New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain has died. He was 69.
The news of Sylvain’s death on Wednesday, January 13 was broken via a statement on his official Facebook page the following day. It confirmed that the musician born Sylvain Mizrahi had passed after battling cancer for two and a half years.
“Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease,” it read. “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.”
The statement included an obituary by Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group, which related Sylvain’s journey to New York after emigrating from his native Cairo, Egypt at the age of 10, and how he formed New York Dolls with Billy Murcia, John Genzale, Arthur Kane, David Johansen and Jerry Nolan.
“His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision,” Kaye wrote. “Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end the Dolls’ moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come.” Read it in full here.
Johansen, the last surviving member of the proto punk group, paid tribute to Sylvain on Instagram. “My best friend for so many years, I can still remember the first time I saw him bop into the rehearsal space/bicycle shop with his carpetbag and guitar straight from the plane after having been deported from Amsterdam, I instantly loved him,” he wrote. “I’m gonna miss you old pal. I’ll keep the home fires burning.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Johansen elaborated further on his friendship with Sylvain and his role in New York Dolls, as well as Sylvain’s cancer diagnosis. “He really thought he was going to beat it,” Johansen said. “He was a tough little bastard. I thought he was going to come through it as well. But apparently it had been more intense and in more parts of his body than I really knew about.”
RIP, Sylvain Sylvain. Revisit their 1973 self-titled album below: