Wilko Johnson, Dr. Feelgood guitarist and ‘GoT’ actor, dies

Wilko Johnson, an English rock guitarist who worked for the band Dr. Feelgood who played and influenced a generation of rockers died this week aged 75.

Johnson died at his home in England on Monday, according to a statement released on his family’s behalf on his social media accounts.

“This is the announcement we never intended to make, and it is with a very heavy heart that we do this: Wilko Johnson has passed away.” read the statement. “He died at home on Monday November 21st. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy at this very sad time.”

Born John Peter Wilkinson in 1947, Johnson helped form the band Dr. Feelgood in his hometown of Canvey Island, Essex. ” Johnson was known for his electric stage presence and percussive guitar playing style.

“People say, ‘Well, how did you do that?’ It’s pretty simple, see, it’s like riding a bike, easy to do, hard to explain,” Johnson told a crowd at a 2012 music demo as he described his unique playing technique, before moving on to a series of “stabbing chords” and blues started riffs.

Johnson announced in 2013 that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he was terminal, but chose not to undergo chemotherapy. Johnson’s wife and childhood sweetheart, Irene Knight, died of cancer in 2004, according to an independent report.

Over the next few years, Johnson played a series of farewell shows.

But in 2014, at the Q Awards show in London, Johnson declared that he was cancer-free. While accepting an Icon Award, he said he underwent an 11-hour operation in which doctors removed a tumor weighing almost 7 pounds. “That’s the size of a baby,” he told the audience during his acceptance speech.

“If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Johnson continued to perform and also made his acting debut on the HBO series Game of Thrones, in which he played the role of Ser Ilyn Payne, a mute knight and the king’s executioner. On the show, he was known for his menacing gaze and for laying the sword on one of the show’s most popular characters, Ned Stark.

Musicians showered praise on Johnson after his death was announced on Wednesday.

“Wilko Johnson was a precursor to punk”, English singer and activist Billy Bragg tweeted. “His guitar playing was angry and edgy, but his presence – edgy, confrontational, out of control – was something we’d never seen in UK pop.”

Jimmy Page, founder of Led Zeppelin, said he was saddened by Johnson’s death. He said he attended one of Johnson’s farewell shows in Camden Town, London in 2013.

“The atmosphere was electric,” Page said in a tweet. “This show was originally billed as his farewell tour. But thankfully, he continued to perform until recently, wowing crowds. I really admired him and we will all miss him.”

Alex Kapranos, leadman of Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, described Johnson as a “bright, thoughtful and amazing storyteller”.

“His unique, wired playing and stage presence delighted and inspired many guitarists, myself included,” Kapranos shared on social media. “His presence will be felt for many years to come.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-11-23/wilko-johnson-dead-obituary Wilko Johnson, Dr. Feelgood guitarist and ‘GoT’ actor, dies

Sarah Ridley

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