Dr. John Finished New Album a Year Before Passing: 'He Understood This Was His Final Record'

Dr John
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Dr. John performs at Tipitina's on Dec. 28, 2015 in New Orleans. 

It turns out that the legendary Dr. John knew his health was declining months in advance. Because of that, the Hall of Famer with more than 30 albums under his belt pushed through and churned out one final album.

Consisting of originals, twangy covers and reworked classics, the unreleased album features Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville and Rickie Lee Jones.

The record was completed last December with the help of guitarist Shane Theriot, who told Rolling Stone that listening to the final project was emotional. “We sat and listened to everything twice," he told the mag. "He was singing along and had a big grin on his face. Then he walked me out to my car, stared at me and said, ‘I’m glad. I made the right choice.’ And then he hugged and kissed me on the cheek.”

While the LP is completely finished, a title and release date are still being figured out.

At points in the recording process, the pianist/singer/songwriter/producer was having a hard time even leaving the house. But over the course of 2018, he set up several sessions at New Orleans’ Esplanade Studios and his home as well as Theriot's. Everything was recorded with hand-picked New Orleans session musicians.

“It would break my heart because he would come to my house, and I knew he wasn’t feeling great, and Mac’s work ethic, he was old school; he grew up doing five sets a night. And so he told me on several occasions, he would say, “Whatever we gotta do, we gotta do it. We gotta get it done, Sha-zane,” he would say, using his nickname for Theriot. “Whatever we gotta do to finish this motherfucker, we gotta finish it.”

“Mac understood that this was his last record,” said David Torkanowsky, who played keyboards on the album. “It was emotional in the studio just to hear him. It had a certain weight to it that only something that’s the last time you do it can have.”

The legend was able to see the entire thing finished before passing. “Mac got to hear it and live with it and make suggestions,” Theriot said. “This was one of his creations.”


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