Terrible, terrible news about a great rocker....


Wilko Johnson diagnosed with terminal cancer

Former Dr Feelgood guitarist has terminal cancer of the pancreas, but vows to keep on rocking as long as he can

Wilko Johnson  lead guitarist with Dr Feelgood outside Coryton Oil Refinery, Essex
Oil City hero … Wilko Johnson outside Coryton refinery in Essex. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. The news became public via a story in the Echo, the local paper in Johnson's hometown of Southend, and spread after local musician and music historian Will Birch tweeted the news, having read it in the Echo.

His manager, Robert Hoy, later issued a statement: "I am very sad to announce that Wilko has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. He has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy. He is currently in good spirits, is not yet suffering any physical effects and can expect to enjoy at least another few months of reasonable health and activity. He has just set off on a trip to Japan; on his return we plan to complete a new CD, make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK. There is also a live DVD in the pipeline, filmed on the last UK tour.

"Wilko wishes to offer his sincere thanks for all the support he has had over his long career, from those who have worked with him to, above all, those devoted fans and admirers who have attended his live gigs, bought his recordings and generally made his life such an extraordinarily full and eventful experience. Thank you."

Despite never becoming a household name, and having left Dr Feelgood before they had their biggest hit, the 65-year-old musician is one of the most influential guitarists in British rock. His choppy signature style, combining rhythm and lead – based on Mick Green of the Pirates – was copied by many post-punk guitarists. In the Dr Feelgood documentaryOil City Confidential, Andy Gill of Gang of Four spoke of Johnson having been a direct inspiration on his playing.

Oil City Confidential sparked a revival of interest in Johnson and Dr Feelgood, leading to a box set of all the Johnson-era recordings being released last year. However, their reputation was built as an incendiary and threatening live band, based on the chemistry between Johnson and singer Lee Brilleaux. Their only No 1 album, 1976's Stupidity, was a live disc. Brilleaux and Johnson constructed a mythology around Canvey Island, where they lived, dubbing it "Oil City" after its refineries, and referring to the area as "the Thames Delta".

Johnson left Dr Feelgood in 1977 and embarked on a career that saw him playing with the Blockheads as well as forming his own band. In recent years he has had a recurring role in the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones.

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