Wilko Johnson Has Died

A true hero of British music...

Dr Feedgood guitarist Wilko Johnson has died.

The guitarist had been diagnosed with cancer in January 2013, and chose not to undergo chemotherapy. Given months to live, Wilko sought alternative treatments, and found new paths through life.

Sadly, the guitarist’s family have confirmed that Wilko Johnson passed away on Monday evening (November 21st) at home. In a note, they write: “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.”

The news ends one of British music’s most remarkable tales. A true outsider, Wilko Johnson was – in different times – a teacher and a voyager, travelling overland to India in the early 70s. Returning to the UK, he based himself in Canvey Island, developing a unique, deeply physical take on guitar playing.

Drawn into the orbit of Dr. Feelgood, the band’s no-frills take on rhythm ‘n’ blues acted as a primary inspiration for a generation of UK punks, with albums such as ‘Down By The Jetty’ and live LP ‘Stupidity’ firing up all manner of young songwriters.

As Paul Weller once put it: “Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he’s right up there. And there are a lot of people who’ll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It’s some legacy.”

The documentary Oil City Confidential traces the band’s incredible tale, and it well worth seeking out.

Wilko Johnson Has Died

In spite of the illness that dogged his latter years Wilko Johnson enjoyed a late-life resurgence. The Who’s Roger Daltrey linked with the guitarist, the pair producing the hit album ‘Going Back Home’.

Clash spoke to Wilko Johnson in 2014, and found a unique figure in British music. He recalled meeting his wife Irene: “The first time I wanted to ask [my wife] Irene out, I was walking down the road on Canvey Island. I was going round her house to ask her to come out with me. To keep up my courage I was singing ‘Here Comes The Night’, which was a hit song for Van Morrison and Them at the time.”

“I went and asked her out, and it was ages later that somebody pointed out that her name was, in fact, Irene Knight. I’d been walking along singing ‘Here Comes The Night’. I told Van Morrison this little story once: ‘Yes Van, you were encouraging me to get my first date with Irene.’”

A formidable and inspiring figure, Wilko Johnson will be much missed.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.