Last January, British guitarist Wilko Johnson, best known for his work with the pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and was told he had only months to live. That hasn’t stopped the 66-year old from making music, as he’s set to release a new album in collaboration with the Who’s Roger Daltrey.
“Going Back Home” is set for release this March, and will feature 10 originals from Johnson, from both his solo career and his bands Dr. Feelgood and Solid Senders, along with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” The LP was recorded last November at Yellow Fish in Uckfield, England. It will come out on the influential blues, soul, and R&B label Chess Records, which is being revived for this release.
Johnson met the Who frontman at an awards ceremony in 2010, where they bonded over a love of British groups like Johnny Kidd & the Pirates: “They’d been a big influence on both our bands,” Daltrey says, according to the Guardian. “That heavy power-trio sound, backing up a singer; it’s a British institution. No-one does that better than us.”
Johnson first announced his condition last January via press release, saying he’d decided against chemotherapy and was not yet suffering from any noticeable ill effects of the cancer. Before recording the album, he performed a series of farewell gigs in Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. A Feb. 25 performance at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire has been announced in anticipation of the album release.
Johnson co-founded Dr. Feelgood in 1971 and performed on the band’s first four studio albums, including 1975’s “Down By the Jetty” and their lone UK No. 1, 1976’s “Stupidity.” His no-pick, open handed playing technique and frantic stage persona were integral to the band’s appeal. The group’s back-to-basics R&B/rock style eased the path from glam to punk.
Since leaving Dr. Feelgood in 1977, Johnson has gone on to front his own band, The Wilko Johnson Band, and he was briefly a member of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Prior to his diagnosis, Johnson had entered the acting world, playing a mute executioner on several episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”