Dr. John is a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/musician regarded as a pioneering icon of the New Orleans style of R&B, rock and funk.
The musician who would become known as Dr. John was born Malcom John Rebennack Jr. in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 21, 1940. Rebennack graced the boxes of Ivory Soap products as a child, thanks to his mother’s connections as a model.His father had a music store, and by his teens, the young Rebennack was a skilled pianist and guitarist, playing with bands in his home city. His work was influenced greatly by pianist/songwriter Professor Longhair, who is regarded as a trailblazing who shaped the New Orleans-style R&B scene as a session keyboardist and guitarist, contributing to records by Professor Longhair, Frankie Ford and Joe Tex. He also recorded some overlooked singles of his own, and by the ’60s had expanded into production and arranging.After a gun accident damaged his hand in the early ’60s, he gave up the guitar to concentrate exclusively on keyboards. Skirting trouble with the law and drugs, he left the increasingly unwelcome environs of New Orleans in the 1966 for Los Angeles, where he found session work with the help of fellow New Orleans expatriate and renamed himself Dr. John, The Night Tripper when he recorded his first album, Gris-Gris According to legend, this was hurriedly cut with leftover studio time from a Sonny & Cher session, but it never sounded hastily conceived. In fact, its mix of New Orleans R&B with voodoo sounds and a tinge of psychedelia was downright enthralling, and may have resulted in his greatest album.
Rebennack eventually just used the moniker Dr. John; over the ensuing decades he released an almost continual stream of albums and songs that covered a range of genres and styles, from soul variations to original piano compositions to American songbook standards. He also crafted and sang jingles for TV commercials. His 1973 album, In the Right Place, contained the hit single “Right Place, Wrong Time,” while the 1981 album Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack featured intricate key-playing by the musician.
In the 1990’s he wrote his autobiography and continues to play frequently around the world.
Dr. John has won several Grammy Awards in a variety of categories, including best jazz in 2011, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.