Posted: January 15, 2021 in MUSIC
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Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument, on stage and night

Sylvain Sylvain, best known as the guitarist of the New York Dolls, died Wednesday (13th January) after a long battle with cancer. He was 69 years of age. Bored of their heroes’ increasing indulgences, The Dolls’ mission was simple: to restore rock’n’roll to its rightful place as a flamboyant, dangerous cultural force. And, while David and Johnny would become the figureheads of the band, Sylvain Sylvain was its beating heart and chief strategist.

The news was announced today on Sylvain’s Facebook page. Lenny Kaye, a guitarist in the Patti Smith Group, penned a lengthy tribute to the proto-punk and glam rock pioneer. “Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and a half years,” Kaye wrote. “Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain.

“Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way.” In April 2019, the guitarist revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for treatment. It is unclear what form of cancer he had.

Sylvain was born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo, Egypt in 1951. Not long after his birth, his family fled the country to escape anti-Semitism, eventually settling in New York after a period in Paris.

In 1972, Sylvain befriended New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia and joined the band, serving as rhythm guitarist until the iconic outfit’s dissolution in 1977. He would also be part of the Dolls’ reunion in the mid-noughties, releasing a trio of records: One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (2006), Cause I Sez So (2009) and Dancing Backward In High Heels (2011).

To call the New York Dolls different is something of an understatement. Formed in 1971, the five-piece of David Johansen (vocals), Johnny Thunders (guitar), Arthur ​Killer’ Kane (bass), Billy Murcia (drums) and Sylvain slunk out of the Bronx, seemingly having raided their girlfriends’ wardrobes for their clothes and having rifled through their make-up bag for their rouge. Following the band’s split, Sylvain would embark on several other musical projects – working on David Johansen’s solo albums (for which he wrote a number of songs) and a record of his own, as well as playing with several other musicians. He would, however, always remain a Doll.

Fiercely proud of the band’s music and legacy, he was a key instigator in the New York Dolls’ reformation in 2004. He was equally disappointed to find that David – who’d subsequently enjoyed a parallel career using the pseudonym Buster Pointdexter and as an actor – was going through the motions. Despite the fact that the re-constituted Dolls released three new studio albums, Sylvain remained angry with David when the latter refused to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut in 2013.

It’s sad nobody’s doing anything about it. It would’ve helped if everyone had gotten into it, including our frontman, but nobody got into it,” he said at the time.

Two years later Sylvain would leave his adopted hometown of New York for Nashville. He presaged his departure with a tune about that very subject – 2012’s Leaving New York, a track full of the man’s typically romantic spirit.

Sylvain was also a prolific solo musician. He released his debut solo record, Sylvain Sylvain, in 1979, and continued playing in bands such as The Criminals and The Batusis well into the 2010s.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, text that says 'ARTHUR KANE 1949 2004 JOHNNY THUNDERS 1952 1991 JERRY NOLAN 946 1992 SYLVAIN SYLVAIN 1951 -2021 Peryorhodz mercury'

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