Premiere: Hear Dr. John’s Live Take of Blues Classic ‘Stagger Lee’


Dr. John (1941–2019)

(Photo: Bruce Weber)

There’s still some magic left, apparently.

While Dr. John died June 6, a posthumous studio set’s on the way, as well as this live dispatch, recorded in 1995 with the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. Big Band Voodoo includes countless familiar tunes, including the closing version of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina.” As ever, though, Dr. John filtered America’s musical history through the unique lens of his New Orleans upbringing, which bumped up against blues, jazz, r&b and early strains of rock ’n’ roll.

The premiere of the pianist’s take of “Stagger Lee” from the 1995 set is below.

“It’s been recorded thousands of times [in] numerous musical genres,” Stanley Chaisson, Dr. John’s long-time manager, wrote in an email. “This song was important to Mac because of its high emotion and danger. Mac has used this song on stage many, many times, and his piano playing is an interpretation like no one else[’s]. He adds the New Orleans left hand, the blues and a kind of boogie-woogie that fattens it up and has you stomping your feet. It’s a one of a kind.”

For additional information about Big Band Voodoo, visit the Orange Music website. DB

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