@RalphMcLeanShow) November 23, 2022
Throwback Wednesday: For obvious sad reasons, a day early this week. Following today’s awful news of the passing of the legendary RnB guitar hero Wilko Johnson, here he is with his old friend & flatmate JJ a few years ago. Fly straight Wilko, fond adieu RIP x pic.twitter.com/bKmbxNhmuM
— The Stranglers (Official) (@StranglersSite) November 23, 2022
Very sad to hear Wilko Johnson has died. His unique, wired playing & stage presence thrilled & inspired many guitarists, myself included. When I interviewed him a few years ago, he was bright, thoughtful & an astonishing story teller. His presence will be felt for many more years pic.twitter.com/x6ZzQWojXp
— Alex Kapranos (@alkapranos) November 23, 2022
— Fiachna Ó Braonáin (@fobraonain) November 23, 2022
Sleep well, Wilko Johnson. The unsung inventor of post Mod, Mod. https://t.co/207CBeHhcY
— Sleaford Mods (@sleafordmods) November 23, 2022
Dr. Feelgood - Roxette https://t.co/TFFnpvNa1L
So great -Edwyn
— Edwyn Collins (@EdwynCollins) November 23, 2022
One of the very first tours we did was supporting Dr Feelgood around the UK, today I saw that Wilco Johnson has passed away. His Telecaster playing and movement on stage inspired me, I loved the way he strutted around making the songs fly like darts to a musical dart board. pic.twitter.com/Rlq1iD2csh
— Chris Difford (@chrisdifford) November 23, 2022
Bill Drummond and I started our conversation last night, as we always do, talking about Dr Feelgood at Liverpool Stadium in 1976. January 22. A major turning point. https://t.co/A40TIZAbte
— Pete Wylie is WAH!🌟 (@petewylie) November 23, 2022
— bob stanley (@rocking_bob) November 23, 2022
RIP Wilko Johnson. Cool as fuck. pic.twitter.com/OgpLHE4irQ
— Steve Berry 🚮 (@unloveablesteve) November 23, 2022
I’m sad to hear today of the passing of Wilko Johnson, the Dr Feelgood guitarist and singer/songwriter.
I saw Wilko perform at Koko in Camden in May 2013 and the atmosphere was electric. This show was originally billed as his farewell tour pic.twitter.com/M1sQIEe4mm
— Jimmy Page (@JimmyPage) November 23, 2022