wilko johnson

Nearly 12 months ago, I was writing about the reissue of the first 4 Dr.Feelgood albums and celebrating the wonderful guitar-character that is Wilko Johnson.

Now the whole world knows via a moving interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ that Wilko has terminal pancreatic cancer, and has only months to live.

That said, he is planning a 4-concert farewell tour in March that unlike many of his contemporaries ‘Farewell’ tours will be exactly that.

Sadly, there won’t be another chance to hear or see the man who put the feel into Dr.Feelgood and brought his unique guitar style to Ian Dury and the Blockheads amongst others.

One statement in his interview, sensitively conducted by John Wilson, struck a particular note.

He said that he didn’t want to ‘present a sorry spectacle’ on stage by looking ill.

That observation took me back to December 1999 when I saw Ian Dury, in the final stages of liver cancer, performing with the Blockheads at Warwick Arts Centre in what was one of his final gigs.

He painfully slowly made his way onto the stage from the wings, his hand planted firmly on the shoulder of his roadie Derek the Draw, who returned at the end of the gig to help him off-stage.

He was still performing the following February, but died six weeks after that last gig.

It’s a tricky business, dealing with cancer in all its myriad forms and trying to live a normal life as anyone who’s had any exposure to the disease will know.

Where, for instance, do performers draw the line? The very thing that has defined their life as a performer may well be the act that is keeping them going and prolonging their life.

Who are any of us to say when a seriously ill performer should call it a day?

Wilko has obviously made his decision to perform while he is still physically able, so let’s hope that his illness allows him to feel well enough to perform those four concerts in March.

If you’re a music lover and can get along, they sound like they’ll be evenings worth being part of.

Wilko Johnson – ‘Terminal Cancer Has Made Me Feel Alive’

Wilko Johnson – Farewell Tour March 2013

‘Dr Feelgood’ blogpost – 17th February 2012


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