West News Wire: Wilko Johnson, the Dr. Feelgood guitarist from the UK, has passed away. Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer and experienced an unexpected career resurgence. He was 75.

The guitarist passed on Monday night at his home in southeast England, according to a statement from Johnson’s family released on his official social media accounts on Wednesday.

Johnson, who was born John Wilkinson in 1947, was brought up in Canvey Island, an oil town in the swampy River Thames estuary of England. Prior to founding Dr. Feelgood with other neighborhood friends, he worked as a schoolteacher while pursuing a degree in Anglo-Saxon literature at Newcastle University.

They performed an outmoded form of blues and R&B during an era of flamboyant glam and extravagant prog rock, while sporting shoddy outfits that, according to Johnson, made them appear, like “shoddy bank robbers.”

Johnson helped give Dr. Feelgood a dangerous edge with his choppy, relentless guitar style and thousand-yard glare a look terrifying enough to earn him a role later in life as silent executioner Ser Ilyn Payne on “Game of Thrones.”

The anarchic outfit inspired bands who would soon drive the U.K. punk explosion, and teetered on the edge of global fame, scoring a U.K. No. 1 album, tours of the U.S. and a deal with CBS records. Then in 1977 Johnson walked out amid friction with charismatic lead singer Lee Brilleaux, who died in 1994.

Johnson later said that if the band had been able to follow its managers’ instructions to behave, “I’m pretty sure we’d be multimillionaires. But we didn’t. We were geezers from Canvey Island. We were great friends, and we fell out.”

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Johnson went on to perform with Ian Dury’s band, the Blockheads, and spent years playing to a devoted fanbase, largely in the U.K. and Japan.

In 2012, Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told it was terminal. The prospect of death unexpectedly revived his creative energies. He declined chemotherapy, decided to go on one last tour, and recorded a “final” album, “Going Back Home,” with Roger Daltrey of The Who.

“I suddenly found myself in a position where nothing matters anymore,” he told the Associated Press in 2013. “I’m a miserable so-and-so normally. I’d be worrying about the taxman or all the things that we worry about that get in the way of the real things. And suddenly it doesn’t matter. All of that doesn’t matter.


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