He created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans. Born Malcolm John Rebennack into a family of amateur musicians, including an aunt who taught him to play piano, immersed in music from a young age, he absorbed a blend of rhythm and blues, cowboy songs, gospel and jazz, as well as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras music, boogie, barrelhouse piano and funk. He also was a successful record producer, session player and songwriter in New Orleans. Dr. John recorded his first album, “Gris-Gris,” in 1968. In 1972 his “Dr. John’s Gumbo” album featured more traditional New Orleans songs, such as “Iko Iko,” “Junko Partner,” “Blow Wind Blow,” “Big Chief” and “Let the Good Times Roll.”
“Music is the one thing that keeps me alive and happy. If it don’t be for music, I think I would have threw in the towel,” he told in an interview in 2011, the year when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dr. John’s biggest commercial success, thanks to the hits “Right Place, Wrong Time” and “Such a Night” was the album “In the Right Place” from 1973. Dr. John recorded some 35 albums. During his life he had a problem with drugs. He had started smoking marijuana at age 12, and was a regular heroin user, landing in prison on drug charges in 1965. In 1989 he finally overcame his heroin problem.