Sylvain Sylvain, the longtime guitarist for glam rock pioneers New York Dolls, has died at the age of 69. In 2019, a GoFundMe was launched for Sylvain after he was diagnosed with cancer. The news of Sylvain’s death was confirmed in a post on his personal Facebook page. According to the post, Sylvain died on Jan. 13. “As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and half years. Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. 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,” the statement read.
Longtime Patti Smith Group guitarist and veteran rock journalist Lenny Kaye penned an essay that was included in the same post. “Sylvain loved rock and roll. His onstage joy, his radiant smile as he chopped at his guitar, revealed the sense of wonder he must have felt at the age of 10, emigrating from his native Cairo with his family in 1961, the ship pulling into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time,” Kaye wrote. “His 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,” he continued.
Born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo in 1951, the guitarist joined the band in 1972. Sylvain played guitar, bass, piano and contributed to the songwriting on the band’s self-titled album from 1973 and 1974’s TOO MUCH TOO SOON. He was a member of the Dolls until their 1977 breakup and (along with singer David Johansen) was the last original member in the band. Following the band’s break up, he performed with Johansen on the singer’s solo albums. He also bounced around bands and carved out a solo career before the surviving members of the Dolls reunited in 2004. The band released three albums, ONE DAY IT WILL PLEASE US TO REMEMBER EVEN THIS (2006), CAUSE I SEZ SO (2009), and DANCING BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS (2011) before disbanding permanently in 2011