Wilko says ‘I’ll play on’ as he is diagnosed with terminal cancer

by Jeremy Miles

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Wilko Johnson

I was sad to learn that the inimitable Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The former Dr Feelgood and Blockheads guitarist discovered he had inoperable cancer of the pancreas just before Christmas.

Having been told that even without treatment he may have several months of reasonable health, the 65-year-old musician has announced that he has chosen not to receive  chemotherapy and says he will keep performing as long as he can.

Wilko is currently in Japan. A statement from his management says: “on his return we plan to complete a new CD, make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK. There is also a live DVD in the pipeline, filmed on the last UK tour.

“Wilko wishes to offer his sincere thanks for all the support he has had over his long career, from those who have worked with him to, above all, those devoted fans and admirers who have attended his live gigs, bought his recordings and generally made his life such an extraordinarily full and eventful experience.”

Known for his manic stage persona and machine-gun style of guitar playing, a curious combination of  rhythm and lead,  Wilko rose to fame in the mid 1970s with the legendary Southend-based R&B band Dr Feelgood. He left the Feelgoods in 1977 and later joined Ian Dury and The Blockheads. He has also enjoyed a successful ongoing solo career.

Many people will recognise Wilko more readily as the mute executioner Ilyn Payne in hit TV series Game Of Thrones. He landed the acting role after appearing in the award-winning Feelgoods documentary Oil City Confidential.

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