Wilko Johnson, the legendary co-founder of pub rock pioneers Dr Feelgood, has died at the age of 75.
His passing was confirmed in a statement from his family, which read: “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, & we do so with a very heavy heart: Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday 21st November. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy at this very sad time. RIP Wilko Johnson.”
Johnson played lead guitar with Dr Feelgood from the band’s formation in 1971, with his furious playing style – which was rooted in blues rock – helping the band to become one of the UK’s most formidable live acts at the time.
The group scored a Number One album with 1976 live LP Stupidity, before Johnson left a year later.
After a brief spell with The Blockheads, Johnson went on to secure solo fame by releasing a string of albums with The Wilko Johnson Band.
Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2013 and confirmed he did not wish to undergo chemotherapy or treatment for the disease. He instead underwent an operation a year later and declared himself to be cancer free. “I shouldn’t be here at all,” he said at the time.
His miraculous recovery became the subject of the 2015 documentary The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson, which saw his narration being contrasted against that of The Who’s Roger Daltrey.
Paying tribute on Twitter, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe wrote: “Rest in Power Mr Wilko Johnson – you fought the good fight, and had a damn good run. When they said it was over, you came back stronger.”
Sleaford Mods added: “Sleep well, Wilko Johnson. The unsung inventor of post Mod, Mod.”
In addition to his music, Johnson also played the role of mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne in the first and second series of Game of Thrones. He previously said of his role: “‘They said they wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it’s like second nature to me’.”
Johnson’s final album came in 2018’s Blow Your Mind and it’s believed that he was performing right up until his death, with NME reporting that his last performance came last month (October 18) at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire as part of Planet Rock’s Rocktober event.