Wilko Johnson, the guitarist for Dr. Feelgood who starred in “Game of Thrones” as royal executioner Ser Ilyn Payne, died Monday. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2013, but the cause of his death has not been announced yet. Johnson was 75 years old.
“This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we make it with a very heavy heart: Wilco Johnson has died,” Read a message on his Twitter account. “He passed away at his home on Monday November 21st. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy at this very sad time.”
The Guardian reported that in 2013 Johnson was told he had nine to 10 months to live and refused chemotherapy. However, the following year, doctors learned his cancer was a more treatable neuroendocrine tumor and safely removed the 6.6-pound growth.
“Now, I take my time to internalize the idea that my death is not imminent, that I will live,” he said in 2014, according to the outlet.
Born John Peter Wilkinson on Canvey Island in Essex in 1947, Johnson began playing guitar in his teens. He formed Dr. Feelgood with singer Lee Brillo, drummer John Martin and bassist John Sparks in 1971, and their work had a huge impact on British punk.
Johnson’s style was distinct—he would wield his guitar like a shotgun, picking his fingers and grimacing as he played. Dr. Feelgood released four albums, three of which entered the UK Top 20, before creative internal strife led Johnson to leave the band.
“I am saddened to hear today of the passing of Wilco Johnson, guitarist and singer-songwriter Dr. Feelgood,” Jimmy’s page tweeted. “I saw Wilco perform at Coco in Camden in May 2013 and the atmosphere was charged. This show was originally billed as his farewell tour.”
Johnson modeled Solid Senders after Dr. Feelgood, according to his website. The group made one album in 1978 before joining the Blockheads for their 1980 album “Laughter”. He then formed the Wilko Johnson Band, which has released seven albums, most recently in 2018.
With a distinctive jawline and list of impulsive grimaces, the bald rock star was finally cast in “Game of Thrones,” one of the most successful TV shows of all time. Johnson played Ser Ilyn Payne in 2010, appearing in the first season as a guest star before returning in the second.
“I thought it would be something like ‘Xena: The Princess Warrior,'” Johnson told QA Live in 2015, referring to the “Xena: Warrior Princess” series.
I thought, ‘Yeah I’ll do that. Maybe I’ll make a leather jacket out of him.”
Johnson’s friends and colleagues on Twitter paid tribute to the ancestor of British punk and the brave widower who faced cancer head-on.
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