“The greatness of Mac Rebennack, alias, Dr. John, also known as John Crieux, rests on his command of the musical use of idiomatic expression. Not a technically well-endowed singer, nor a great songwriter, he leaves his mark through the discipline and control he exerts over all that he touches.” - Jon Landau
Note: This is an old post from my previous blog. I will write another post on Dr. John in the next few days.
Dr. John is one of my favourite New Orleans artists. Born Mac Rebennack in 1940, he’s been in the music business since the 50’s, although he didn’t get widely known until 70’s. He does everything from jazz, blues, New Orleans R&B, rock and boogie woogie and he has this amazing ability of doing all these different styles at once and creating something unique. Critics have sometimes complained that he’s too eclectic but I say he’s just being extremely versatile and that’s something I appreciate about him. I also enjoy how no matter what he does, you can always hear New Orleans in him. He understands, respects and maintains the tradition of New Orleans.
He demonstrated what he’s musically capable of right away on his first album “Gris-Gris”. He somehow combined New Orleans R&B and mystical voodoo into something extraordinary. The music on this album is a combination of eerie, earthy, mystical, spicy, joyous and complex. I think there’s no point in trying to describe what it’s like because it’s probably unlike anything you’ve heard before. But in a good sense. I definitely recommend it. It’s Dr. John’s album that got the most plaudits from the critics. If you’re interested, here’s an example of what you might expect - Mama Roux. After “Gris-Gris” he’s been just all over the place with different styles of music and he can offer so much with whatever he does.
Today I wanted to mention a song from one of his latest albums “The City that Care Forgot”. The song is called “You might be surprised” and the lyrics just blow me away every time I hear the song. Pay attention to them when you listen to the song. Dr. John has a distinct voice and a specific way of singing which has so much character and that’s what makes the song even better. Add some wonderful piano playing and you’ve got yourself a great song. Here it is.
(This is not the album version, but I like this one is a lot better. It’s just way more intimate with only the piano and his amazing vocals)
Life is a near death experience
Hell is right here on this great big Earth
It could be a little taste of heaven
If we only knew our worth
All we got to do is want it bad enough
To push ourself through
We always underestimate ourselves
We do a little bit each and every day we can always do better
In each and every way
If we don’t believe in ourselves
Nobody’s gonna do it
If we don’t push ourselves
We’ll never make it through it.
What did you think? I think the song is amazing and I LOVE the lyrics! It’s fascinating how the song starts off as a bit depressing and ends up being inspiring and optimistic. Life is a near death experience: I think that’s a great line all by itself but it also sets up the whole song. One day you’re here, the next you’re not. Life is basically just the things we do before we die and we’re the only ones that determine what that will be like. We can (and do a lot of times) make it hell on earth but what we’re often not aware of, is that if we just believed in ourselves and pushed ourselves we could make it a little taste of heaven. And if everyone did that, imagine all the things we could achieve.