NEW YORK DOLLS Guitarist SYLVAIN SYLVAIN Dead At 69
Sylvain Mizrahi, better known as Sylvain Sylvain, songwriter and founding member of the NEW YORK DOLLS, has died at the age of 69.
The news of his passing was confirmed by former PATTI SMITH GROUP guitarist Lenny Kaye, who wrote: “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.
“THE NEW YORK DOLLS heralded the future, made it easy to dance to. From the time I first saw their poster appear on the wall of Village Oldies in 1972, advertising a residency at the Mercer Hotel up the street, throughout their meteoric ascent and shooting star flame-out, the NEW YORK DOLLS were the heated core of this music we hail, the band that makes you want to form a band.
“Syl never stopped. In his solo lifeline, he was welcomed all over the world, from England to Japan, but most of all the rock dens of New York City, which is where I caught up with him a couple of years ago at the Bowery Electric. Still Syl. His corkscrew curls, tireless bounce, exulting in living his dream, asking the crowd to sing along, and so we will. His twin names, mirrored, becomes us.
“Thank you Sylvain x 2, for your heart, belief, and the way you whacked that E chord. Sleep Baby Doll”.
In April 2019, a fundraising campaign was launched for Sylvain, who revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I have not been able to work since last year,” he wrote, “and have more surgery scheduled. I love life! As hard as life has been to me these past two years, I want to live and I know with your love and support I’ll have the best chance that I could ever have.”
The NEW YORK DOLLS were called many things — glam, proto-punk, hard rock — but are probably best understood as a “dirty rock and roll” band. Combining an aggressively androgynous style with street-smart New York attitude and campy humor, the NEW YORK DOLLS ushered in the era of CBGBs, heroin chic, loud guitars and referential lyrics which gave rise to Patti Smith, the RAMONES, TELEVISION and many more. Fans of the band range from GUNS N’ ROSES to Morrissey, who organized the reformation of the band when he curated Meltdown festival in 2004.
Sylvain remained the NEW YORK DOLLS until the group’s breakup in 1977. He later worked on various projects, including a band called THE CRIMINALS and another group called THE TEARDROPS. Sylvain reunited with NEW YORK DOLLS in 2004 and played on the band’s last three albums, “One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This”, “Cause I Sez So” and “Dancing Backward In High Heels”.
Sylvain’s autobiography, “There’s No Bones In Ice Cream”, was released in 2018 via Omnibus Press.
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