New Orleans musician Dr. John dead at 77, family says

Dr. John, the celebrated Louisiana singer and piano player who mixed black and white musical influence, has died, his family said Thursday. He was 77.

A statement from his family, released by his publicist, said Dr. John -- who was born Mac Rebennack -- died of a heart attack Thursday.

"The family thanks all whom have shared his unique musical journey, and requests privacy at this time," the statement said.

Rebennack had not been seen in public since late 2017 after canceling several performances.

Dr. John performing during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images, File)

Dr. John performing during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images, File)

Rebennack, a New Orleans icon, won six Grammy awards. He started in the 1950s while writing and playing guitar for Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex, Frankie Ford and Allen Toussaint, according to his website.

He got into music full-time after dropping out of high school and became involved in petty crime and drugs. He played in everything from strip clubs to roadhouses and auditoriums. He blamed New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison, the main character in Oliver Stone's 1991 film, "JFK," for running him out of his beloved city. Garrison had a tough-on-crime approach and frequently went after prostitutes, bars and all-night venues.

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After serving time in federal prison, he created his Dr. John personality, which he said was inspired by Marie Laveau, a voodoo queen.

Rebennack also performed with Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones' “Exile On Main St.” As his solo career took off, he launched his persona, Dr. John The Nite Tripper. His 1968 album "Gris-Gris" exposed listeners to his sinister implications of other-worldly magic.

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He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.