Wilko Johnson passes away aged 75

Wilko Johnson, pioneering guitarist of Dr Feelgood who was known for his choppy style and energetic stage presence, has died at the age of 75.

wilko johnson

Johnson was a major influence on punk music as part of the 1970s pub-rock outfit Dr Feelgood. Steve Howley of Classic Rock magazine, cited Johnson’s confrontational guitar style as leading directly to punk music, and called him “one of the quintessential English guitar heroes.”

He later played with Ian Dury, before a four-decade solo career in music, as well as starring as the mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne in two series of HBO’s Game Of Thrones.

His death was announced on social media, with a brief statement reading: “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we do so, on behalf of Wilko’s family and the band, with a very heavy heart.

“Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday evening, 21 November 2022.

“Thank you for respecting Wilko’s family’s privacy at this very sad time, and thank you all for having been such a tremendous support throughout Wilko’s incredible life.”

wilko johnson

Johnson survived what was initially diagnosed as a terminal case of pancreatic cancer ten years ago, having chosen not to have chemotherapy and embarking on a farewell tour instead. 

“The decision was quite easy – chemotherapy could do no more than extend my life for a relatively short period and I thought I’d just rather enjoy the health that was left to me,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Later, further tests discovered that Johnson’s pancreatic cancer was a rare, less aggressive neuroendocrine tumour that he could potentially survive. 

Johnson underwent a radical, 11-hour operation, removing his pancreas, spleen and parts of his stomach and intestines. He was declared cancer-free in 2014.

wilko johnson

From then, the musician continued to play live right up until last month, when he hosted his final gig at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 18 October.

“Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he’s right up there,” said Paul Weller in an interview with Uncut magazine.

“There are a lot of people who’ll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It’s some legacy.”

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