Artist News

New York Dolls’ Sylvain Sylvain dies

By | Published on Friday 15 January 2021

New York Dolls

New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain has died, aged 69. He was receiving treatment for cancer.

“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and a half years”, reads a statement on his Facebook page this morning. “Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way”.

In an accompanying tribute, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye writes: “His role in [New York Dolls] was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision. Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end the Dolls’ moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come”.

New York Dolls frontman David Johansen also paid tribute in an Instagram post, saying: “My best friend for so many years, I can still remember the first time I saw him bop into the rehearsal space/bicycle shop with his carpetbag and guitar straight from the plane after having been deported from Amsterdam, I instantly loved him. I’m gonna miss you old pal. I’ll keep the home fires burning”.

Real name Sylvain Mizrahi, the musician was born in Egypt, moving with his family to France and then the US. He co-founded the New York Dolls in 1971, taking their name from the New York Doll Hospital. As well as guitar, Sylvain also played bass and piano on the band’s first two albums, and along with Johansen was a constant in the band’s shifting line-up, prior to their eventual split in 1977.

After embarking on a number of solo projects in the intervening years, he reunited with the Dolls in 2004, via a reunion brought about by the former president of the band’s UK fanclub, Morrissey. He then went on to record three further albums with the band.