Dr. John Completed Final Album Before He Died
Dr. John completed work on a final album before his death, aware that it would be his last work, colleagues reported.
John – whose real name was Mac Rebennack – began work in 2017 before his health began to fail, and had time to finish the project before he succumbed to a fatal heart attack on June 6 at age 77. By that time he was struggling to walk and found it difficult to leave his home.
“Towards the beginning, I don’t think Mac realized it would probably be his last record, but towards the end, I think he knew,” guitarist and producer Shane Theriot told Rolling Stone. “It would break my heart because he would come to my house, and I knew he wasn’t feeling great. And Mac’s work ethic, he was old-school; he grew up doing five sets a night. … He would say, ‘Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do it. … Whatever we gotta do to finish this motherfucker, we gotta finish it.”
“Mac understood that this was his last record," keyboardist David Torkanowsky said. "It was emotional in the studio just to hear him. It had a certain weight to it that only something that’s the last time you do it can have.”
At one point during the studio sessions, John was unable to play piano, but his health later rallied. In March 2018 Theriot set up a small studio at John’s home to record him in the manner that Rick Rubin had tracked Johnny Cash’s American Recordings in the ‘90s. “We took on a similar approach out of necessity,” Theriot said.
The album includes a number of country classics plus original songs. “There’s a version of [Hank Williams'] ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ that’ll make you cry when you hear Mac sing it,” the producer said. “As this record took shape, it wasn’t intentional, but the common thread is that the songs all deal with time and looking back. When you hear Mac sing, it’s somebody that’s lived a really full life. He sounds great, but he sounds exposed.”
John approved of the final product, Theriot added. “We sat and listened to everything twice," he said. "He was singing along and had a big grin on his face. Then he walked me out to my car, stared at me and said, ‘I’m glad. I made the right choice.’ And then he hugged and kissed me on the cheek.”
Full details of John’s final album will be released sometime later.