Sylvain Sylvain of New York Dolls Dies at 69 from Cancer

New York Dolls’ rhythm guitarists, Sylvain Sylvain died Wednesday after a two and a half year battle with cancer. On January 14, an official statement was released on his Facebook page.

As we mourn his loss, the statement quickly leans to celebrate his vast accomplishments. “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.”

Sylvain Sylvain

Egypt born Sylvain Mizrahi, was born on Valentine’s Day, 1951. He fled to New York with his family, living Buffalo and Queens. Syl went to high school in Queens, along with lead guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Billy Murcia.

Sylvain Sylvain was so punk, he, along with the Dolls, paved the way before punk-rock was punk-rock. New York Dolls founded in 1971, 50 years ago. Syl and the Dolls heavily influenced the underground movement. They were labeled as “one of the most influential rock bands of the last 20 years,” by British writer Colin Larkin (Encyclopedia of Popular Music). The Dolls went on to influence punk and rock icons that are common place in our music library, including the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Kiss.

Patti Smith Group’s guitarist, Lenny Kaye, tipped his hat to Syl in the social media statement. “They [original Dolls] became a quasar in the rock firmament; embodying trash, glam, garage-to-punk, the ambisexual affirmation of music played louder.”

Sylvain’s 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.

Lenny Kaye – American Guitarist, Composer

Despite this feat the band lacked commercial success. One thing that remains true, Sylvain Sylvain was apart of New York history. He embodied punk, fashion and influenced New York style.

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… 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…

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.

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