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Birthday of New Orleans Icon Is a Little Off

The good news is that Dr. John is a year younger than most people think
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 21, 2018 2:31 PM CST
Dr. John performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans last year.   (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

(Newser) – Turns out it really was the "Right Place, Wrong Time" for Dr. John. The New Orleans-born musician, whose discography includes that 1973 hit, celebrated his 78th birthday Wednesday. But he was apparently a year early, plus a day late, per the AP. Publicist Karen Beninato said she looked into it after talking to friends and relatives of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer. Music writer John Wirt, at Nola.com, found a 1941 newspaper birth announcement for the musician, whose real name is Malcolm John Rebennack. And it's not just the year: The local musicians union confirms the correct day in its records is Nov. 20—not Nov. 21.

Beninato said Rebennack began adding a year to his age so he could play in New Orleans clubs as a teen in the 1950s. "Mac has rolled with it since his teenage years," she said in an email. The 1940 date has lingered due, in part, to Rebennack himself. Wirt cites the musician's own memoir, Under a Hoodoo Moon, as saying he was born just before Thanksgiving 1940. The incorrect date is in countless published stories, biographies, and interviews. Rebennack himself has been cagey about the birth date. "He keeps his mysteries," Beninato said. He canceled some gigs last December and has been resting at his New Orleans area home since then, making no public appearances.

(Read more New Orleans stories.)

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