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Wilko Johnson: Dr Feelgood guitarist dies, aged 75

The musician’s choppy guitar style and manic stage presence was a major influence on punk.

Wilko Johnson, whose machine-gun guitar style and manic stage presence was a major influence on punk, has died.

The musician found fame with the 1970s pub-rock band Dr Feelgood, and later played with Ian Dury before embarking on a four-decade solo career.

He also starred in two series of Game Of Thrones as the mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne.

Ten years ago he survived what was initially diagnosed as a terminal case of pancreatic cancer.

The musician refused chemotherapy to embark on a farewell tour.

“The decision was quite easy – chemotherapy could do no more than extend my life for a relatively short period and I thought I’d just rather enjoy the health that was left to me,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

However, later tests discovered that the guitarist’s pancreatic cancer was in fact a rare and less aggressive neuroendocrine tumour.

He underwent a radical, 11-hour operation that removed his pancreas, spleen and parts of his stomach and intestines, and was declared cancer-free in 2014.

The musician continued to play live until last month, hosting his final gig at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 18 October.

Johnson’s death was confirmed to the BBC by his representatives.

In a statement posted on social media, they added: “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we do so, on behalf of Wilko’s family and the band, with a very heavy heart.

“Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday evening, 21 November 2022.

“Thank you for respecting Wilko’s family’s privacy at this very sad time, and thank you all for having been such a tremendous support throughout Wilko’s incredible life.”

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Steve Howley, of Classic Rock magazine, once said Johnson’s confrontational style led directly to punk, calling him “one of the quintessential English guitar heroes.”

“Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he’s right up there,” agreed Paul Weller in an interview with Uncut magazine.

“There are a lot of people who’ll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It’s some legacy.”

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