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New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain dead at 69

Following a battle with cancer stretching across the past two and a half years, Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls has passed away.

Guitarist Sylvain Sylvain of iconic early punk group New York Dolls has died at the age of 69. His wife, Wanda O’Kelley Mizrahi, confirmed the news to Rolling Stone.

The musician had been embroiled in a battle with cancer, one he publicly revealed in April 2019. Though he lived in Nashville, his wife shared that he will be buried in New York.

sylvain sylvain new york dolls
Photo: Ian Dickson / Redferns

O’Kelley Mizrahi shared the following statement on Sylvain’s Facebook page yesterday:

“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and half 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.”

New York Dolls formed in, naturally, New York in 1971, earning a quick reputation for wild androgynous outfits and songs that screamed with proto-punk spirit.

Their eponymous debut album took two years to release – largely because record labels at the time didn’t want to be associated with their controversial image – but has grown into one of the most name-checked rock albums in history.

Though the lineup of New York Dolls shifted throughout the years, Sylvain and vocalist David Johansen remained members until a dissolution in 1977. They would re-form following a historic booking at Royal Festival Hall in London, after which he played guitar and shared writing credits on the Dolls’ final three albums.

Sylvain’s legacy is one that touches many lives across glam, punk, and rock and roll. He will be missed.