Dr. John Estate commemorates five years and four acclaimed albums – Photos


Shortly after Dr. John’s untimely death, the late and great American Blues Scene editor JD Nash wrote in his tribute, “He was the consummate authority on all things New Orleans. Via his Big Easy upbringing, the good doctor brought a spicy taste of NOLA to wherever he performed.

His style of music, use of local street language, and ever-present apparel decorations made him a one of a kind soul… The untrained ear may not have understood his words, but there was no denying his meaning was perfectly clear. He carved the English language like a surgeon, combining words with Cajun French and Crescent City slang to create his own style of speech.”

In the foreword of The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu, a book by American Blues Scene’s own Debra Devi, the Good Doctor himself said, “It would be a ho-hum planet if everybody sounded the same.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and six-time Grammy award winner left behind four critically acclaimed albums released by his Estate including a Grammy-nominated posthumous studio album.

The four albums released by the Dr. John Estate are: Things Happen That Way (2022) is Dr. John’s final studio album released posthumously on Rounder Records, nominated for a Best Americana Album Grammy Award, and featuring guest artists Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (Guilded Splinters), Willie Nelson (Old Time Religion) and Aaron Neville (End of the Line). Influential critic Robert Christgau enthused, “the most committed album hard-hustling New Orleans piano maestro Mac Rebennack recorded in his last two decades on earth.”

“I hope the fans get a window into Dad’s artistic genius and his soul through this album,” Karla Pratt, Dr. John’s daughter, executrix and executive producer, told me in an interview last year. The seeds of Things Happen That Way go all the way back to the family sing-alongs of Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack, Jr.’s childhood days. Pratt, who found herself suddenly running an estate and executive-producing a legend’s album, made sure her father’s pet project finally saw the light of day. “I’m thankful to Concord Music Group and Rounder Records for helping preserve Dad’s legacy by releasing the best possible album.”

Dr. John: The Montreux Years 1986-2012 (2023) compilation on BMG included decades of Dr. John’s legendary live performances at the legendary festival. All About Jazz wrote: “Lovingly curated by the Montreux Jazz Festival and overseen by founder Claude Nobs’ partner, Thierry Amsallem, this is the tenth installment of The Montreux Years series. The whole album is a wonderful live compilation that shows the many facets of musicianship that made Dr. John the iconic figure he remains.”

Dr. John: Solo Piano Live in New Orleans 1984 (2023) by Tipitina’s Records: The release of Dr. John Solo Piano/Live in New Orleans 1984 comes 39 years after his show on the riverboat was planned by legendary New Orleans music impresario Quint Davis in celebration of Jazz Fest’s 15th anniversary. He was introduced by Davis to a packed crowd full of JazzFest revelers as “the man you call Dr. John who’s really New Orleans’ own Mac Rebennack.” The show featured songs by Huey Piano Smith and Dave Bartholomew. Two of Dr. John’s originals prove album highlights: “Dorothy” and “Such a Night” famously in The Last Waltz. This never-before-released live concert gives fans an opportunity to experience the good doctor in a rare solo setting, putting the listener back on board the riverboat SS President.

“What I’ve always heard from his fans is how the music takes them back to where they were when they first heard his songs,” Pratt told me. “For people who weren’t on the riverboat in that era, I hope they can get a feel for how magical it was.”

Dr. John: Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya: Singles 1968-1974 (2024) was released for Record Store Day on Omnivore – an album that soon sold out, with a CD that followed. Singles from those early and influential Atco/Atlantic years have been collected on Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya: Singles 1968–1974, featuring the hits “Right Place Wrong Time,” “Iko Iko,” “Such A Night,” and rare single edits of other classics.“These Atco and Atlantic sides were clearly the right-place right-time recordings. They put Dr. John on the map and into the ears and minds of music enthusiasts the world over,” Gene Sculatti writes in the liner notes.

I hope these albums bring back memories of when the listener first put Dr. John records on their turntable – and when they saw Dad perform, if they were lucky enough to be there. On this fifth anniversary of his passing, thank you to all the fans for keeping Dad’s music alive in your hearts for all these years.

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