The World of Dr. John
by Jim Allen | August 21, 2014
Just as he's been known by many names — from Mac Rebennack to The Night Tripper — Dr. John has dipped into everything from blues to psychedelia since he began his recording career in the ‘60s. But he's best known as one of the primary flame-keepers of the R&B tradition of his native New Orleans. In the late ‘60s, he concocted a trippy blend of psychedelic sounds and Big Easy hoodoo that's still one of the most original musical amalgams ever created. In the '70s, he brought Crescent City funkmeisters The Meters to the Top 40 (as the backing band on his ubiquitous hit "Right Place, Wrong Time”). In the '80s and ‘90s, he began embracing his roots, covering tunes by his jazz heroes as well as his New Orleans forebears. Today his name is nearly as synonymous with the raw, rolling feel of old-school N.O. R&B as the style's originators (like Professor Longhair).
But along with the multiple sides of Mac's musical personality, he has always played several roles — from producer to songwriter to session man for other artists. It's his piano that's heard on hits like Carly Simon and James Taylor's “Mockingbird." Over the years, Dr. John has played on albums by everyone from Spiritualized to Christina Aguilera. Anyone whose tunes have been covered by both Paul Weller and David Bromberg — and whose recording history includes sessions with both The Rolling Stones and Beth Orton — is clearly an artist who operates beyond borders. Even a four-hour playlist can't encompass Dr. John's entire career, but it can't hurt to try! So here's a hearty heap of his own classic cuts, choice sessions for other artists, and key covers of his catalog. From the acid R&B of his '60s offerings to his new Louis Armstrong tribute, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, dip deeply into Dr. John's medicine bag and you're bound to end up feeling alright.