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On Fat Tuesday, A Tribute to Dr. John

Bryan Bedder, Getty Images

As parades wind through the French Quarter and second lines form from Basin to Canal Street, it’s as good a day as any to pay tribute to the arbiter of New Orleans music, the legendary Dr. John.

Born Malcom John “Mac” Rebennack Jr., the doctor has spent a career spanning more than 50 years dedicated to the mission of bringing the music, culture and spirit of New Orleans to the world.

Mac began his career as a humble session musician, playing with the likes of Sonny and Cher and Canned Heat.

He took off as a solo artist when he adopted his Dr. John persona. The name came from a legendary practitioner of voodoo in Louisiana in the 1800s. In the 1960s, Rebennack would become popular with his unique combination of the jazz and rhythm and blues of his native New Orleans with the psychedelic rock that was prevalent in New York and Los Angeles.

He became a great New Orleans piano man in the tradition of predecessors like Professor Longhair and his elaborate stage shows were influenced in no small part by the Indian tribes and other pageantry of Mardi Gras.

Through his career he helped to see New Orleans jazz elevated to national prominence and along with The Meters, helped to define New Orleans funk.

Dr. John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by John Legend in 2011.

Perhaps the greatest sign of his status as a living legend, Dr. John served as the primary inspiration for Jim Hensen’s muppet Dr. Teeth, who fronted a fictitious band who played New Orleans style psychedelic funk called Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Dr. John performs the Dixies Cups classic “Iko Iko,”a Mardi Gras standard:

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