Dr. John, the New Orleans music icon born Malcolm John Rebennack, dies at 77

A legend of American music has departed.

His name was Malcolm John Rebennack, or Mac Rebennack, but we knew him as Dr. John.

He was 77 years old, and is said to have succumbed to a heart attack.

On Thursday afternoon, Dr. John's publicist released a statement from the musician's family late on Thursday, saying the cause of his death was a heart attack.

The statement did not say where he died, but the Lake Pontchartrain area had been his home of late.

"Mr. Rebennack belonged to the pantheon of New Orleans keyboard wizards that includes Professor Longhair, James Booker, Huey (Piano) Smith and Fats Domino," writes the New York Times' Gavin Edwards.

"What distinguished him from his peers was the showmanship of his public persona."

Excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Onstage as Dr. John, he adorned himself with snakeskin, beads and brightly colored feathers, and his shows blended Mardi Gras bonhomie with voodoo mystery.

He recorded more than 30 albums, including jazz projects ("Bluesiana Triangle," 1990, with the drummer Art Blakey and the saxophonist David Newman), solo piano records ("Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack," 1981) and his version of Afropop ("Locked Down," 2012). His 1989 album of standards, "In a Sentimental Mood," earned him the first of six Grammy Awards, for his duet with Rickie Lee Jones on "Makin' Whoopee!"

His only Top 40 single, "Right Place Wrong Time," reached No. 9 on the Billboard chart in 1973. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Read the full NYT obituary: Dr. John, Who Embodied the Music of New Orleans, Dies at 77 [nytimes.com]

PHOTO: Dr. John at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, via Wikipedia. PHOTOGRAPHER: Derek Bridges.