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15 January 2021

New York Dolls’ Guitarist, Sylvain Sylvain, Dies Aged 69

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Sylvain Sylvain, the guitarist and a founding member of the 70s glam rock band, New York Dolls, has died at the age of 69.

Sylvain’s wife, Wanda O’Kelley Mizrahi, wrote a statement on Facebook where she confirmed the news of his passing.

“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years. 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.”

Lenny Kaye, the lead guitarist with Patti Smith Group also shared his condolences in the post: “Sylvain Sylvain, the heart and soul of the New York Dolls, bearer of the Teenage News, passed into his next astral incarnation on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Syl loved rock and roll. His onstage joy, his radiant smile as he chopped at his guitar, revealed the sense of wonder he must have felt at the age of 10, emigrating from his native Cairo with his family in 1961, the ship pulling into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
It was he who looked across Lexington Ave. and saw the sign for the New York Doll hospital. Syl and a high school friend, Billy Murcia, were in the rag trade then, the aptly named Truth and Soul, handknit sweaters with a side of rockattitude. Hooking up with another classmate, John Genzale, and then, as bands will, Arthur Kane, and David Johansen, and Jerry Nolan, they became a quasar in the rock firmament; embodying trash, glam, garage-to-punk, the ambisexual affirmation of music played louder.
His role in the band 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.”

Sylvain Sylvain was born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo, Egypt, on 14th February 1951, and relocated to New York with his family as a child. He co-founded the New York Dolls in 1971, choosing the name after seeing the name of a repair shop opposite the shop he worked in: “New York Doll Hospital”.

New York Dolls shook up a stagnating rock scene, with their provocative sound and outfits sourced from women’s clothing shops. While their debut record, New York Dolls, failed to light up the charts, it garnered a cult following and has been reassessed as a classic in recent yearns. Last year, Rolling Stone included it in their list of the Top 500 Albums Of All Time, putting it at No 301.

Sylvain’s death means lead singer David Johansen is the only surviving member of the original line-up of New York Dolls. He took to Instagram to share his thoughts, 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. au revoir Syl mon vieux copain. February 14, 1951 /January 13, 2021.”

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