Gris-gris enigma: can a new posthumous release shed light on the elusive genius of Dr John?

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How did a middle-class white kid break into New Orleans’ feverish 1950s R&B scene and enjoy a wildly eclectic six-decade career? As a new release puts it: things happen that way

I’ve been pondering who Dr John was ever since, as a child, I heard his hit, Right Place Wrong Time, on the radio. Enchanted by the sound – that propulsive funk keyboard motif, snapping rhythms and rasping vocal – and pondering the words (“I been running trying to get hung up in my mind … Just need a little brain salad surgery”), I wondered if he was a real doctor? Hey, I was nine …

Five years later I got a glimpse of the man when I went to see The Last Waltz, where he performs a rollicking rendition of Such a Night. I noted how he played piano and appeared older, funkier and less rock-star-looking than most of the musicians on that fabled stage.

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